Manga: Otomen

Man, when was the last time I honestly wasn’t late in daily NaBloPoMo posting. Blargh. This marks the beginning of the last week of this challenge. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish off with a bunch of great manga without rambling stupidly.

Have some humor and romance after 3 days of gore and horror.

Manga: Otomen 「オトメン (乙男)」

Otomen vol 1 cover

Otomen vol 1 cover

Otomen is a Shoujo, romantic comedy by Kanno Aya which was began serialisation in 2006 and concluded in Nov, 2012. The series consists of 74 chapters compiled into 18 tankobon volumes. It was adapted into a 12-episode live-action drama series in 2009. The title is a pun made between the Japanese word “乙女” (Otome), meaning “young lady” or “mistress”, and the English word, “Men”. Guys who have ‘girly’ hobbies in this series are referred to as “Otomen”.

Stoic and aloof Masamune Asuka is the coolest, manliest guy in his whole school. He excels in judo, karate, and as captain of the kendo team, reached the national championship tournament. But behind his alpha male facade, he really loves sweets, cute things, cooking, sewing, and Shoujo manga. Asuka is determined to keep this part of his life hidden from everyone else, but how will he cope when falling in love and thinking about the girl of his dreams — Miyakozuka Ryo — compromises his secret?

WARNING: Please be careful where you are when you read this series. I’ve made a fool of myself too many times LAUGHING while reading it in public. It hurts having to sit there intensely shaking in your seat when all you want to do is continuously smack something and wheeze for breath.

I’m not sure if I’ve actually laughed so much over any other manga series in my life thus far. Both Gekkan and Otomen are similar in that they’re both pretty unique for the Shoujo genre, include characters with hobbies/jobs that people don’t believe to fit their image, and are immensely funny. I could go on, but mentioning any more would be revealing spoilers. I like both these mangas, but Otomen takes the cake.

I would made a pun on the number of cakes Asuka bakes throughout the series, but— oh wait! I already did that. Bahaha ~

That was horrible. Please forgive me.

Otomen, like any other Shoujo manga, is choked full of sugary sweet scenes and many ‘fuwa fuwa’ (fluffy) feelings that make your heart clench at the overload of ‘cute’. Its extremely cliche in that aspect, but what’s a romance manga without cliche. How its different is that there’s your ‘perfect’ dense guy and your ‘perfect’ innocent girl… and now you just take their gender roles and swap them, and you get the ‘perfect’ relationship(?!). Yeah, something like that.

With a plot like this, it’s impossible not to exploit the humorous situations that the characters find themselves in. How bout facing Asuka in a spar, with your uniform ripping in the process, only to find him already done stitching up the hole with a flower patch in the next moment. That’s just a very tiny example. It’s not the kind of manga that shoves everything in your face either. The way everything progresses leaves you with a soothing, happy feeling. There’s quite a bit of subtle hinting, leaving room for the readers’ imagination.

Unlike a regular Shoujo, much of the story focuses on the contrast between the public image of the characters and their hobbies, not actually of the romance relationship. I mean, of course you have the romance, but its not the main focus. Due to this, there aren’t regular Shoujo conflicts. The pace of the series stays very much stagnant throughout and it gets a repetitive. I appreciate how the manga expands on its interesting cast of side characters though. You could even go as far as to say that 70% of the story is about the situations that Asuka and his friends get into that reveal/develop the many characters.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 6.36.16 PM

Otomen vol 1 chp 2 pg 8

Kanno-sensei’s art style is crisp and clean, with pretty boys and girls… Backgrounds aren’t detailed, but so much effort is put into the decorations, food, makeup, flowers, effects and the general ‘pretty things’ that take up a huge chunk of the manga, demonstrating the Otomens’ (Yes, there’re more of them) prowess. Lots of grey tones are used with minimal contrast keeping the atmosphere light, refreshing and optimistic. Even the chibis are really cute.

Every guy’s got their inner ‘girl’ and every girl’s got their inner ‘guy’. Probably the biggest reason why I like Otomen is because no matter the characters, how stupid the situations are, or problems that come up, this manga is relatable, even if you don’t specifically see yourself as one gender or the other. It’s something that addresses the issue of being true to yourself… along with a plethora of other life lessons. You’re going to find friends who appreciate you as you are. Although, finding love like Asuka might be a different matter entirely.

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