My Girlfriend’s a Geek Book 1

Review by Ed Sizemore

Yuiko Ameya is a fujoshi (literally, “rotten lady”), which means she’s a female otaku devoted to yaoi. (In other words, a devoted fan of manga about boy-boy love and sex.) Taiga Mutou is a college student who has a fetish for older sister-type women. He falls in love with Yuiko at first sight and takes a part-time job with the company where she works in hopes of getting to know her. After many missteps, they become a couple. However, Taiga doesn’t realize what he’s gotten himself into.

My Girlfriends a Geek Book 1 cover
My Girlfriend’s a Geek Book 1
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My Girlfriend’s a Geek is a romantic comedy that plays off the old cliche “opposites attract”. The twist here is that it’s the guy who is the “normal” one in the relationship, and it’s the girl that is the “weirdo”. Specifically, Yuiko is a yaoi fangirl who spends lots of time dreaming of the various male pairings she creates from popular manga titles. Incredibly, Taiga appears to be someone completely ignorant of yaoi and its subculture.

This series is the negative image of Train Man (Densha Otoko). In that manga, a male otaku falls in love with a normal girl. In order to build a relationship with her, he chooses to come out of his fanboy shell and embrace conventional social norms. In My Girlfriend, a normal guy falls in love with an otaku female. However, she refuses to give up her fangirl lifestyle and instead seeks to transform him into her yaoi boy toy. So instead of a charming tale of personal transformation in the name of love, we get an unsettling story of a female Svengali.

The main problem with this story is the dysfunctional and one-sided nature of the relationship between Yuiko and Taiga. To her credit, Yuiko admits upfront to Taiga that she is a fujoshi. Because of his fetish, he ignores the warning and starts dating Yuiko. It becomes clear the only reason she continues the relationship is because Taiga is so easy to manipulate. She doesn’t appear to really care about him. This is best seen when Yuiko begins to call Taiga “Sebastian” because of a butler fantasy she has about him. He doesn’t enjoy it, and in the course of four pages, he asks her to stop four times, completely serious and frustrated each time. She ignores him, and the scene ends with Taiga finding he has a new nickname.

In truth, neither character is sympathetic or likeable. Taiga is dating a girl because he has a thing for women old enough to be his older sister. Even when he understands this won’t be the romantic relationship he hoped for, he can’t break up with Yuiko because of his fetish. Yuiko is selfish and self-absorbed. Whenever they are together, she spends more time lost in her yaoi fantasies than focused on Taiga. Once she realizes that Taiga won’t break up with her, she quickly takes advantage of him. If he says no to any of her requests, she simply pouts, and he caves in instantly. She has found the perfect marionette to play with.

Lest anyone think I’m just miffed because it’s the guy being lead by the ring in his nose instead of the girl, let me remind you that I’m currently following Sundome. At least in that series, the guy willing undergoes humiliation and manipulation. Also, in Sundome, the characters are deeply flawed but sympathetic. Not always likeable, but still sympathetic.

The only good thing about My Girlfriend is the art. Shinba is a skilled shojo artist. The characters are attractive and have good fashion sense. The page layouts are dynamic and create nice dramatic tension at the right moments. I especially love the use of background screentones to highlight Yuiko’s mood. It’s a shame that such delightful art is wasted on such a dreadful story.

The only appeal that My Girlfriend’s a Geek has is the novelty of a fujoshi character as the lead. However, since Yuiko lives up to the name “rotten lady”, the charm dies quickly. Readers should look elsewhere for their shojo fix. Nana, Honey & Clover, or Suppli would be better romantic reads. Taiga, your girlfriend isn’t a geek, she’s an insensitive jerk. Wise up, dump her, and get some therapy about that fetish.

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17 Comments

  1. All-time favorite sympathetic fujoshi character: Ogiue, from Genshiken.

  2. Volume 1 arrived at my doorstep a few days ago. Since I already have it I’ll try it out.

  3. Thanks for pointing that out, Joshua — now I understand the type better.

  4. It’s interesting to see your reaction, Ed, because this is the way I often feel reading shojo romances: I want to give the heroine a stern lecture, buy her a copy of He’s Just Not That Into You and a doughnut, and maybe enroll her in some self-esteem boosting activities. Here, however, I didn’t mind the characters’ dynamic, in part because *both* Taiga and Yuiko seem to be in the relationship for the wrong reasons. The other key factor is that their bad behavior is being played for laughs; played straight, Taiga’s pliability would be cause for concern.

    As for audience, I don’t think Geek would really appeal to NANA or Suppli fan, even if the art has a shojo/josei feel; the comedy is too otaku-centric. The more likely audience for this, IMO, would be fans of Genshinken, I Otaku, and Fujoshi Rumi.

  5. Kate,

    That this is played off as a romantic comedy is part of what bothers me. The relationship is just too warped for me to find funny. The scene where Taiga is begging Yuiko not to call him Sebastian is the best example of a joke gone sour. But you wouldn’t be the first person to point out I don’t always get the joke with some manga.

    Thanks for correcting my recommendations.

  6. I’m not criticizing your sense of humor, Ed, just musing on the similarity between your critique of My Girlfriend’s a Geek and mine of, say, Black Bird. I really enjoyed your review, as it points out the series’ biggest problem: how to keep things going now that Yuiko’s true nature has been revealed. There are only so many times one can go to the “fujoshi are so outrageous!” well before the joke wears thin.

  7. Ed Sizemore Says:

    “…Taiga, your girlfriend isn’t a geek, she’s an insensitive jerk…”

    As if geek and insensitive jerk are mutually exclusive instead of having some overlap?

  8. Kate, I know. You were able to get past the flaws to the humor, I couldn’t do that.

    Hsifeng, True, they are not mutally exclusive, as many online forums will demonstrate. My point is don’t excuse her poor behavior by saying she’s a geek.

  9. Ed Sizemore Says:

    “…My point is don’t excuse her poor behavior by saying she’s a geek.”

    Right on!

  10. Ed, I think you have to remember that The My Girlfriend’s a Geek manga is an adaptation of an existing storyline (or event-line anyway; like Train Man, it is supposedly a true story).

    The original blog (converted into a novel, soon to be published by Yen) is more of a sitcom than a romance; it has a strong “OMG this woman is crazy, look at the insane stuff these fujoshi are into” vibe, and Pentabu presents himself very much as the long-suffering victim of his girlfriend’s fujoshi-ness. The manga shoujo-ifys the story somewhat and plays up the romance elements, but it’s based on a story where the humor comes from a largely unsympathetic view of Yuiko’s obsessions, and I think that comes through in the manga.

    To me, it is odd that a story that is fundamentally unfriendly to fujoshi should be adapted for a magazine that heavily targets that demographic, but I don’t think you can criticize Yuiko’s behavior for being disturbing, or Taiga for putting up with her, since that’s the setup for the sitcom: the entire point is to laugh at, or possibly commiserate with, Taiga’s predicament.

  11. Julie,

    Like I was sayig to Kate, I don’t like the characters or the setup so the humor falls flat for me. I can’t get pass my dislike to the humor of the series. So My Girlfriend is a series I’m going going to follow.

  12. Ed, I’m not saying you should like it or find it funny (I’m not all that taken with it myself), just that you can’t really criticize Yuiko for being unsympathetic or Taiga for being a doormat, since that’s the point, however distasteful you or I may find it. It’s like criticizing Homer Simpson for being a fat lazy drunk and Marge for putting up with him.

    Now, I think the dynamic is particularly poorly suited for shoujo manga, especially shoujo manga aimed at a heavily fujoshi demographic, but apparently it sold well, so…

  13. Julie,

    I’m missing something. Why can’t I criticize Homer for being a fat, lazy drunk and Marge for putting up with him? I can’t say the premise of the sitcom or a manga isn’t funny? I can get the joke and still not laugh. I don’t find it funny when you set up two unsympathetic characters and then mock them for being unsympathetic. That style of humor falls flat on me.

  14. Ed,

    Maybe I’m not being clear. You can certainly say the premise isn’t funny, or that you find it unnapealing, but saying it should be *different* is essentially saying the current work shouldn’t exist. My Girlfriend’s a Geek is fundamentally based on the idea that Yuiko, as a fujoshi, is kind of weird and scary; having her be more sympathetic would make it a different book.

    And while mocking Yuiko and her ilk is much of the point, I don’t think you are supposed to mock Taiga so much as simultaneously laugh at and sympathize with his plight; the manga tones it down a bit, but I get a 50′s henpecked-husband standup-comedy vibe off the original story, a “look at what I have to go through to placate the irrational demanding beast that is woman” sort of thing. Which is the aspect I find least appealing, personally.

  15. Julie,

    I get it now. Thanks for the clarification. I can’t say the original novel sounds any more appealing to me. So I’ll just move on something else. Thanks for the heads up on the novel.

  16. [...] “real woman” behind all those mind games. My advice to you would be to learn the above strategies and use them as you see fit whenever you feel there’s a need for [...]

  17. Yes if you use mind games it can be effective but is it realy worth pissing the guy off, or are you just trying to tell other women “HEY ITS COOL TO BE A BITCH”. wHAT ARE YOU REALLY TRYING TO TELL US?

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