So Cute it Hurts!! Vol. 2

My biggest complaint with the first volume of So Cute it Hurts!! was that I thought it focused a bit too much on boy twin Mitsuru’s adventures cross-dressing as a girl, without as much character development or action for his sister Megumu pretending to be her brother at a school largely populated by juvenile delinquents. I was happy to see that in the second volume Megumu gets a larger chunk of the story.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed in Ikeyamada’s series so far is that the plot moves fairly fast. Developments that might take at least a two volumes to be explored in another series are quickly resolved, only for even more complications to pop up. Also, many of the issues that the characters have are so ridiculous, I find it extremely entertaining. Megumu pretending to be her brother grows closer and closer to head one-eyed delinquent Aoi Sanada, who turns out to have a deadly Achilles heel involving female company. If he so much as touches a girl, he immediately feels faint and sick. It is to Megumu’s credit that as soon as she finds this out after indulging in fantasies about revealing her true gender and confessing her love to Aoi, she vows to just remain at his side as a male because she doesn’t want to burden him by making him deal with her as a girl.

In the first volume there’s a hint that the deaf girl that Mitsuru likes, Shino and Aoi know each other. This is promptly explored in the second volume, continuing with the plot moving along quickly. Most of this volume will be very familiar to Hana Kimi fans, as Megumu’s natural cuteness shines through her boyish disguise, causing her classmates and Aoi in particular to experience odd feelings. Even though the romances in So Cute it Hurts!! are absolutely silly, there are a few sweet moments where it is clear that twins really do care about the objects of their affection. Overall, I was happy to see the additional character development I was hoping for and while So Cute it Hurts!! is not in any way profound, it is a nice brain candy type manga series.

Otomen Volume 11

Otomen Volume 11 by Aya Kanno

I’d collected a fair amount of Otomen when I stopped feeling the need to keep preordering it. I like it, but the episodic nature of the book means that most of the volumes revolve around the same conflict – will Asuka’s secret talents for feminine pursuits like knitting and baking be revealed and destroy his facade of manliness? The 11th volume is pretty much the same, but it wasn’t very hard for me to pick up on what was going on after skipping several volumes and Otomen is consistently funny.

Asuka is on a class trip/feudal Japan reenactment when he and his friends find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Asuka’s enigmatic and tomboyish girlfriend Ryo promptly starts foraging, while Asuka decides to lift everybody’s spirits by constructing lovely origami flowers. Ryo gets stranded in the woods and ends up cheerfully and capably rescuing Tonomine, who comments to Asuka “She may be a girl…but she’s a true samurai.” Other episodes in this volume includes Asuka attending secret baking lessons for men and a showdown at school over Valentine’s chocolate between Asuka and “Pheromone Prince” Suzaku Oji, the school nurse. Kanno’s sense of humor really comes through in her character designs, as Oji is drawn with flowing hair and a ruffled shirt worn under his white labcoat. He makes pronouncements like “come to me, my kittens,” and all the teenage girls swoon.

Asuka’s better nature begins to make inroads against the strict gender roles enforced by his school, but things are about to take a turn for the worse when his mother comes back from overseas. My major complaint with this volume was that there wasn’t enough focus on Ryo and mangaka Juta Tachibana. A bonus story of “Love Chick” the manga Juta wrote based on Asuka and Ryo with their genders swapped was included in the back of the volume. This was fun to see, since Kanno drew it in a deliberately more simple and insipid style.

Review copy provided by the publisher