By Shizuku Totono and Daisuke Hagiwara. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine Shonen Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Taylor Engel.
The artist here may be familiar – the same one also draws Horimiya. The author is relatively unknown, however, and this did not take off the way Horimiya did – it’s just one volume total. But to be honest, that seems about right. Not that I didn’t enjoy this series, it was very cute and had some great humor. But you get the sense when reading it that future volumes would have been much the same – it’s the sort of series that only resolves when the main couple gets together, and has no plot except “will they finally get together”, so ongoing volumes would have felt a bit like it’s dragging it out. Of course, Ne Ne Ne has a bit of a head start on those other cute romantic comedies, in that our heroine starts the book off married to the hero. Why aren’t they involved physically? Well, it’s an arranged marriage, and she’s a bit too young. He’s also awkward, and inexperienced himself. Basically, they’re both naive blushing cuties.
There’s a supernatural element to the series as well, but it feels very tacked on. I’ve talked before with some isekai series how the “brought to another world” aspect feels halfhearted and tacked on, and to be honest the yokai stuff in Ne Ne Ne feels much the same. It seems to be an excuse to have Shin, the male lead, wear a mask all the time to make him a bit less nebbish. We never really get a good explanation as to why – he says it’s to make him less easy to possess, and you get the sense that if the series had gone on this is the direction the authors may have taken it in. As it is, though, the supernatural is not the reason to read the book. They treat a wounded fairy, he points out dragons flying in the sky that normal people can’t see, etc. The real meat of the story is in the embarrassed romantic flirting.
Shin is told by Koyuki’s overprotective father that he’s not to try anything with his wife till she’s twenty, but we’re never quite sure how much younger than that she is. At least a few years, I’d expect – she seems pretty young, and has a bit of a complex about getting older as quickly as possible. Like many newlyweds in Japanese ‘arranged marriage’ stories, there’s also a frisson of ‘Do you even like me at all?’ to the proceedings, though that’s entirely on the part of the characters – the reader knows immediately that they’re perfect for each other, though I agree with the dad that they should wait for now. There’s humor in seeing the local villagers mistake Koyuki for Shin’s maid (and then, when he corrects them, becoming the big gossip of the day) and Koyuki pouting when Shin says something unthinkingly. But they actually communicate pretty well, and there are no difficult problems to get past.
Ne Ne Ne may be only one volume because of that. This is a story of two people who are married and really like each other. And they all lived happily ever after.