By Ema Toyama. Released in Japan as “Watashi ni xx Shinasai!” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Nakayoshi. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
There has been a certain growing trend in shoujo manga that gets licensed over here lately, pulling away from the overly perky/helpless female lead in favor of someone a lot more sarcastic, cold, and awkward. And I for one could not be happier. Yes, it can be argued that this type of shoujo doesn’t sell quite as well as Black Bird and the like, but its heroines are usually a breath of fresh air, especially given how they deal with the heroes, many of whom remain the same heartthrob of the school types.
Yukina, the heroine of Missions of Love, is not quite as sharp as the two other heroines she calls to mind, Kanoko from ‘The Secret Notes Of Lady Kanoko’ and Maria from ‘Devil and Her Love Song’. But then this did run in Nakayoshi, which caters to a much younger demographic than the other two titles. The author’s comments even notes that she was told this isn’t really the sort of thing Nakayoshi does. So I suspect that the goal here may be to see how long Yukina’s natural-born snark can win out against the narrative trying to get her to say ‘what is this strange feeling in my heart?’ This is not helped by this being her own goal as well.
Yukina is a secret popular cell-phone novelist, a genre that has not really taken off in North America yet… I think the best description would be drabbles strung together into a narrative. Her talent and intelligence have made her quite a draw, but her social ineptness means that her works lack a certain… heat. So she wants to find out how love feels, but is not callous enough to ask some normal guy to show her what this Earth thing called kissing is. That’s when she spots Shigure, the popular male in the class, getting hit on by someone else. And rejecting her politely. And then… ticking off her name in a book?
Yes, finding out about love is all right as long as there’s no actual emotion involved. So now that she knows Shigure is a jerk, she can feel free to emotionally blackmail him. This is the meat of the book, and also the best part, for several reasons. Shigure has gotten through life by observing people’s likes and faults and playing up to them – he even has a notebook full of traits to note – but Yukina is not only better than him at it but doesn’t need to write it down. He tries to blackmail her right back a few times, unsuccessfully. She’s probably just what he needs. Yukina, meanwhile, is not without fault – she hasn’t mentioned her books at all (she is, after all, a secret author), so her come-ons to Shigure sound even weirder than we know them to be. It’s hard to learn about love when you have no concept of real social interaction.
I didn’t even mention her cousin, who seems poised to be the romantic rival if the cliffhanger to Vol. 1 is anything to go by. But I suspect he won’t be too much of an issue. The reason to read this is the same reason we enjoy watching the best screwball comedies – to see the guy and girl exchange barbs and grow closer even as they both try to manipulate each other. Good stuff. (And, despite the Japanese title, decidedly G-rated.)