By Aya Kanno. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Hana to Yume ("Betsuhana"). Released in North America by Viz.
Another volume of Otomen, where Aya Kanno... writes about whatever the hell she wants, really, and if it happens to advance the main plot or develop the characters, so much the better. This means, as with many previous volumes, that the quality is highly variable; however, the good bits are really good.
Sadly, the first chapter in the book is not one of the good bits. I sometimes wonder if the theme that Viz notes on the back cover - 'having girly hobbies doesn't make you less manly!' - is actually meant to be the theme of this manga, or if Kanno is just gleefully subverting it for her own amusement. This chapter in particular is a good example, as showing how, in a world where men are manly and women are girly that it's OK to like cutesy stuff - is less appropriate when every other guy in the world is the same way! Seriously, we've met Asuka, and we now have the gardening otomen, the makeup artist otomen, and with this chapter, the singing otomen. Disbelief is starting to get tired of hanging around up there.
Luckily, this is the low ebb, and the other three stories are more interesting. My favorite was the second, involving the kendo club going off to train at a camp rumored to be haunted by a vengeful female ghost. Asuka, naturally, is terrified of ghosts. Juta, sensing a manga cliche he can abuse, suggests Ryo come along to serve as manager. What I liked best about this is that it finally admitted that no, it wasn't a case of Ryo 'forgetting' that Asuka had confessed to her, or the series itself retconning it. She just hasn't responded with an answer. Asuka's talk with the ghost about how difficult this is is very touching, and it's made even better by his return and seeing Ryo curled up asleep with her exorcist vacuum. Some people just feel more comfortable with deeds rather than words.
Speaking of Juta, he gets a focus chapter in here, noting his playboy sensibilities and how he seems to avoid commitment. He's blaming the manga career, but his sisters all seem to know that's not it. What I found most interesting here is that Juta, crippled with writer's block due to thinking about his old love, is able to use that and turn it into a story about 'Asuka's' best friend from Love Chick (aka genderflipped Juta) and her own old love. I wonder if that will slowly lead to him being able to get his manga away from just writing about Asuka's love life and create his own situations. Unlikely (that's where the humor of his character comes from), but it's a good thought.
And finally, we come back to the fact that Ryo is unable to tell Asuka that she loves him back. This is very distressing for him, as he actually asks her point blank as they're on a date and she evades the question. She notes she wanted to come on her amusement park date with the rest of the gang. Naturally, Asuka is getting those 'just a friend' vibes from this (and to be honest, it does read like that, as Ryo is THE hardest character to read in this series). Things then go pear-shaped when Juta, who seems to be able to think only in shoujo manga cliches, starts a rumor that Asuka is transferring schools. Hijinx naturally ensue, but Juta gets what he thinks he wanted when Ryo admits that she's glad the rumor isn't true. She still looks depresed, though, and in the end we find out why.
Well, we almost find out why. Damn cliffhangers, Kanno. You barely include Ryo for all of Volume 6, and when you finally do you tug at our heartstrings. You'd better not write her out (hey, it is a worry here - I'm sure if she made the manga all male it would be just as popular). Definitely looking forward to Volume 8.