Author: Debbie Macomber
Author/Artist: Ryo Arisawa
Publisher: Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Synopsis: “When Hilary got a place on the San Francisco Symphony as a flute player, she decides to move into her own place to escape her restricted life with her over-protective mother. Although excited at her new found freedom, it doesn’t last for long. The next morning, the quiche she left in the fridge for breakfast was gone, her milk had been used and an unfamiliar bag was in the living room! As she stood confused, a handsome man she had never seen before appeared in front of her and says to her angrily “what are you doing in my house?””
What begins as a classic bout for freedom turns sour when young Hilary discovers she has an unexpected addition to her new apartment – a male roommate named Shaun. Now living together due to a misunderstanding by their landlords, the two must overcome their differences and learn to make due. But don’t cry for these two young adults for they have the reader-expected romance to help smooth things over in this tidy 122-page package.
The Apartment is the first Harlequin story on eManga that I’ve read so I’ll start by pointing out the one most noticeable thing about it that will transcend every review I’ll ever write for them – the lettering is absolutely terrible. Left-aligned, small caps, oddly bolded, outside of bubbles and needlessly large – this is some of the worst lettering you’ll see in graphic novels today, period. The fault for this doesn’t lie with Digital Manga (eManga’s parent company) as they’re licensing this pre-done from another company. Regardless however it’s a huge turn-off the moment you see it – it looks rushed, cheap and undoubtedly does nothing for first impressions when readers look at the samples. That said, the story itself wasn’t bad but as the first to be read for Kuriousity, its review bears the initial blow for this startling flaw.
On to more positive notes, the most enjoyable aspect about Shaun and Hilary’s inevitable growing relationship in The Apartment is that it evolves for-the-most-part evenly in both directions. The two have each developed feelings for the other but also with the two of them making equal advances on the other amidst their own personal reasons for hesitating. It’s nice reading a story that differs from the more conventional in shoujo-fiction – where generally only one party is being forward while waiting for the other to cave in. Their annoyances at each others’ quirks and habits at the story’s beginning is also cute and distinctly true-to-life for anyone who’s ever had a roommate.
Also intertwining with the story of Shaun and Hilary, there’s some tension between Hilary and her Mother. It gives the story a more rounded feeling than it would’ve had relying solely on the romance. Having recently lost her Father, Hilary had began to feel suffocating by her over-protective Mother; her moving out in turn makes her Mother feel both lonely and rebelled against. The two never really have any spats though their exchanges are full of subtle nuances that any parent or child could relate to. Hilary’s Mother also allows for a humorous, not to mention fairly sweet, scene with Shaun when she inadvertently meets the man for the first time.
The story as a whole takes an interesting turn at the end when despite it being so clear how the two feel, Shaun suggests they live apart and date other people before trying to commit to each other. He wants to truly determine their feelings – aware that living in the same apartment with someone could’ve fostered feelings that were more habitual than deep. It was a great direction, though one whose refreshing common-sense is a bit marred by the resulting resolve.
The Apartment was a nice surprise in that I wasn’t expecting something that felt any different from the usual shoujo-fare. This one-shot is clearly targeted at a more mature audience while at the same time obviously being a fanciful romance where even moments of realistic drama feel sugar-coated. At its length, and ignoring publisher flaws, The Apartment proved a nice read – not especially memorable but short and sweet.