Otomen Volume 2

Otomen Volume 2

The continuing story from the first volume by Aya Kanno here turns into episodic comedy chapters, becoming rather sitcom-like.

When I started reading the first story in Otomen volume 2, about a younger, feminine-looking boy who idolizes the macho-seeming Asuka, I thought I’d forgotten too much of the previous book, since I obviously had overlooked Yamato’s introduction. I dug it out only to see that no, he’s just a new character introduced abruptly. Now that Ryo and Juta accept Asuka’s eccentricities, the author needs someone else that Asuka has to hide his true nature from.

Yamato looks girly, so he dreams of being “cool and masculine”, like the image Asuka projects. He begs to become Asuka’s apprentice, which mainly means hanging around and getting in the way. Can Asuka risk disillusioning Yamato by revealing his true self?

Otomen Volume 2

The art is fun to read, with attractive characters, but I found the use of such devices as “someone saying everything embarrassing to another character who already knows it so that it can all be overheard” a little too cliche for my taste. And the idea that a “real” man fights to the point of getting beat up is way too outdated and sexist for me to find it palatable. This volume seems shallower to me than the previous.

After a Christmas story that prejudices romance over survival and not freezing to death — charming but impractical — comes another staple of shojo comedy, the arranged marriage. Askua’s mother has set him up with a perfect princess to avoid him making any mistakes on his own. To encourage him to follow her wishes, she points out how stress will damage her health, the staple of any guilt-using parent.

The best part of the book is the way the girl’s parents are drawn as though they just stepped out of a classic, old-school girly manga. This volume is funny at points, ridiculously exaggerated at others, but it’s lost the psychological approach I saw in the first book that gave the comedy some edge. The focus is more on the situations than the core characters, who seem to just be walking through the scenes. The end of one chapter has nothing to do with the beginning of the next unless it’s a continued story — the idea that we’re following an ongoing story of Asuka and Ryo is being downplayed in favor of episodes with ha-ha endings.

As a side note, several pages in this volume seemed mis-trimmed. The outside edges almost cut off dialogue while the spine-side margins had extra space. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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