By Mari Okada and Nao Emoto. Released in Japan as “Araburu Kisetsu no Otomedomo yo” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Sawa Matsueda Savage.
As the years have gone by, it’s gotten harder and harder to pigeonhole titles into the genre that their magazine is purported to publish. Back in the day there was my “whatever Wings is” joke, but GFantasy, like most Square Enix titles, is for boys in theory only, and Kodansha’s Aria also seemed to slip in and out of genre. And now we have this, which would seem to be a shoujo title judging by the premise and cast, but runs in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, which also hosted the artist’s former work, Forget Me Not (also licensed here by Kodansha). But the writer this time around is Mari Okada, who is famous for her screenplays (notably Anohana) and is now dipping her toe into manga, though I believe this series is also getting an anime later this year. And with all that said, perhaps it was put in Betsushonen because of its subject matter, as despite – or because of – the melodramatic title, this series is about sex entering the lives of its main cast.
The protagonists are the members of the school literature club, who are reading famous and notable books – many of which happen to feature sex scenes, which embarrasses some of them, particularly the prudish and repressed Sonezaki. The star of this first volume, though, is Onodera, a cute girl who happens to suffer from a tragic fate common to many cute girls in high school: her male childhood friend is a hottie. As such, she’s dealing with bullying that is leading her to pull away from him in hopes that it recedes. Things are not helped by the literature club’s steamy titles making her think more and more about her own burgeoning sexuality… and about Izumi’s, as she walks in on him masturbating and, unsurprisingly, can’t stop thinking about it. Is she in love? How does she deal with this? And what about Eseecross, the highly amusing euphemism the club comes up with for sex?
There are a lot of amusing moments in this book, particularly at the start, and mostly driven by the repressed to the point of hysteria Sonezaki. But mostly this runs on melodrama, which Okada is very good at creating, and the runaway emotions of teenagers, which she likewise excels in. Onodera’s dilemma may be something that we’ve read in countless stories before, but you never feel bored with the story, and it’s a compulsive page-turner. There’s also the sense it will be an ensemble piece – another girl, Hongo, is working on being a published author, and another, Sugawara, has been so pretty from a young age that she’s had to deal with creepers since childhood, and has to find ways to get them to back off. And Sonezaki has her own not-so-secret admirer, which leaves her in a complete tizzy.
This isn’t a mature title, but it’s definitely for older teens, with frank discussion of sex and sex euphemisms. That said, the story is very readable, and I definitely recommend it to fans of the authors or just folks who like watching young teens grow up and deal with maturity (and immaturity).