By Aya Kanno. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Hana to Yume (“Betsuhana”). Released in North America by Viz.
Well, in my review of Volume 10 I asked for an end to these ‘minor villains’ coming in to try to de-Otomen our hero, and do a degree I got that. But that’s because the series main villain makes her big return. Asuka’s mother is back, and she is not about to let her boy do anything girly whatsoever. But that’s not till 2/3 of the way through this volume. First we have to finish off the cycle of teachers who were brought in to clean up the school.
When we left our heroes, they were on a field trip to learn to become perfect samurai and geisha. Unfortunately, a landslide has destroyed the only way out to get food and supplies, and trapped them. Luckily, our heroes are not content to let gender stereotypes get in their way! Asuka creates festival decorations to distract the class, while Ryo goes hunting for giant fish, having earlier proven that she can’t be trusted with mushroom gathering. She also rescues an injured Tonomine, and in general is pretty badass. (Given I’ve whined about her so much in the past, I will grant her this.) She also cleans up nicely when she goes dancing with Ryo later.
The best chapters in the manga are the ones back at school dealing with Valentine’s Day, which naturally leads to another Otomen challenge, this one disguised as it’s based around punishing an anonymous person who wrote soppy romantic poetry. Asuka steps in to stop the punishment, and finds himself battling the school nurse, Oji, who is not only handsome and sexy, but also exudes pheromones to make all the girls fall for him. Asuka has merely his natural charm, handsomeness, and politeness to fall back on.
It’s a tough battle, especially as Ryo has seemed distant and keeps brushing him off. (If you’ve guessed what she’s doing, you’re right – this is Otomen. Surprises in the plot are for other manga.) But in the end, Asuka realizes that the shallowness of this competition is not for him, and throws it by giving all the chocolates back (notes he grabs each chocolate from a huge pile and remembers who gave it to him exactly), as the only ones he can accept are from Ryo, who of course has spent the last few days making her lethal chocolate for him. Awwwwww.
Unfortunately, after this we hit our Worst Case Scenario – Asuka’s mother is back, taking over the school as Kasuga and his squad of teachers failed. So Asuka is back to desperately hiding everything, which is even more unfortunate given there’s a class in teaching men how to bake cakes going on! This is the most cliched of the chapters, but does continue to lean on some heavy foreshadowing, and of course I can’t hope for his mother to give in right away, as otherwise where would the plot tension be?
The manga ends with a sample of the first chapter of Love Chick, Juta’s manga based on Asuka and Ryo only gender reversed. It’s a good thing it’s only fictional, as I found it quite dull. Oh well. More importantly, Otomen has now caught up with Japan, which mean we won’t get another volume for 6 months. So I hope you didn’t mind the cliffhanger. As ever, I want slightly more out of Otomen than what it gives, but an reasonably happy with it regardless.