Saturday, March 13, 2010

Otomen, Volume 2 by Aya Kanno

Asuka Masamune is an Otomen, a guy who on the outside is calm, cool, collected and manly, but who on the inside is more interested in girly things like cooking, housework, needlecrafts and reading Shoujo manga. Asuka tries to be strong and manly for his mother, but he can't give up the things he really likes... and that includes Ryo Miyakozuka, the girl he's fallen for. Little does he know that friend and fellow classmate Juta Tachibana has used Asuka to build a female character on in his Shoujo Manga, which he writes under the name of Jewel Sachihana.

Yamato Ariake is a boy with the opposite problem of Asuka. He's often mistaken for a girl. He's fixated on Asuka, hoping he can learn to be a "manly man" from him. He confesses that there is a girl he likes, but nobody takes him seriously because of his high, girlish voice, short stature and rounded eyes. But when he finds out what Asuka is really like on the inside, will he be completely disillusioned with his idol?

Then, with Christmas coming, Asuka wants to eat a special meal with Ryo and show her how much he feels for her. So when they look for another place to eat on campus because their rooftop perch is getting too windy, the only other place available is a supposedly haunted building on the edge of the campus. On cleaning it up, they discover a Christmas tree, undecorated. Ryo says they should have a Christmas party, just the three of them, but Juta begs off. Since Ryo has confessed she has never had a Christmas party, Asuka decides to make it special for her. But when the White Christmas turns into a blizzard, will the two of them be able to make it to the campus for their party? And will a blackout put all their plans on hold?

Next, Asuka's mother returns home to introduce Asuka to his fianceƩ, a rich girl who is the girliest of girly girls. But it's not her that Asuka loves, it's Ryo. But when he rescues this girl, Iruka, from an intruder who has come to steal her teddybear, Juliet, Iruka thinks of him as her Prince. But can he explain to his mother and Iruka and her parents that while he is flattered, he just wants to be left alone to pursue Ryp?

This is the second volume, but I read it first, and I really enjoyed it. Asuka plays the part of a manly man to please his mother, who would be very upset if she knew his real inclinations, because his father left them when he was young, saying that his dream had always been to become a woman. This severely traumatized his mother, and she's still obsessed with the idea of raising a "manly" son.

This volume enables us to see how deeply Asuka wears that "mask" of being manly and how much he has to hide his true self. When he hears his mother is coming, he hides all his cute and sparkly stuff, messes up the place and pretends to be a typical man to please her. And even though she is more than pleased with what she sees, she is still begging him not to be, or like girly things. Needless to say, his mother is obsessed.

Hopefully, Asuka will someday be able to confess his love of all things soft, girly and pretty and not be rejected for it. But until he is and does, I'll keep reading this manga. Although it is occasionally goofy, I like how Asuka doesn't seem to hate himself for liking that stuff- and maybe he will realize he isn't alone in liking it, and it doesn't make the men who like it any less masculine. Recommended.

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