by Tomu Ohmi
published by Viz; $9.99 US
When I sampled the first of Viz’s new mature shojo titles, Happy Marriage?!, I didn’t care much for it. I’m pleased to say that Midnight Secretary is much more enjoyable (and with a lead that didn’t annoy me nearly as much).
The Midnight Secretary is Kaya, a professional executive assistant adjusting to her new boss. She wears glasses and a severe hairstyle because her normal look is too young and cute for her responsibilities. This reminded me of the classic trope, “if only you remove your glasses, you’re beautiful!” I flashed back to a ton of old movies, giving me a welcome, comfortable feeling.
Her boss, Tohma, is regularly dragging supermodel-beautiful women into his office and making out with them. You already know the book’s first revelation, since it’s been part of the publicity: he’s a vampire, and he’s feeding from them. He’s also a hard-working perfectionist who has trouble keeping a secretary due to his high expectations.
Kaya struggles to prove that she can handle the position, but once she finds out his secret, she has the attitude that she’ll manage that aspect of his life the way she does the others. She’s professional, until the moment (you knew was coming) that he drinks from her in an emergency. Before then, I liked her competency and the dry humor as she tries to understand what his condition means by puzzling it out on her own. That chapter also serves the necessary purpose, these days, of setting out what aspects of the vampire myth the author is using.
This first book of Midnight Secretary does a lot of conventional things, but I didn’t mind the formula, because I liked seeing Kaya work through her struggles. She’s cute, he’s dashing, and I was rooting for them to (eventually) get together. What more do you want from a romance? The story is illustrated in a way that’s easy to read and emphasizes the visuals when needed, as when Kaya gets a new dress.
Other familiar plot devices include sneaking into the boss’ office and getting caught, Kaya feeling like she doesn’t measure up to the top-shelf women her boss is used to, and attending a Christmas party together. I could empathize with Kaya, particularly since she has desires beyond getting the guy. She wants to do her job well, and she works hard for those accomplishments. She’s not a mouse, just someone who understands the expectations of her job, which in this portrayal is old-fashioned. When needed, she’s got steel underneath. Underlying the genre aspects is a relationship developing between the two, not just of romance, but of trust. It’s important to her that he learns to rely on her at work, beyond the seduction aspects.
I found the book an enjoyable, entertaining read. I look forward to future volumes and learning more about her boss’ brother, another executive who’s the opposite of Tohma in so many ways. He’s kind, thoughtful, not arrogant, and gracious to the staff. I’m curious to know how they wound up in the same family. Midnight Secretary will be out on September 3. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)