By Eiji Masuba. Released in Japan as “Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa” by Akita Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Champion. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
I’ve been a little wary of the recent influx in “monster girl” manga, even though I do enjoy several of the titles. It can be a fun genre, but its nature lends itself to a sort of fanservice that I’ve grown out of over the years, and so I always approach new titles wondering how many of them are all large-breasted succubi and accidentally spilling milk all over someone’s face. Thankfully, there are also exceptions, and to its credit Seven Seas has not really leaned one way or the other in licensing the monster girl genre, but simply spread its net wide to gather up everything. And this means that we have titles like My Monster Secret, which has the subtitle “Actually, I Am…”, a literal translation of its original title. Which is just a fun silly comedy with no fanservice in sight.
The literal title is presumably meant to be followed by a fill-in-the-blank, with the first girl on the cover conveying “Actually, I Am… a Vampire.” She’s Shiragami, who is supposed to be cool and aloof, and who our hero has totally fallen for. In reality, she’s mostly cool so that people don’t see her fangs, and the aloof becomes goofy fairly quickly, though at times you can see the author struggling to see how “ditzy” he should make her. Acting as her foil is Asahi, a boy whose poker face is entirely absent, to the point where he’s actually shunned a bit by the class for his total inability to keep anything a secret. The trouble is that Shiragami’s secret isn’t just a love letter, she’s in big trouble if it’s found out. What’s a boy who can’t lie to do?
The plot and characters spin out as you’d expect. There’s the teenage newshound girl we’ve seen in many an anime, only this time she’s portrayed as straight up evil, which is refreshing. We also see another supposed stoic cool girl, only this one turns out to be an alien – something that should have been more obvious from the giant screw on the back of her head, which opens up to reveal her much tinier self. If you think all of this leads to over the top reactions and lots of falling over, you’re absolutely right. The goal here is comedy, with I expect some heartwarming interspersed as the series goes on.
The main reason I really enjoyed the first volume of the series is the art style, which is appealing yet odd. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, with very wide mouths and expressive screams. No one’s really attractive here, which is not what I was expecting – I’d thought the vampire and alien would be standard “beautiful”, but even they’re drawn to look strange more than anything else. Basically, the art helps the comedy. If you’re looking for a “monster girl” title just to say that you’ve read one… well, wait a month and get Franken Fran. But if you want two, this is a good choice. It’s relatively clean, especially for a Champion series, and genuinely amusing.