By Spica Aoki. Released in Japan as “Otome Kaiju Caramelise” by Media Factory, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Alive. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Taylor Engel.
As a lot of people know, manga magazines/genres in Japan tend to be loosely divided into four categories: shonen (for boys), shoujo (for girls), seinen (for men), and josei (for women). There are more of these, of course, such as magazines for little kids, but for the most part those are the typical genres. I say “loosely” divided as over the years it’s becomes easier for readers and creators to cross over into titles they might not be expected in. More and more women are reading Jump, and not just for BL fantasies. Guys are enjoying Betsufure titles. This comes up because the creator of Kaiju Girl Caramelise had previously been serialized in shoujo magazines such as Princess. As she says in the afterword, when she got a title for Comic Alive, which is a media-oriented seinen magazine, she thought at first she’d need to make it more obviously for guys. Her editors explained that no, this story really works best as shoujo, do it that way even though we’re Comic Alive. And they were right.
Kuroe has suffered her entire life from some sort of illness that causes her to grow kaiju parts, particularly claws and tail, when she’s experiencing feelings of love or passion. Needless to say, this doesn’t win friends or influence people, and so in high school she’s a sullen loner who avoids everyone and is given the cruel nickname “Psycho-tan”. (Kudos to Yen for the footnote explaining the nickname in Japanese, btw.) Given that this IS a shoujo title, she quickly captures the attention of the hottest boy in class, and ends up “tricked” by him into going on a date with her to get expensive pancakes. Unfortunately, his being nice to her, listening to her advice, and holding her hand puts her repressed feelings into overdrive, and she quickly runs away before turning into a full-blown Godzilla-style Kaiju, rampaging through Tokyo and horrifying everyone. The metaphor is about as subtle as a truck.
Despite the unsubtlety, this first volume is a lot of fun. The artist had previously done Beasts of Abigaile, which I also enjoyed. Kuroe is intelligent and likeable, if also somewhat blunt and caustic. Arata is a nice guy (no, not like that) who so far has no idea that the girl he likes transforms into a 30-story-tall monster when she thinks about them dating. There’s a third girl introduced in the standard “oh, he has a girlfriend of course he does… wait, no” sort of way, and she’s amusing in a fangirl sort of way – let’s hope SHE never finds out the truth about Kuroe, as I don’t think this series needs to go down a yuri road. And as always in series with troubled teens, I am always appreciative of a concerned parent, as Kuroe’s mother knows the truth about her condition and wants Kuroe to be happy despite it.
This is, as you’d expect, a fairly lighthearted series, but it’s also sweet in its own way. It’s just started in Japan, so I wouldn’t expect new volumes every two months, but it’s worth checking out.