by Maki Enjoji
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Now that Hokuto and Chiwa have done the deed (spoiler for book 4), she’s trying to be the kind of wife she’s learned about — cooking her husband breakfast; packing him lunch; making sure he’s got everything he needs before he leaves for work — although he doesn’t want that kind of fussing. One particularly memorable scene early on has him planting a kiss on her before yelling, “Stop acting like my mother. You’re my wife!”
Of course, neither of them seem to know what that means. Since their relationship started so strangely, they don’t have the usual history or feelings to rely upon. Mostly, they don’t know how to talk to each other, which is how they end up in the situations that drive this manga forward, fitfully and episodically.
In this volume, Chiwa gets a job — because her ne’er-do-well father is in trouble with gambling debts again — which leads to a terrible argument between the two. There’s a decent message in there, when she thinks about how “after we fell in love, I thought everything would just magically work”, but any message about a real relationship taking effort is lost in the two either flirting with or yelling at each other.
It doesn’t help that when she finally tells him how she feels and what she wants, a major step, he calls her names. I think it’s supposed to be bemused and in loving fashion, but this manga risks being thought too shallow for that to be apparent. There’s too much jealousy in this manga for me to really love it, that and the sex substituting for communication. I can see a lot of couples finding that realistic — that there’s still a physical connection even when the verbal/emotional one is messed up — but it makes me uncomfortable in fiction.
At least in this volume, Chiwa’s not the only one screwing up. The two take what’s supposed to be a romantic weekend together, but when Hokuto bumps into a client’s daughter, the hidden nature of their marriage gets in the way. He introduces her as his sister to avoid damaging a business relationship, a stupid thing to do when they’re trying to build trust. Also, Chiwa takes an important step with Hokuto’s estranged family on her own, which I appreciated seeing. (The publisher provided a review copy.)