Manga-ka: Aya Kanno
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: August 2011
Synopsis: “Asuka engages in a battle with Suzuki Oji to see who will get the most Valentine’s Day chocolates! As Oji seduces girls left and right into giving him chocolates, Asuka wonders one thing – who will Ryo give her chocolates to?”
The opening chapter in this volume of Otomen finishes off the plot started in the previous, allowing us a fun second look at the cast dressed up as geisha and samurai. Seeing Asuka given a chance to really show off his decorative and cooking skills in front of his peers is refreshing, though it does feel a little sudden despite the fact he’s been revealing this side of himself more and more for eleven volumes. Changes are happening though and there’s only one more volume left to wrap it all up.
Ryo still manages to steal the show when she’s there. Here she helps catch her classmates’ dinner and carry a grown man on her back. There’s being a tomboy and then there’s the almost inhuman abilities of Ryo. They’re shown so briefly and always with a big smile on her face, a nonchalance that makes them as amusing as they are impressive.
Even though it’s been building for a while, I’m still surprised to see how much of an almost sinister plot is brewing in the background. Granted, sinister by Otomen standards is still far more light-hearted than many stories. All the same, watching people determined to punish individuals for perusing what they love if outside of gender-stereotypes is just mean. That it’s Asuka’s Mother at the helm is extra depressing, especially when it goes so far as to involve numerous students and teachers in his school. There’s even a determined little committee of boys keeping tabs on anything ‘feminine’ being done by students and tattling on them.
One of the new characters here to trip up Asuka is the school nurse, Suzaki Oji. He’s referred to as ‘a man’s man’ because of his ability to make any girl swoon. It was good to see his pretty boy design set off some warning bells to the anti-Otomen group, because otherwise it would’ve pushed my suspended belief perhaps a tad too far. When a punishment for poetry arises, Oji and Asuka face off into a Valentine’s Day competition. It’s evident all the way through that it makes Asuka uncomfortable, which I think says a lot for the kind of understanding readers now have about his personality.
Pre-existing secondary characters are proving the most intriguing growing factor in Otomen however. Most notably, the owner of the cafe the lead cast visits is suddenly gearing up to be very relevant. Could he be…?! Something else to ponder. I really liked a part of this volume where a men-only baking group is formed to give Asuka a place away from his Mother to indulge in his hobbies. Several characters attend and all have fun together creating delicious looking cakes. It was fun to read and really made me want to bake something, plus it was a good reason to bring back some characters we haven’t seen in a while.
It’s impressive that eleven volumes in and I still don’t feel like Otomen is repeating itself, even though it really is. Watching the lead characters subtly change while those around them do so much more obviously has been a fun journey. I love that Asuka and Ryo are already being honest with each other, and the prideful Tomonine is quickly becoming my favourite character. Only one volume left until this tale of being true to your self comes to an end and I’m really eager to see how it ties up all the loose ends (with a pretty pink bow I’m sure!).
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Book bought from Strange Adventures