Missions of Love, Vol. 8

By Ema Toyama. Released in Japan as “Watashi ni xx Shinasai!” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Nakayoshi. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

I do enjoy mocking Missions of Love when I discuss it in my Manga the week of and Pick of the Week posts, saying that it’s gleefully trsahy and soap-operaish and that it’s like mainlining shoujo heroin. Which is true, but I worry that people may think this means that I’m enjoying it ironically in a Sharknado sort of way, and that could not be further from the truth. Trust me when I say that Missions of Love is an excellently crafted title that is a lot of fun to read. It just happens to also be gleefully trashy, etc. This new volume is particularly good in showing off the reasons why I enjoy it.


The big development in this volume is the return of Yukina’s preschool teacher, the one whose remark about her eyes led to a major breakdown by our heroine. Toyama has come back to this occasionally over the course of the series, usually when trying to give Shigure the upper hand by having him take off Yukina’s glasses. Now she runs across her former teacher (who looks as if he hasn’t aged a day in the last 10-11 years), and everything comes rushing back… including her old feelings, as she now realizes that the reason that his comment hurt so much is that she was in love with him. This is then followed by Shigure realizing that, although he’s dated a lot of women casually before, Yukina is the one who is *his* first real love.

Part of the reason this manga is so addictive is that the characters can turn personalities on a dime. This makes sense; they’re middle schoolers in love, at just the right sort of age where all that is still malleable. I know there were a few reviewers (possibly including me) who were very happy with Yukina as the ‘snow princess’ sort who did not understand this Earth thing called kissing, but she’s merely emotionally repressed, not emotionally stunted. When she loses control, as we see a few times in this volume, it can be quite explosive. (And quite erotic, as Shigure also finds. I’ve noted before that the style of this work seems to edge towards the top end of Nakayoshi’s readership… there’s nothing explicit, but there’s some very hot and heavy kissing here.)

The major surprise of the book comes towards the end, however. Yukina is now determined to repair the relationship with her old teacher, or at least tell him what happened. A jealous Shigure goes to confront him first… and finds the teacher is very adept at finding out who Shigure is, and equally adept at a ‘false front’. It’s menacing to Shigure, yes, but I appreciated the teacher noting that it’s Yukina’s decision about what to do with her life, and that neither Shigure nor Akira can make it for her. This is something you don’t often see in this genre, and it’s appreciated.

I didn’t even mention Akira and Mami much, who provide what is both the funniest and most heartwarming scene in the entire volume. (They’d clearly make a great couple once they get over their first loves.) Mami’s Yukina impression is AMAZING. And let’s not forget Yukina attempting to ask Mami’s advice by dragging her headfirst out of a classroom window. In case you were worried about the cast turning normal now that the romance has heated up, don’t worry, they’re all still strange. So while this still feels like it should be bad for you, read it anyway, because it’s damn tasty.

Missions of Love, Vol. 1

By Ema Toyama. Released in Japan as “Watashi ni xx Shinasai!” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Nakayoshi. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

There has been a certain growing trend in shoujo manga that gets licensed over here lately, pulling away from the overly perky/helpless female lead in favor of someone a lot more sarcastic, cold, and awkward. And I for one could not be happier. Yes, it can be argued that this type of shoujo doesn’t sell quite as well as Black Bird and the like, but its heroines are usually a breath of fresh air, especially given how they deal with the heroes, many of whom remain the same heartthrob of the school types.

Yukina, the heroine of Missions of Love, is not quite as sharp as the two other heroines she calls to mind, Kanoko from ‘The Secret Notes Of Lady Kanoko’ and Maria from ‘Devil and Her Love Song’. But then this did run in Nakayoshi, which caters to a much younger demographic than the other two titles. The author’s comments even notes that she was told this isn’t really the sort of thing Nakayoshi does. So I suspect that the goal here may be to see how long Yukina’s natural-born snark can win out against the narrative trying to get her to say ‘what is this strange feeling in my heart?’ This is not helped by this being her own goal as well.

Yukina is a secret popular cell-phone novelist, a genre that has not really taken off in North America yet… I think the best description would be drabbles strung together into a narrative. Her talent and intelligence have made her quite a draw, but her social ineptness means that her works lack a certain… heat. So she wants to find out how love feels, but is not callous enough to ask some normal guy to show her what this Earth thing called kissing is. That’s when she spots Shigure, the popular male in the class, getting hit on by someone else. And rejecting her politely. And then… ticking off her name in a book?

Yes, finding out about love is all right as long as there’s no actual emotion involved. So now that she knows Shigure is a jerk, she can feel free to emotionally blackmail him. This is the meat of the book, and also the best part, for several reasons. Shigure has gotten through life by observing people’s likes and faults and playing up to them – he even has a notebook full of traits to note – but Yukina is not only better than him at it but doesn’t need to write it down. He tries to blackmail her right back a few times, unsuccessfully. She’s probably just what he needs. Yukina, meanwhile, is not without fault – she hasn’t mentioned her books at all (she is, after all, a secret author), so her come-ons to Shigure sound even weirder than we know them to be. It’s hard to learn about love when you have no concept of real social interaction.

I didn’t even mention her cousin, who seems poised to be the romantic rival if the cliffhanger to Vol. 1 is anything to go by. But I suspect he won’t be too much of an issue. The reason to read this is the same reason we enjoy watching the best screwball comedies – to see the guy and girl exchange barbs and grow closer even as they both try to manipulate each other. Good stuff. (And, despite the Japanese title, decidedly G-rated.)