By Robico. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Dessert. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
(This review is based on an advance copy provided by the publisher.)
After an extended period where it seemed that only Nakayoshi titles could get licensed in North America, Kodansha Comics is slowly edging its way back into the more mature shoujo market, starting with this title from the older teen magazine Dessert. (Brief nerd aside: Dessert arose from the ashes of Shoujo Friend, Kodansha’s main ‘older teen’ magazine, which also spawned ‘Bessatsu Shoujo Friend’, aka Betsufure, home of The Wallflower et al. In case you wondered where the Fure came from.) As you can see by the cover, our two lead characters are just absolutely delighted with life and each other, and this is their sweet, fluffy love-love comedy.
Oooooookay, maybe that’s not quite accurate after all. Haru, the male lead, is the monster of the title, a freakishly strong, freakishly weird loner who doesn’t have any real friends, mostly as his reactions to any social situation are so far off the map from any reasonable human interaction he drives everyone away. As for Shizuku, she just wants to get perfect grades so that she can grow up to be rich, and has absolutely no time for nonsense or friendship. Which is a shame as she’s starring in a shoujo manga, so you know that she’s going to be dragged into shenanigans, if unwillingly.
I want to note that, though he’s nowhere near WataMote levels of social maladjustment (this is still a normal shoujo manga), Haru can be very hard to take for the average reader. I could have done without his forcefully dragging Shizuku into an alley at one point, and later forcefully kissing her without her consent. It stems from his ignorance of the basic norms of society, but that doesn’t make it any easier to see. We’ve also just barely begun the series, so there’s no real explanation as to why he’s like this beyond “well, he’s wacky like that”. I hope as the series goes on he gains some depth, as he seems a bit like a Manic Pixie Dream Boy at the moment.
I was far more interested in Shizuku. As the volume goes on and you see the way she interacts with people, you begin to notice that she’s not really the normal, slightly snarky girl she initially comes across as. Indeed, for all that Haru goes on about the need to have friends, Shizuku is equally solitary, and has closed herself off from emotions so much that she has difficulty dealing with then when they need to emerge… which can result in sudden explosions, such as when she realizes Haru is the #1 student in the school (if only he weren’t suspended at the start of the year). I suspect as this title goes on we’ll find she needs this interaction even more than Haru does.
We also get a couple of other characters set up to be regulars… Natsume is the slightly overwrought, ditzy type who contrasts well with Shizuku, and Sasayan is a sports-oriented boy who knew Haru from his previous school and I suspect will turn out to have a dark past or somesuch. This manga doesn’t really break any new shoujo ground. But it’s put together well, the characters are intriguing, and it can be funny (if a bit unnerving) much of the time. It’s 12 volumes total, so we’ll see how long it can keep this up. Definitely a solid first volume, though.