By Yuyuko Takemiya and Umechazuke. Released in Japan by ASCII Media Works, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dengeki Daioh. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
I’ve talked before about how difficult it can be to introduce an unlikable character early in a series and have their character growth be a part of it, mostly as fandom takes first impressions and encases them in amber forever. This is doubly true if the character is female, and quadrupley true (is this a word?) if it also happens to be a comedy romance, with harem overtones. Golden Time is starting off in a bit of a pickle, though, as its heroine, Kaga, is introduced to us as an obsessed stalker who’s also rich and beautiful, and rubs every single reader the wrong way. Luckily, we have our hero, Tada, who is determined to show that she has hidden depths, even if he can’t quite make them out. And, wonder of wonders, he is not the doormat that most of these series frequently use as male heroes, so as the volume goes on and we learn more about the two of them the good qualities of the series come to life.
That cover, to be honest, really doesn’t help, and panders to a fanbase that is more Monster Musume than Toradora. Oh yes, this is by the creator of Toradora, based on her light novels, which she started after finishing her other series. Toradora also featured an unusual lead male hero, and Golden Time’s Tada has a very good reason for sometimes acting out of character – he has amnesia of most of his life before the last year, and can’t recall what his character actually is. This is presented in the midst of a truly ridiculous chapter involving a religious cult who have kidnapped several students to indoctrinate them, so it’s no surprise that Kaga does not particularly believe him. As for Kaga, her backstory is more normal, being a lonely rich girl who has no idea how to do affection, so overdoes it to the point where it becomes terrifying.
Most of this volume just involved Tada, Kaga, and Kaga’s unfortunate crush Yanigasawa, who is thoroughly sick of her and horrified that she followed him to college (the fact that this is set in college – and indeed in the law program – is highly unusual for a harem comedy, and I hope more is done with it in future volumes). There’s another girl who gets cameos at the start and end, who I suspect will take on the position of chief rival/alternate heroine choice, but this is mostly a two-hander, relying on the two leads. They bond right away, and Tada is falling for Kaga while also clearly seeing her flaws – he just doesn’t really care, and also her flaws don’t impact *him*, as she’s in love with someone else.
I think fans of Takemiya’s other works will enjoy this, and fans of romantic comedies should give it a try, but be aware this is one of those series where you may need 2-3 volumes to star liking the heroine, and if you’re the sort who rolls out the word ‘psycho’ whenever it suits you, take my advice and don’t get involved.