By Maki Enjoji. Released in Japan as “SP x Baby” by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Petit Comic. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by JN Productions.
The cover for SP Baby (the ‘x’ has been removed from the North American title, for reasons that are unclear, particularly as the SP is not particularly obvious – I think it stands for Security Police) is meant to be viewed horizontally, I think. with the front and back together showing us the lead couple. It’s a good summary of the power dynamics of the couple itself, like many manga romance covers. Tamaki is the heroine, and she has her hand extended to stop some unseen person from coming closer, while the other is shoved up against the wall. Her face doesn’t make it clear if she’s guarding her charge from an attack or trying to stop anyone seeing him with his arm around her. Meanwhile, Kagetora is the hero, and is a ninja who… wait, he’s not a ninja? Nonsense, he’s named Kagetora. All manga characters named Kagetora are ninjas, it’s a rule. In any case, he’s standing there with one arm around Tamaki’s waist and the other posed artfully in the air, staring at the reader with a smirk that makes me worry he’s going to say something like “My bodyguard – I think I’ll keep her”. It is a great cover for showing exactly what you get in the manga itself.
Despite the occasional snark in the above paragraph, I found SP Baby enjoyable more than I expected. Tamaki is fairly hapless, but it’s in a likeable, realistic way. She’s looking for work but has an extreme case of bad luck, and it has a tendency to get others hurt. Her only close people seem to be her younger brother (who’s a non-entity) and her childhood friend Natsu, who is tall, good-looking, likes the heroine but seems to be unaware that she is into him. He’s also a blond in a josei series, never a good sign. One day while looking for work, she spots a man being chased and attempts to stop his attacker… who it turns out is actually the man’s bodyguard, trying to get him to do some unpleasant task. Turns out Kagetora is the nephew of the prime minister, so has a lot of people after him for various reasons. And whatever bad luck Tamaki may have, she can also kick. So Kagetora hires her to be another bodyguard for him. But is this really the first time they’ve met?
The author previously did Happy Marriage?!, and I get the sense that if you enjoyed that you’ll like this, and if you didn’t it’s probably not your thing. That said, I did enjoy Happy Marriage?!, and I liked this as well, forced kisses aside. For one, I liked the fact that the forced kiss was immediately called out. I also enjoyed the various bits of bodyguard training we saw – Tamaki can kick, but she needs to learn more if she’s going to be able to protect anyone. And the couple is cute. You hope they get together. In fact, they’d better get together soon, the second volume is the last. Josei fans should have fun with this.
Also, if Kagetora is revealed to be a ninja in Vol. 2 I will laugh and laugh.