*May contain spoilers*
Author: Aya Kanno
Artist: Aya Kanno
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, School Life, Shoujo, Slice Of Life
Asuka Masamune is a guy who loves girly things—sewing, knitting, making cute stuffed animals and reading shojo comics. But in a world where boys are expected to act manly, Asuka must hide his beloved hobbies and play the part of a masculine jock instead. Ryo Miyakozuka, on the other hand, is a girl who can’t sew or bake a cake to save her life. Asuka finds himself drawn to Ryo, but she likes only the manliest of men! Can Asuka ever show his true self to anyone, much less to the girl that he’s falling for?
My goodness, when was the last time we posted one of our reviews? It must have been donkey years! Well, I do find them difficult to write – and when I finally do get down to it, I leave my draft to arawr for a whole check-up before it goes live (I’ve always wanted to say that – ‘it goes live,’ hehehe).
Otomen is among one of the tankōbon that I’ve bought blindly in the past (I don’t do that anymore) and I was lucky I enjoyed it! It’s a story that focuses on a male protagonist instead of a female, which is pretty rare for a shoujo/school life/romance manga (without action) – but what I found most appealing was the feminine qualities portrayed by this male protagonist that makes him Otomen.
Otomen at heart can be considered similar to other romantic shoujo comedy, but the difference here is that it’s a very good one. This was the manga that introduced the concept of a girl-guy as a male lead into shoujo manga. The main character is called Asuka, a stud, who is clearly aware of his biological gender but likes girl-y things. Hilarity ensues as everyone sees him as the perfect alpha male while in turn he tries to conceal his inner feminine desires. He might be your dream man; he can cook, sew and protect you with his awesome kendo skills(number one in Japan mind you).
The story centralises on how Asuka and Ryo(the heroine) get together. I like how his love interest, Ryo, is his complete opposite – these type of storylines might be overused, but it still gets me all the time. Of course, a romantic story can’t develop if one does not have obstacles so basically she’s dense in the romance department. However, I do love her as a heroine; she’s a strong, brave and determined girl – both mentally and physically – but she doesn’t have the abrasive personality that often comes with those qualities(refreshing points from me!). Yes, she’s nice and kind, boyish in a way but she still wears a skirt and she doesn’t have those huge outbursts of anger. Caring but prone to outbursts of anger? Think Hikari or Misaki from Special A & Maid-sama.
Another interesting aspect of the story, which I think really pushes Otomen up to new heights is the light-hearted, playboy side-kick, Juta who’s secretly a male shoujo mangaka who publishes under an alias and takes his manga’s inspiration from Asuka & Ryo’s relationship. It’s a real humourous addition to the plotline and it actually drives the story forward since Juta’s shoujo manga can’t develop if Asuka & Ryo’s relationship doesn’t progress.(Which is often the case as their personalities mean that they both need a bit of a push and Juta does just that). It sort of pokes fun at shoujo manga & its readers in a little way since Asuka gets doki-doki moments whenever he reads Juta’s manga(Asuka doesn’t know).
The artwork is a perfect blend of shoujo & shounen art. Her art is very attractive, consistent and they have a very refined style such as her characters’ eyes – they have nice detailing which isn’t overdone or exaggerated like other shoujo manga(I love the body anatomy too!). It’s a very nice hybrid which can be credited to the fact that Aya Kanno use to work as an assistant to a shounen manga artist(lots of practice on body anatomy, I think. Think about all those fast paced shounen movements!). Oh yes, something I did notice is that Asuka always maintains the same expression, I don’t know whether this is intentional but it sometimes make him look a bit absent.
Conclusion? It’s a sheer pleasure to read, a winner in many ways though I don’t really fancy the way masculinity is portrayed as something that forbids ‘feminine’ activities such as cooking etc. – it seems a bit odd. I’m sure lots of people love and I know I do. It’s an enjoyable, easy read and its a new theme in the shoujo genre – not ground breaking, but a significant amount of scoops from the earth(?). It’s a romantic shoujo comedy brought to light under a new and unique position. You’ll most definitely support the winning couple – I can just picture their perfect family!
I’m sure lots of people love it – I know I do.
Oh yes, Otomen has been adapted into a live-action TV drama, did you know that? Oh, Asuka is a Virgo, how cool is that???
Also, a similar male-protagonist type of setting you might want to look at if you enjoyed Otomen could be Gakuen Babysitters =)
Overall rating & any comments: 4.1/5