Manga Review: Otomen Vol. 16

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. Volume 16 of the series has just come out and you can read on for the review! (For those interested, you can click here for my reviews of earlier volumes).

Back Cover Blurb

At a school play, Asuka competes against his friends for the hand of Princess Kaguya— played by Ryo! While on stage, Asuka inevitably displays his otomen qualities while his anti-otomen mother is watching… Is Asuka about to face the biggest crisis of his life?

The Review

Otomen continues with its focus on Yamato and his crush on Ryo. The prevailing theme is “Love is a battle!” and it comes to a head at Ginyuri’s school festival. No Ideal Woman Contest this year (“… cut because of last year’s issues.” –Juta), but in its place is the Drama Club’s unscripted version of the folktale Princess Kaguya.

For those who enjoy zany theatrical fairytale productions so prevalent in shojo manga, Princess Kaguya: Big Proposal Plan will be a treat. Thanks to the ridiculous director (Kanno-sensei admits in the author’s notes that the story becomes absurd because of him), Yamato, Asuka, and their friends wind up as the suitors battling for the hand of Kaguya, played by Ryo. Most of it is silly jokes, but Ryo/Asuka fans will be gratified when Asuka expresses his true feelings for Ryo on stage. (Plus, they look fantastic in period costume!)

After the play, the story immediately transitions to what appears to be the final arc of the series: the wrath of the biggest anti-otomen of all – Asuka’s mom! I’m actually surprised she didn’t catch on sooner (I expected that to happen after Asuka reconciled with his dad). But now that Mama Masamune knows what her son has been doing behind her back, be prepared for a lot of crazy eyes. Interestingly, she doesn’t go for the direct approach. Instead, she stealthily picks apart Asuka’s world in a way only a woman of her wealth and power can. (As they say in manga, rich people are scary.) Things are heading toward an inevitable mother/son confrontation, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next volume.

Extras include five pages introducing Kanno-sensei’s assistants, embedded author’s notes, and translation notes.

In Summary

Kanno-sensei wraps up the spotlight on Yamato with a school play turned battleground for Ryo’s affections! In the midst of the usual comic silliness is a moving and surprisingly candid declaration of Asuka’s feelings for Ryo. Unfortunately for Asuka, it also blows his uber-masculine cover. The horrified look on his mom’s face is priceless, and the way her anti-otomen wrath unleashes makes me eager to see how it will all end.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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