By Rinko Ueda. Released in Japan as "Hadashi De Bara Wo Fume" by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Margaret. Released in North America by Viz.
In my review of the first volume of this series, I noted that it had an absolute ass as the hero, and wondered if the writer might be doing a parody of those sorts of stories, where it turns out that the right guy for the heroine actually *is* the nice guy after all, and that the jerk is just a jerk. I imagine those readers who have read further on in this series were pointing at me and laughing. Of course, it's nothing like that.
No, Volume 2 arrives and we get exactly what I should have expected. The jerk turns out to have a softer side that he's hiding from the heroine, and is trying to avoid getting close to her so that he can keep using her to further his own ends. This is made difficult by the heroine's pure shininess. Meanwhile, the nice guy I mentioned in Volume 1 is giving every sign that he'll turn out to be utterly psychotic, possibly as early as Volume 3.
No, much as I'd like it to be otherwise, this manga is a shameless potboiler. Every scene is designed to make you wince, realizing what Sumi is about to go through next. And Soichiro has settled into his own little cliched box: he is the guy who is being cruel against his own heart, and will end up being the best guy in the manga for her simply as everyone else will turn out to be much, much worse.
Having said all this, I did still find this enjoyable. Unlike other series of this nature (coughBlackBirdcouch), I get the feeling that the artist knows she's creating a horrid Barbara Cartland scenario, and sometimes the manga reads like she dials it up to 11 for her own amusement. I just can't take it as seriously as I should. And that's good, as when it's not taken all that seriously this is a fun, fast read, filled with twists and turns and people shouting emotionally at each other about love and commitment.
I said in Volume 1's review I'd read it till it became the cliche. Well, it is now. But I think I'll keep reading anyway, as there's a certain style to this romance manga that keeps me wanting more. And that shot of Nozomu's hands gripping the rose bouquet? That was first rate. You can tell that Rinko Ueda is no newbie artist. She knows just how to drag us through this morass she has created.