By Yuki Yoshihara. Released in Japan as “Chou Yo Hana Yo” by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Petit Comic. Released in North America by Viz.
It’s the final volume of this josei series being marketed here as mature shoujo, and there’s still a lot up in the air. Can Masayuki fulfill his dream of regaining the land Choko’s family lost? Can Choko get him to think of her as a woman rather than as a ‘Milady’ he must be subservient to? And can he ever stop being incredibly crass at the most inappropriate moments?
The answer to the last of those questions is thankfully no. Masayuki is as over the top as ever, and the ending to the first chapter, with his telling Choko’s intended about her ‘security blanket’, is one of the better ones. Choko’s reaction is picture perfect as well – she loves this man, but god, he can be such a terrible horndog and seems to think of absolutely nothing except his penis. On the downside, there wasn’t quite as much Gundam in this volume, Combattler getting the obligatory otaku reference this time around.
The middle of the book is comparatively serious, featuring some flashbacks to a surprisingly selfish Choko, and a crisis involving the land that Masayuki has been trying to earn back for so long being sold to an American developer. This actually leads to some conflict, as Choko knows that his desire to get back her land is the ‘servant’ part of him, and she doesn’t care about it if she can have him treat her as an equal. Unfortunately, much like the omiai suitor we saw at the start, the developer has sordid plans for the land, and Choko has to bring out her ‘Milady’ persona in order to get past the crisis… which makes him a more devoted servant than ever.
I will grant the series this, it is aware of its basic conflict, which is the fact that Masayuki will not let Choko get down off of that goddamn pedestal. The proposal in the second to last chapter seems almost too good to be true… and it is, as it’s Masayuki reacting on instinct rather than thinking things through. Sadly, when he uses his brain he realizes that he can’t go through with it, and even Choko proposing herself (an awesome moment) can’t turn him around.
Which is good, as it lets us have a final chapter of slapstick comedy, with some of the best violence and faces in the series. Choko is determined to get him to stamp a marriage license, and he is equally determined to avoid it. The shot of Masayuki leaping 20 feet into the air vertically, and then Choko throwing a huge steel desk at him (it’s helpfully footnoted ‘steel’ in case we were unaware) is priceless. But it’s not humor that gets us resolution – Choko finally gives up, and seems prepared to move on, as she notes that if he can’t do this for her then they can’t be a couple. And she’s right. And so (barring the ending gag, which is clearly a gag) he does, managing to call her Choko at last, and the final page is a wedding.
And so the series ends as it began, with a bunch of sweet moments interspersed with some of the most horrible sexism imaginable. If the series had taken this more seriously it would have been repulsive. But, like Ai Ore but even more so, there’s an undercurrent of humor that makes it more palatable to me. So much of Masayuki’s attitude is not designed to make you uncomfortable – it’s there to make your jaw drop. Exaggerated to grotesque proportions, it loses a lot of its bite. And in this final volume, Choko’s vacillating and tendency to be a damsel in distress is almost entirely absent, allowing her to finally be a strong heroine equal to her partner. This was an experiment for Viz, and I’m not entirely sure it sold well enough that we’ll see more Petit Comic stuff in the future. But I’d like to see more. Despite some reservations, recommended.