By Shimesaba and booota. Released in Japan as “Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Marcus Shauer (Medibang, Inc.).
I was not originally going to be reading this at all. What I’d heard from reviews of the anime did not really appeal to me. Kadokawa’s license of the light novel made me ask “are you going to use Mediba–yes, you are”, and sure enough, their original version did not read great, from what I’ve been told. But then Yen On licensed the actual books (Kadokawa releases only chapters), and they promised actual editing. Which, to the credit of Emma McClain and Jordan Blanco, works well; the book may be unreadable to me for several reasons, but the translation and adaptation is not one of them. So I waffled. I read a lot of these romance books lately. It stars actual adults. Fine, I’ll give it a try. Lesson learned? Trust your instincts, Sean. I want to bill the author for the dental work I’ll need after grinding my teeth through this first volume, which tries to clear a low bar but forgets about all the other bars.
Yoshida is a corporate worker who has just confessed to his boss, who promptly rejects him because bosses should not date their employees… no, wait, it’s because she says she has a boyfriend already. In despair, he gets incredibly drunk and goes home, where he finds outside his house a high school girl who has run away from home. She asks if she can stay with him in exchange for “certain favors”, he rejects the favors and notifies the police… no, he does not in fact do that, he lets her stay at his place. As the days wear on and she continues to stay, clean the house, and cook his meals, he suddenly finds that he’s sleeping better, looks more put together, and is leading a sensible life. He’s even getting attention from his cute underling… and from the boss who rejected him. Is the secret to success having a runaway underage wife?
Let’s start with my pettiest objection: I expected shaving to have far more impact on the narrative given that it’s in the title. He doesn’t even have a real beard, just… scruff that he probably shaved every third day. Moving on, one of the reasons that high school romances with a dimwit protagonist who has 8 different women who love him because he’s actually not a terrible person works is because he’s a dumb teen who’s still growing up. It works far less well with a 27-year-old salaryman. The majority of this book is from his POV, and I will admit that when the book finally switched to Sayu it got more interesting, though we never do learn why she’s run away. The book tries to critique the tropes it’s wallowing in, too, pointing out the dangers of “kind” people and also when to learn how to trust, but I still can’t get over the premise of “wow, I just need a girl to be my wife in all ways except sexual ones, and suddenly I’m a harem protagonist!”.
If this book was going to be about found family, and about Yoshida and Sayu’s relationship being more like an older brother/younger sister, I might be vaguely interested. But I have zero confidence that the author is not setting things up for her to be part of the love interests one the “high school” part is done. In the end, this is a giant cavalcade of NOPE for me.