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 17 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
In her quest to get Asuka to turn away from his otomen ways, Asuka’s mom, Kiyomi, cancels his favorite shojo manga, Love Chick! What’s worse, she plans to break up Asuka and Ryo! Will Asuka succumb to his mother’s anti-otomen schemes?!
Kiyomi continues with her plan to remove unmanly influences by pulling the plug on Juta’s Love Chick manga. Interestingly, out of Asuka’s friends, Juta’s the only one confronted by Kiyomi. While the arc is ultimately about Mama Masamune manipulating her son, Kanno-sensei takes the opportunity to show some back story on Juta’s career. Despite his carefree personality, he’s surprisingly serious about his fans and manga career. When he acquiesces to Kiyomi’s demands, you can feel his agony about his decision.
A couple of lighter scenes follow. Asuka asks Amakashi-sensei the very thing I’ve been wondering about him and Hiromi, and then Ryo and Asuka play detective together. But the mood darkens again with the moment this entire series has been working toward: Asuka’s confession to his mother. Surprisingly, Mama Masamune doesn’t take the hard-line approach, preferring instead to deceive her son. Her method is hardly original, but it does the job of forcing Asuka to give up Ryo and all things otomen.
After that, it’s not surprising to see pre-Ryo Asuka return. What’s really unexpected is how losing Asuka pushes Ryo to her own extremes. Kanno-sensei’s illustrations of the separated pair really tug on the heartstrings, which makes me all the more eager for Volume 18, the series’ final volume. With Asuka being put forth as class valedictorian, I have a feeling we’re in store for something similar to his festival play confession.
Extras include embedded author’s notes featuring the original character designs for Otomen and translation notes.
With her cunning, determination, and massive resources, it’s inevitable that Kiyomi would force Asuka’s hand. However, Kanno-sensei does such an excellent job of depicting the angst of Asuka (and Ryo and Juta) you almost don’t mind the predictability of the plot. It’s almost a certainty that Ryo and Asuka’s love will prevail in the next and final volume, but it will be interesting to see if and how Asuka wins his mother’s acceptance.
First published at the Fandom Post.