What should have been a major turning point falls flat and is then ignored, causing the downfall of what should have been a fun volume.
Writer/Artist: Aya Kanno
Translation: JN Productions
Adaptation: JN Productions
What They Say
Asuka takes Ryo to an amusement park where he plans to confess his feelings to her. Too bad all the rides Ryo wants to go on frighten Asuka! Can he overcome his fear for the sake of love?
Even though he hasn’t summoned up the courage to confess, Asuka keeps becoming better friends with the object of his affections. Ryo asks him to help at the nursery she works at as a part-time job, and Asuka is determined to be nothing but an example of masculinity for the kids. You can imagine that this doesn’t go quite as planned, but all is (of course) resolved. Even for a rather episodic series like Otomen, this first chapter is almost completely self-contained, complete with a story introduction over the first several pages. This chapter was featured in a different magazine than the one Otomen is usually serialized in, which accounts for the change, but doesn’t mean that it isn’t rather dull for people who have seen Asuka address the issues here several times over. Thankfully, the second chapter provides some fresh entertainment, and, ironically, a second attempt at an amusement park date for Asuka and Ryo. Without giving too much away, those who have been reading this series for the romance should be happy, even if just a little bit.
After the big events of the second chapter, you would expect something--anything, really--to change. Instead, the focus shifts away from the main relationship, and Ryo becomes a near nonentity for the last half of the volume. Sure, she’s not the most dynamic character of the bunch, but she’s been my favorite since the beginning. Not to mention that… THAT happened, so she really shouldn’t be disappearing from the series all of a sudden. It could be a brilliant parody of the usual shoujo tropes, but focusing only on the crazies (i.e. the non-Ryos) without any glimpse of sanity to balance it out makes for a rough read. The chapter on Juta doesn’t provide any laughs until the very last page, and the last installment, which focuses on Asuka and his new kendo rival, is boredom at its finest.
What I feared after reading the first volume has come to pass--the characters aren’t sympathetic enough to cover for the lack of story and the humor that has simply stopped being funny. Sure, Asuka brooding over his issues in the bathtub like a shoujo heroine makes me crack a smile every single time, but with the big climax of the second chapter, this volume should have given so much more. Aya Kanno keeps introducing new, progressively less interesting characters rather than developing the ones she already has, and continues inserting as many shojo clichés as possible--which, over three volumes, has gotten old. Add on the near-disappearance of Ryo after the second chapter, and you’re left with a volume that, although not exactly bad, is utterly lackluster.