The frog who appears to be a prince is a staple character in romantic comedies: what Jane Austen novel didn’t feature a handsome, wealthy suitor who, in the final pages of the story, turned out to be ethically challenged, penniless, or engaged to someone else? My Girlfriend’s a Geek offers a more up-to-the-minute version of Mr. Willoughby, this time in the form of a nice young woman who looks like a dream and holds down a responsible job, but has some rather unsavory habits of mind.
The hapless protagonist of My Girlfriend’s a Geek is Taiga Motou, a perpetually broke, somewhat flaky college student who aspires to be a novelist. Taiga is on a quest to find the perfect job, one that “pays big” and is “close to college and easy to do and not too sweaty”; bonus points if the staff includes “a beautiful, hard-working big sis-type chick.” When he stumbles across a clothing company with a “Help Wanted” sign in the window and an attractive manager in the office, he jumps at the chance. Once employed, Taiga does his best to flirt with the beautiful Yuiko, though his opportunities are few and far between: a chance encounter in the lunch room, an after-hours search for missing inventory. Yuiko’s signals are hard to decode — she blows hot and cold, and ditches him to fiddle with her VCR — but she eventually agrees to go on a proper date with him.
Taiga doesn’t have much opportunity to savor his conquest, however, as Yuiko makes a startling confession at the end of dinner: she’s a geek. But not a run-of-the-mill geek; she’s a self-proclaimed fujoshi with a butler fetish and a tendency the slash the hell out of every shonen manga she reads. Taiga tries to play along with her interests for a while, but quickly finds her exasperating, with only Yuiko’s cougarness to keep him invested in their relationship. (The author never states their age difference, though we’re clearly meant to see her as a few years Taiga’s senior.)
Yes, we’ve been to this well before with series like Fujoshi Rumi in which a “normal” person tries to make sense of an otaku’s ecstatic and excessive behavior, and indeed, some of Geek‘s jokes have a been-there, done-that quality to them: is it really news that fujoshi like butler cafes? Other gags, however, hit the mark. In one scene, for example, Yuiko manipulates Taiga into writing fanfic by appealing to his authorial ambition — “I was really hoping I could read a novel written by you,” she tells Taiga — while in another, an innocent conversation between Taiga and his studly pal Kouji leaves Yuiko trembling in anticipation, as she hears their exchange as a prelude to a steamy make-out session.
Though the source material for My Girlfriend’s a Geek is told from a male point of view — Pentabu, the original novel’s author, writes about his girlfriend with a mixture of awe, fear, and confusion — the manga has a decidedly more feminine tone. The artwork has a strong shojo flavor, with pretty male characters, close-ups of blushing faces, and flowery and starry backdrops galore. Artist Rize Shinba pulls off the neat trick of showing us events from both the regular-guy and fujoshi perspectives: when Taiga puts on his glasses, for example, Shinba represents him first as a college student in corrective lenses, then as a handsome seme superimposed on a bed of sparkles and roses. The humor, like the artwork, is a little gentler and cleaner than the original novel’s (to judge from the excerpt that appears at the end of volume one, at least), though it’s clear Yuiko harbors some disturbing fantasies; if you wondered what sort of person would squee over Ciel Phantomhive, Yuiko’s behavior provides an important clue.
From what I’ve been able to glean from web sources, it looks like My Girlfriend’s A Geek is a two-volume series, which seems just right for its fujoshi-say-the-darndest-things premise: long enough for us to develop an interest in the leads and chuckle at Taiga’s folly, but short enough to avoid repeating the same jokes with minor variations. I can’t say it’s the funniest or most original thing I’ve encountered, but it’s a quick, entertaining read, perfect for the beach or a plane trip.
Review copy provided by Yen Press. Volume one will be released on May 18, 2010.
MY GIRLFRIEND’S A GEEK, VOL. 1 • ART BY RIZE SHINBA, STORY BY PENTABU • YEN PRESS • 192 pp. • RATING: OLDER TEEN (16+)
Kris saysMay 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm
Ah, thanks for this. I had been wondering about the series, but it looks like it was safe to pass up.
Katherine Dacey saysMay 5, 2010 at 3:29 pm
You’re welcome! It’s cute and funny, to be sure, but not as milk-snortingly funny as Fujoshi Rumi or Flower of Life.
Jade saysMay 5, 2010 at 5:45 pm
I had this in my cart last night, but passed on it to pick up the Spice and Wolf manga instead. It sounds decent, but now you’ve peaked my interest in Fujoshi Rumi! :hunts for review:
Katherine Dacey saysMay 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm
I never actually reviewed Fujoshi Rumi, but Erin Finnegan did when I was the manga editor at PopCultureShock. Here’s the link to her review of volumes one and two: http://www.popcultureshock.com/manga-review-fujoshi-rumi-vols-1-2/43726/. She liked it more than I did — I’d have probably given it a “B” and not an “A” — but I’d still recommend it to folks who are in the market for a little meta-fandom humor.
Viga saysMay 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm
Sounds like my type of thing. I love meta fandom humor and already a fan of Fujoshi Rumi. To the Amazon, tally ho!
Katherine Dacey saysMay 5, 2010 at 7:31 pm
Glad the review was helpful, Viga! If memory serves, Amazon is already stocking the title even though the official street date is May 18th.
Michelle Smith saysMay 6, 2010 at 7:34 am
A fun review of a seemingly fun title! :)
It looks like, though, that there are actually at least five volumes of this. Here are the listings on Amazon Japan, which show the fifth volume came out in March of this year. I’m not sure why Yen only has two volumes listed on their site; usually they’ve got all of them there with release dates posted several years in advance!
Katherine Dacey saysMay 6, 2010 at 9:10 am
Thanks for the clarification, Michelle — I’d consulted ANN’s encyclopedia, which had two mid-2000s releases listed and nothing else. Teaches me not to use that as a resource again!
Michelle Smith saysMay 6, 2010 at 10:11 am
Yeah, a lot of Western-maintained volume lists grow out of date quickly. The Japanese Amazon is usually the most reliable, if one can find a the title in kanji somewhere for a little copy-paste action! :)
kurukurushoujo saysMay 6, 2010 at 3:01 pm
Haha, Rize Shinba is probably perfect for such a story since her main activity is writing yaoi manga. :D
Katherine Dacey saysMay 6, 2010 at 3:14 pm
And she doesn’t disappoint on the male eye candy front.
Jade saysMay 6, 2010 at 4:51 pm
Thanks for the link, Kate! I remember now that I really wanted to read FR when it first released, but somehow I lost track of the title.
And speaking of geek love, if I recall correctly, you were interested in the Viz version of Train Man, which I actually found a preview for the other night: http://www.viz.com/downloads/manga/tra.php
Katherine Dacey saysMay 6, 2010 at 7:22 pm
Looking at Amazon, it looks like the fourth volume of Fujoshi Rumi was supposed to be released in February 2010 but never made it to market. There’s a single used copy for sale priced at $2,499.00 — at that price, couldn’t one license the series?! So I’m not sure what’s going on. It does look like there’s a robust trade in used copies of volumes 1-3, so you could probably snap those up cheaply.
Thanks for the Train Man link, BTW — I think I read the CMX version and missed VIZ’s, so I will definitely check it out!
Margaret saysMay 7, 2010 at 12:13 am
I asked the guy at the Media Blasters/Kitty Media table about the delay in producing volume four of “Fujoshi Rumi” at the I-Con comics and science fiction convention back in March, and he said their manga editor had just fallen behind on his work or something. So it hadn’t actually appeared yet at that point, but—unless he was lying very convincingly—it doesn’t seem as if anything more ominous than inefficiency is behind it. Maybe the $2500 used copy listed on Amazon was from some kind of test run that got so screwed up they had to do the whole thing over or something.
Katherine Dacey saysMay 7, 2010 at 5:36 am
Thanks for the information, Margaret! It’s always hard to know what’s behind delays, though given Media Blasters’ small manga output, your comments make sense.
JRB saysMay 12, 2010 at 3:28 pm
I don’t know if Yuiko qualifies as a cougar; at least in the novel, she’s only two years older than Taiga (this is, apparently, all it takes to be an “older woman”….). I liked the first volume, but it’s not a patch on Fujoshi Rumi, even with all the guy-oriented fanservice in the latter. :)
Katherine Dacey saysMay 12, 2010 at 7:09 pm
Oh, I totally agree, JRB: in the grand scheme of things, Yuiko is a cougar cub at best. It’s just that Taiga makes such a big deal out of the age gap that I felt it was worth mentioning.
And yes, I agree with your assessment Fujoshi Rumi: there’s a kind of gleeful abandon in Rumi that’s missing from My Girlfriend’s a Geek, which could be a lot sillier and smuttier, IMO.
themooninautumn saysJune 9, 2010 at 12:53 am
On the plus side, if you’re pitching to an audience that wouldn’t understand or appreciate the smut levels in Fujoshi Rumi (I have volume 4 pre-ordered), My Girlfriend’s a Geek is much more accessible.
Katherine Dacey saysJune 9, 2010 at 7:00 am
Good point—hadn’t thought of that, but I agree: it’s the same basic joke, but not so bewildering for folks with little direct experience with yaoi and/or hardcore yaoi fans.