Kanno, Aya. Otomen Volume 4 (2009). 200 Pages. Viz (Shoujo Beat) $8.99
The hardest part about reading series which are incomplete is that they are incomplete. You have to wait for each volume to be released, which can be difficult (at best) once they start dragging into the high double digits*. Otomen is an ongoing series, unlike Othello or Doubt!! which were both complete before I started reviewing them. Even more difficult is the fact that until they are licensed by US Distributors, many good manga can be found fan-translated, so you’re simultaneously hoping they do get licensed (so you can buy it) and they don’t get licensed (so you can read them online, instead of having to wait).
This all relates to Otomen because I had read a few chapters online before Viz published it, and had really liked it, but now I have to wait for it to publish on their schedule.
The Story So Far…
Asuka was the ultimate representation of masculinity until he met Ryo. Something about having a crush on her brought back all his long-repressed feminine habits; he cooks, he cleans, he crafts, and he adores Ryo. Of course, Ryo was fairly clueless, being oblivious to Asuka’s feelings for her (even if she is his perfect match). Juta, meanwhile, has been observing the two and secretly basing his manga on them.
Finally, Asuka got up the courage to ask Ryo out, and now they’re dating, which would be great, if anything had changed. We got to know a lot more about Juta and his family, and a little bit about Asuka’s rivalries, and status in the martial arts world. Tonomine especially is an interesting contrast to Asuka, making things extra fun.
In This Volume…
Asuka prepares to celebrate Ryo’s birthday, and spends some time with Ryo’s father (Takeshi Miyakozuka).
Asuka discovers a hidden flower garden, and makes a new friend (Kitora Kurokawa).
Yamato returns, and drags Asuka, Ryo, Juta, and Kitora off on a summertime beach adventure. Then Tonomine gets involved and it becomes a battle for honor.
Otomen is a fun story, and part of what makes it so fun is the semi-cluelessness which plagues Ryo and Asuka. Another part of the fun is the way that nothing quite happens the way you expect, or the characters get excited over something which doesn’t go how they expected it to.
The “summertime beach trip” is a manga classic which is done well in this series, managing to be fun and unique while still staying true to the series/characters. I think this volume deserves a 5/5 for being my favorite so far.
* I’m looking at you, Ranma 1/2 & Inu Yasha. You and I have a love-hate relationship. I hate you for taking so long to tell a story, but I love you for being so brilliant and for being my first manga.