How to Win Her Heart on the Nth Try

By Ichine Kamijo and Yu Shiroya. Released in Japan as “n-kaime no Koi no Musubikata” by Kadokawa Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Judy Jordan.

Years ago, in the pre-light novel days, it always seemed that manga brought over to English speakers was written purely for teenagers in middle school and high school, and the romances all revolved around school clubs and walking home after practice. I would wish that for once, just for once, we could get a romance about grownups, in real jobs, and dealing with grownup concerns. So! I have good news and bad news. The good news is that this is definitely a book for and about grownups, with grownup concerns, and they have white-collar office jobs. The bad news: if you, the reader, work in a white-collar office job, be aware that this book will hammer on your anxieties and fears for 250 pages until you want to shriek. Every “you or your subordinate screwed up, please come to the manager’s office at once” nightmare is seen here, right down to having your laptop stolen. Fortunately, this book is written for exhausted workaholic women, and so there’s a guy who can come to the rescue.

Nagi is a systems engineer with a tragic past, working at a smallish company owned by her uncle. She has two juniors, and her entire life seems to run on stress and last-minute deadlines. There’s certainly no time for romance. That said, she also has Keigo, a childhood friend who works in the same company. He’s a great guy. And a good friend. On Keigo’s end, he’s been trying for the last fifteen years to subtly convey to the oblivious Nagi that he loves her, and none of it has stuck. And in a high stress office like theirs, the question is not “when will these two finally realize that they’re a couple?”, but “can they get together as a couple before they either die of overwork or end up having to take the fall for some disaster that seems to constantly be happening?”.

I can definitely see this book’s appeal to women, with the core not being “I just need a man who can understand me” but “I just need a man who can finish all my work for me”. Both hero and heroine are flawed people with very real hangups that prevent this from easily resolving, and even after getting together we see things aren’t smooth sailing. The most interesting part of the book was probably Nagi’s junior Saotome, who is small and cute, which gets her a lot of attention. This is unwanted attention, because she’s in love with Nagi. She and Keigo don’t get on, of course, but eventually manage to work things out. Other than that, I will again note that this book can make for uncomfortable romance reading. You keep waiting for Nagi to be fired for some reason or another, or have bad things happen to her. It’s definitely showing me I could never make it in Japanese office culture.

So if you want a workplace romance, and don’t mind that the male lead tends to swoop in to save the day a lot, this is pretty good.

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