The prince who turns out to be a toad is a staple figure 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+)