by Yuki Yoshihara; adapted by Nancy Thistlethwaite
published by Viz; $9.99 US
After reading Book 1, I was unclear on what I was supposed to take away from this series. The contrast was unusual — I got that the male/female roles were being stereotyped for comedy, but underneath it all, there’s still a romance, and if we’re supposed to root for the central couple to get together, then there’s only so far we can perceive them as ridiculous. The exaggeration is sometimes working at cross purposes to the shojo/josei genre. (The book is labeled Shojo Beat, but with its working woman heroine, it should skew older.)
So to truly enjoy this romantic comedy, I must embrace the contradiction at its core, and by the end of this volume, I was able to do that. It’s not meant to be realistic, so the boss can be both desirable and a completely frustrating, controlling jerk. And the art fully supports the idea of “forget rationality, it’s out the window”, as within the first few pages we see him slamming our heroine Choko in a locker door, where she’s drawn with what looks like her eyeballs falling out and blood gushing out her nose. (But it’s all big-headed caricature, so not gross, just loony.)
As the book opens, Choko spies a young lady propositioning Director Masayuki. When he catches her eavesdropping, he makes her scrub the floor as punishment. (I’ve had some bad secretarial jobs, but nothing like this!) Women throwing themselves at him are a common problem, because he’s so well-off and handsome and popular. That sets the stage for the couple’s next major hurdle, since the company president’s niece has set her cap for Masayuki. She’s spoiled, and she finds his refusals attractive (demonstrating his strength), and her pursuit knows no boundaries. As a reader, her demented single-mindedness is highly amusing.
Throughout the book, Choko overreacts — since her character’s power is in her emotions — and Masayuki swings from heartwarming nostalgia for the way things used to be to extreme domination of everything around him. His aims to bring back the good old days, where he pampered Choko as her servant, through his willpower and determination. Their complicated relationship takes a twisted turn when sex enters the picture, too. As a virgin, Choko can’t cope if things get too intense.
The last scene of the volume, which I won’t spoil, sold me on following this series for a very long time. It’s goofy and oddly charming and sexy and demented and even plays with the reader’s expectations. It’s all crazy, enjoyable in its lunacy. You’ll like it if reading an extremely flowery, overwrought declaration of his feelings for her, followed by him ordering her to “open your mouth. I’m going to put my tongue in”, strikes you as funny. She can’t do anything right, and he’s perfect. Together, they give hope for anyone finding love, even if the relationship only makes sense to them. And their farcical crackpot journey, once you learn how to play along, is immensely entertaining.