Sunday, May 15, 2011

Otomen Volume 10

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

This volume of Otomen takes up right where the last one left off. We're still in the middle of the plan to make Asuka's high school filled with manly men and girly girls, starting with the ever-so-cutesy Ms. Moematsu, who tries to sweet everyone into submission. Unfortunately, Asuka is proving to be very confusing to her, as his awesome kendo skills don't quite match with his obsessive love of parfaits. Of course, just as all the guys in this manga are secret otomen, naturally their teacher is not as cutesy pie as she seems, and is revealed to have a hidden secret past.

Of note, Asuka talks about his love of Ryo in front of everyone again, and once more, we don't see much of a reaction from her at all. I've gone on about my dislike of never seeing anything of Ryo's feelings before, and it does remind me a bit of reading Itazura na Kiss, where it's Naoki who seems a blank slate. In any case, it's the same here for the most part, and given that the fandom for Otomen seems to be predominately BL, I may be the only one noticing it. :) And it's not as if she's cold to Asuka - she's enthusiastic about everything as always, and loves to go training or on dates with him. She's just... flat compared to the others.

The majority of the volume deals with teacher #2, a mad scientist type who supposedly invents a drug that stereotypes gender roles. What's more, it seems to work, as Asuka is hating sweet desserts and throwing out his plushies, and Ryo giving up her martial arts. Luckily, Kitora was late to the meeting where everyone had their mojo worked, and therefore is the only one who notices what's wrong. He manages to snap Asuka out of it, but the others aren't so lucky. In fact, Juta may give up shoujo manga! (The shot of Love Chick drawn a la Dragon Ball Z is fantastic.)

This leads to what's probably my favorite part of the manga, which is where Asuka, who has snapped out of the role reversal, is hoping that showing Ryo various things she used to love, like samurai movies and mountain training grounds will snap her out of it. It doesn't work, unfortunately, and she seems content to watch him be manly and talk about cute things. In fact, they now have far more in common, as now the girlified Ryo shares all of Asuka's otomen interests! But of course, she's not who Asuka fell in love with. He stares melancholically at her and sees an image of muscle-making Ryo behind her, and wonders why she feels so far away. While I may bitch about Ryo's opaqueness, Asuka's feelings for her are never in doubt, and this is really well done.

Eventually everything gets sorted out (with the help of the insane Iruka from Volume 2), and it's revealed the 'drug' was mere hypnosis. So teacher #2 has failed, on to teacher #3, who's an American obsessed with Japanese samurai. He takes the school on a field trip to a samurai theme park, forcing all the guys to dress as samurai and the women as geisha. Tonomine's school is here too, and they end up competing against each other. This story actually leads into Volume 11, as there's a cliffhanger involving a landslide.

I should be less frustrated than I am with Otomen, as Aya Kanno has made it clear for some time that she's not writing this seriously and deep characterization is not on the menu. And truth be told, this volume is a lot of fun if you turn off your brain and go along with it. But the characters are likeable enough that I desperately want them to have more depth, and so far only Asuka and Juta really give me that. (Which is probably why the main Otomen fan pairing is the two of them rather than Asuka and Ryo.) Hopefully Volume 11 will resolve the mid-range boss manly men attack, which is starting to pall, even though Kanno tries to vary it a bit.

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