by Yuki Yoshihara; adapted by Nancy Thistlethwaite
published by Viz; $9.99 US
I really want to support this series, because I very much want publishers to believe that there is a market for manga for adult women, not just girls, but its exaggerated sense of humor doesn’t quite match up with mine.
Having experienced my own share of work discrimination in real life, I have a hard time finding it a laughing matter for Choko to be singled out for uncomfortable attention in the workplace. I don’t know the finer cultural distinctions, whether it’s considered that bad an idea in Japan for an assistant to sleep with her boss, but it certainly is here.
Others may find it refreshing that Masayuki so bluntly confirms that Choko isn’t pregnant by clinically discussing how close they came. His lack of subtly can be quite amusing. Maybe that’s the key to enjoying this series — don’t pretend it’s at all realistic. But if that’s the case, why should I care about what happens to Choko at all?
She does particularly stupid things in Book 3, yelling about her sexual history with Masayuki at work and going out on a date with yet another former childhood servant to make him jealous. In a plot device I’m getting really tired of in manga, she risks getting raped as a way for someone to attempt revenge on Masayuki. Doesn’t anyone like her for herself? Even her boyfriend seems to be more interested in the girl she was than the woman she’s become.
Perhaps the true appeal of this series is seeing how outrageous it can be, giving readers a forbidden thrill of something they shouldn’t be reading. All while looking at attractive, successful young men competing for the young woman’s attention. Here, they dress up in full formal wear as waiters! That’s just before a comedy scene involving suppositories.
Choko’s brother has a crush on Masayuki’s cross-dressing co-worker, which adds a certain sense of panic to the beach house scenes. As in most shojo manga, it’s an excuse to worry over “ooh, we’re taking a trip together, how far will we go?” At least here, there’s no messing around with missed intentions, with Masayuki asking Choko flat-out, “when the hell am I going to be able to have sex with you for the first time?” What happened to his elite etiquette? I guess it’s supposed to be a sign of devotion that he loses his cool around her, but I’d rather see a guy who treats his love with some consideration.
During the followup sex scene (well earning the book’s Mature rating), she keeps telling herself (through narration) how much she loves him, but it reads to me like someone desperately trying to convince herself she’s doing the right thing. Later, she keeps thinking how tender he is and how he protects her, but most every dangerous situation she’s in is because of him. Is she a closet drama queen, thinking she loves him because he keeps bringing excitement to her life?
The book becomes a butler comedy in Book 4, adding various fandom references. The company president, known as an evil womanizer, sets his sights on Choko. (Again, why? She’s not the most attractive, she’s certainly not the most skilled, and she’s kind of a mess. Turns out it’s just to screw around with Masayuki, making her a prize instead of a character. Good thing, since she’s underdeveloped in more ways than one. This is brought home visually, as the president keeps tucking a chibi version of her under his arm and literally running away with her.) The job requires moving in with him so she can provide 24-hour service, which drives Masayuki to become the president’s butler in order to keep an eye on her.
After that gets resolved, with the guys fighting over who gets to access her “nether reasons”, the last couple of chapters take a very different direction, so much so I almost got whiplash. So I’m left not knowing what to think of this series, or even sure how I feel about it. It’s a very confusing feeling, one that makes me want to keep reading to see if I ever figure it out, or just to see what Yuki Yoshihara comes up with next. (The publisher provided review copies.)