Eensy Weensy Monster

Eensy Weensy Monster Volumes 1 and 2 by Masami Tsuda

I’m disappointed that I didn’t finish reading this two volume series by Valentine’s Day because this cute story of teen romance would have been the perfect Valentine’s Day manga review. If you’re still in the mood for love, this is a great series to pick up. I still think of Masami Tsuda’s Kare Kano fondly despite the fact that the ending of the series was absolutely loony. Tsuda really has a knack for portraying teenage first love in a very compelling way. Eensy Weensy Monster has the all the cute and funny first relationship elements from Kare Kano without any of the angst and emotional trauma. I think that Kare Kano fans will enjoy this series and it would also be a good way to sample Tsuda’s work if you don’t feel like tackling the twenty one volume series she’s best known for.

Eensy Weensy Monster starts by introducing a shoujo staple character. Nanoha is an average student who is made almost invisible by her two best friends. Nobara is known as the school’s “Lady Oscar,” and her princely demeanor causes her to be the object of plenty of crushes. Renge is the resident genius, the only student able to appear out of uniform at school because she’s at the top of all of her classes. Next to her friends, Nanoha’s everyday talents of being awesome at folding handouts and dividing up food ensure that she fades into insignificance. The three girls share an easy camaraderie, but Nanoha’s peaceful school days are threatened by the resident prince of the school, Hazuki. He’s effortlessly popular and cute, surrounded by groups of girls that dote on him. His presence drives Nanoha insane. While she’s naturally very agreeable, she thinks of herself as having a tiny monster inside that will blurt out hateful thoughts if she isn’t careful.

Nanoha is walking along the hallway at school, awkwardly clutching a present that she’s taking to her teacher. Hazuki is so used to blushing girls approaching him with presents, he assumes it is for him and thanks her for it. This is just the type of incident that triggers Nanoha’s inner monster and she yells “Who said it was yours, you arrogant bastard!” Hazuki is utterly flummoxed by Nanoha’s hatred. Even after Christmas break, he’s being eaten up by wondering why she doesn’t like him. He says “What could you possibly not like about me? You’re pretty strange.” Nanoha’s monster (a cute chibi breaking shackles) is unleashed! She tells him that he makes her sick, and he might be attractive and have good grades but he’s petty and superficial. Hazuki is brought down even more when he goes to his fan club and they inform him that they agree with Nanoha’s assessment. They know he only cares about himself, but they use him as a crush object for fun.

Hazuki decides that he has to change himself and stops indulging in his prince-like behavior. The relationship between Hazuki and Nanoha remains cool for a long time, but then he begins to notice how nice she seems to be to other people. Nanoha feels bad for telling him off, and relations begin to thaw. In the spring, they begin to spend more time together as Hazuki helps Nanoha out with school. All the relationships at school are very light-hearted. The greek chorus of girls that forms Hazuki’s fan club pops up from time to time to offer their comments about Nanoha and Hazuki’s new personality. Nanoha’s Jeckyll and Hyde like transformations are funny whenever she’s speaking her mind, as her shadows suddenly form on her face and the fonts she uses to speak in are transformed to look bold and intimidating.

Nanoha and Hazuki’s relationship develops even more as the second volume starts out in the late spring. Hazuki has realized that he’s in love with her, and starts to act like a total spaz whenever she’s near. Nanoha’s monster assumes that he’s acting this way because he doesn’t want to hang out with her due to her being boring, and she confronts him. He tells her what he’s feeling and now it is her turn to act painfully awkward, mainly by staring at him around corners with saucer-like eyes and sweating a lot. One of the things I like most about Tsuda’s manga is the way she portrays the inner feelings of each part of the couple who is falling in love. She’ll frequently have split pages that show what Nanoha and Hazuki are thinking. Sometimes they’re right in sync, and other times they are in entirely different stages with their emotions.

For most two volume manga series that I read I’m usually left feeling a little bit unsatisfied due to plot elements that aren’t entirely resolved or rushed endings. I didn’t feel that way with Eensy Weensy Monster at all. Tsuda structures the book so the reader gets a sense of time passing from winter to summer break, to the start of a new school year. She noted in one of her author notes that she had each chapter take place in a different month, and I think that the element of time moving forward helped a lot in making the characters and situations not feel static. Tsuda is obviously great at portraying stuck-up characters that are forced to come to their senses, so Hazuki is a familiar character type for her. But even though there were similarities between Kare Kano and Eensy Weensy Monster, I wasn’t bored by the repetition. Eensy Weensy Monster might not be strikingly original, but it is cute, funny and heartwarming. Sometimes that’s all you need to ask for from a good shoujo series.

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