Saturday, February 5, 2011

Otomen Volume 9

By Aya Kanno. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Hana to Yume ("Betsuhana"). Released in North America by Viz.

After my rant about the last volume of Otomen, I have to say I found this volume far more intriguing than I expected. While the overall shape of the plot is the same, there were more than a few surprises here to keep things going. Including the fact that the 'rid the school of otomen' plot is ongoing, and doesn't wrap up here, but ends with another pseudo-cliffhanger.

I had mentioned that I was expecting Kasuga to be revealed as a secret otomen in this volume, and that's sort of partially true - however, the attention paid to Juta and his secret manga in this volume came as a shock to me, as I'd been expecting the attacks to mostly be on Asuka. This actually works very well, giving Juta some well-deserved tension and hitting heavily on the guilt he feels on relying on Asuka and Ryo to provide his plots. His sister even point blank tells him that he can't keep this up forever.

The backstory between Kasuga and Asuka, on the other hand, allows Kanno to pull out the 'this isn't meant to be serious' card, as the flashback to their childhood relationship is probably the funniest thing in the volume. Naturally, Asuka's naturally feminine qualities are at the heart of the problem. This also allows the author to satisfy the no doubt huge BL-loving audience that is reading this series. As does the eventual solution to Juta's problems, which allows for another great bit of cross-dressing, and continues to emphasize the motto of "preserving the dreams of young girls".

The final chapter has Kasuga bringing in a new set of ringers to change the situation at school, this time using a bunch of 'rebel teachers' who are there to make the men manly and the girls cutesy. Their introduction actually reminds me more of a shonen manga, in that they seem like the usual quick mid-range bosses you'd expect the hero to defeat and/or befriend on the way to the final battle. We deal with the first of these here, Otawa Moematsu. She's an ultra-femmey teacher who almost drowns the classroom in sugar, and has all the girls learning how to bake sweets and make cute fuzzy animals.

Of course, she meets her immovable object here in Ryo, whose cute teddy bear looks like a water flea that's been beaten to death, and whose cooking tends towards 'simple'. (Ironically, we saw Ryo make a decent bento earlier in the volume - but she was cooking for Asuka then, so was far more motivated.) Not to mention her bedroom devoted to martial arts. Otawa finally gives up, and knows that Ryo will never get her man (she saw Ryo's picture of Asuka and Juta in her room, and I suspect figured they were gay). Then, much to her horror, she discovers that not only are Asuka and Ryo a real couple, but are "the best couple on campus". As expected, much as Asuka disguises his otomen habits by manly activities, Otawa is far less cutesy than she likes to appear. Vengeance will be hers.

So, another interesting volume of Otomen. I still have my issues with it, but Kanno certainly knows how to keep people interested and move her plot in interesting directions. Hopefully we'll see Asuka start to strike back against the evil mid-range villains in Volume 10!

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