There are many stories about tomboys, girls with boyish tendencies, but what about the opposite? In fact, what would you call a boy with girly interests? The manga answer is: Otomen!
For those unfamiliar with this series by Aya Kanno, “otomen” is a play on the Japanese word otome (乙女), meaning “young lady” or “mistress,” and the English word “men.” The plot centers around Asuka Masamune, the manliest guy in his high school. However, he has a secret: the things he really loves are sweets, shojo manga, and sewing. He hides this part of his life from everyone until he meets Ryo Miyakozuka, the least feminine girl in school.
While I love the concept of this series, Kanno-sensei’s storylines tend to fall in the realm of so-so. There was a live-action series based on the manga a couple years back, and I thought the TV writers executed Kanno-sensei’s stories far better than she did. At any rate, Viz has just released Volume 11 of the English language manga. Please read on for the review!
Back Cover Blurb
Asuka engages in a battle with Suzaki Oji to see who will get the most Valentine’s Day chocolates! As Oji seduces girls left and right into giving him chocolates, Asuka wonders one thing–who will Ryo give her chocolates to?
In terms of plot, Volume 11 doesn’t offer much that is original or surprising. You pretty much know from the get-go that Asuka will overcome the challenges Kasuga throws his way. What saves the story from becoming completely boring are the character vignettes that Kanno-sensei throws in, which are, for those who are already completely invested in the main characters, a lot of fun.
In the conclusion of the Naito-samurai-otaku arc, we get a bit of interaction between Ryo and Tonomine in the woods. Apparently, this is the first time Asuka’s love interest and main rival have any real interaction, and it felt like it could lead to an Asuka-Ryo-Tonomine love triangle. To my disappointment, Kanno-sensei quickly veers from that path at the arc’s conclusion. As overused as love triangles are in shojo manga, it could’ve been an interesting development in Ryo and Asuka’s relationship.
In the next arc, Asuka faces off against Suzaku Oji. In terms of Kasuga’s goals to reform the high school, Oji, whose natural pheromones sends females swooning, seems a bizarre choice, but in terms of manga plot, Oji is the perfect foil to Asuka’s pure-hearted ways. Unfortunately, Kanno-sensei depicts him as a one-dimensional stock playboy so you can pretty much guess what the final outcome will be when Oji throws down the Valentine’s chocolate gauntlet. The thing that keeps this arc interesting is Asuka’s correspondence with the mysterious “Poet of Ginyuri High.” The poetry itself is not that great (something might have been lost in the translation), but Asuka fans will enjoy watching his girlish excitement over a new piece of cuteness.
After Oji, Kanno-sensei finally breaks away from the wacky teacher parade to bring out the big guns: Mom’s back! Suddenly, Asuka can’t drop his manly facade at home or school and goes through withdrawal. That aside, the story hints at something larger brewing at Patisserie Violet, and I’m hoping Kanno-sensei will deliver something really fresh in the next volume.
In addition to its usual extras, Volume 11 includes a chapter of Juta’s work, Love Chick.
The series continues with Asuka’s pure-hearted ways and love for Ryo thwarting Kasuga’s anti-otomen plans. With the appearance of school nurse Suzaku Oji, the pattern of Asuka winning over less than conventional teachers gets a tad stale, but the plot perks up again at the end of the volume with the return of the biggest anti-otomen around: Asuka’s mom!
Also, for Juta fans, the extras include a chapter of the Love Chick manga!
First published at the Fandom Post.