Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight, Vol. 1

By Rin Mikimoto. Released in Japan as “Gozen 0-ji, Kiss Shi ni Kite yo” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Friend. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Melissa Goldberg.

It’s a cliche, but it’s true: the best type of success is meant to look effortless. We always admire those who manage to achieve things with nothing more than a hair flip and a cool smile. But unfortunately, the reverse is also true. We look at those who strive, who struggle to achieve by any means necessary, and we think: they’re trying too hard. So not cool. You can see the sweat. And this is sometimes a shame, because those folks are trying just as hard as everyone else. but there you have it. And I got that feeling as I read this new shoujo manga. I finished the first volume, and my thought were “that was pretty good, but it’s trying too hard so it doesn’t quite come off”. It looks a bit too calculated, and the calculation’s off. That said, it’s still quite good, just not reaching the next level.

First off, a word of warning: this book does feature a blonde girl paired up with a blond guy. This is actually so unusual in shoujo manga that it attracted my attention: usually one of the couple will have darker hair for the ‘contrasting’ look. Hinana is our heroine, a high schooler with a reputation as a perfect and gorgeous student. Of course, this is just a reputation – in reality she’s as boy crazy as everyone else, she just hides it better. But fate smiles on her when an up-and-coming actor and ex-idol appears at her school during break to shoot scenes for a movie, and she’s chosen as an extra! He’s hot! He’s next to her! He’s… looking at girls’ butts? Yes, Kaede is also not quite what he seems, and his list of what he desires in a woman finds ‘DAT ASS’ in the first position. Can these two people who both project a false exterior find love with each other?

There are some very amusing things in this manga, which I enjoyed quite a bit. The running gag of how Hinana wakes up every morning made me chuckle, and the faces she makes are eccentric enough to get a montage on the back cover. Kaede’s ludicrous butt fetish is also funny, even more so when we see Hinana’s reaction to the “butt alien from the planet Butt”, as she goes on to describe him. The issue, I think, is that the humor doesn’t really go far enough. When it plays things for drama, such as when Hinana is falsely accused of putting a picture of Kaede’s shoes online it tends to fall into the “this is like every other dramatic shoujo” box. Hinana herself is also not as eccentric as you’d expect given the introduction showing how she’s not really the perfect princess – it reads more like “I’m secretly just like you, reader, so please identify with me”. And sometimes the punchlines are too telegraphed – the identity of Scarlet was pretty obvious to me.

Despite my misgivings, this was a decent beginning, and there are a few plot points that will hopefully bear fruit when they’re developed. I just hope that future volumes manage to have a bit less drama and a bit more weirdness. Also, what on earth does the title have to do with anything in the manga?

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