by Kou Fumizuki; adaptation by Marion Brown, later Jamie Rich
published by Tokyopop; $9.99 US
I thought I’d enjoy this story of a young couple coping with the fallout from an arranged marriage, but I found the male-focused nudity distracting. Kaoru was the heir to an important family business, but an incident with his mother led to him leaving the family and going to college in Tokyo. Aoi was his promised bride since they were kids together. She’s grown into a traditional, naive young woman who’s now come to marry him.
This sounded vaguely Romeo and Juliet-like romantic, where a couple has to fight their families for their love. Except… for a story about formality, we see Aoi naked more than I thought was necessary. Although she’s supposedly concerned with tradition, she has no problem climbing into Kaoru’s bed their first night together, pressing his face into her breasts, or snuggling naked with him when he’s sick. There are also several fantasy sequences of her in the bath.
This was originally serialized in a magazine aimed at young men, so I don’t find it surprising, but it’s also not for me. I should have guessed I wasn’t the target audience from the cover, a teasing image of Aoi wearing an open shirt with visibly prominent nipples. I do like her as a character, so I gave it another try. Unfortunately, in book two, things are even more exaggerated than in the first book.
Two new female characters are introduced to provide more nudity options. Tina is a free-spirited American who wears tight and skimpy clothing, and Taeko is defined only by her shyness and her huge breasts.
At times, I found myself thinking that Aoi had wandered in from some other story. Her guardian, Miyabi, and the two new women, are perfect for a sex comedy, with touchy-feely accidents resulting in them sitting on Kaoru or grabbing each other’s breasts or ending up in drunken misunderstandings. I missed the air of sweet romance that Aoi and Kaoru were moving towards in the first volume and the conflict between class expectations and the desires of the heart.
All the women and Kaoru wind up living together in one big house with Aoi as landlady. With that premise, and their vacation bath, and their attempt to set up a club teahouse, I was reminded of Love Hina‘s fanservice. Sometimes, this story isn’t even good titillation — one woman’s breasts noticeably and excessively change size between the medium shot and the nude close-up — but I suppose the audience doesn’t really mind.