Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Saturday, March 30, 2013

Plot Summary:
Asuka is the epitome of manliness. Not only is he captain of the Kendo team, he is also the best in Judo and he has the highest grades in school. He is quiet and all of the girls want him, which makes all the guys want to be him. However, what they don't know is that deep inside, hidden away from everyone, is an Otomen: a man who likes lovely things. When Asuka is not around a girl he likes, he's fine, but, when he met Ryou, he lost all restraint and is cannot help but cook, sew, read Shojo Manga, and think about love. Just when things could not get anymore complicated, he befriends Tachibana who has taken quite an interest in Azuka and Ryou. What Asuka and Ryou don't realize, is that Tachibana is hiding a secret as well. Asuka's biggest fear is being rejected by Ryou so he tries to hide his "girly" side, but, ironically, Ryou is not a typical girl. In fact, Ryou cannot cook, sew, or be girly because he father has not shown her how to be a girl. For Tachibana, he knows that Ryou is Asuka's opposite, which makes his plans a lot more exciting. Throughout this story, there are twists and turns that will bring Asuka and Ryou together, but, at the same time, tear them apart.

Critical Evaluation:
The manga is just too cute beyond words. I think it's absolutely perfect for teens simply because it deals with gender stereotypes in a rather hilarious way. We live in a world where those stereotypes are shifting, which makes this story incredibly enjoyable. Asuka may be a "manly" man on the outside, but he is ashamed of the fact that he likes cute things. I think what I find refreshing about Asuka is that he is learning that its okay to be himself around those he cares for because, as far as the reader knows, he hasn't been given the opportunity since his parents divorced (his father decided to live his life as a woman; thus, forcing his mother to raise him as a  super masculine boy). For Asuka, he fears that liking things such as stuffed animals and sweets will eventually lead to him being being rejected because men aren't supposed to like "girly" things. For Ryou, the same exact thing is happening to her because her father has no idea how to teach her to be a traditional woman since her mother passed. Furthermore, when he meets Asuka for the first time, he flips out because Asuka knows how to cook and clean. Eventually, Ryou's father comes to terms with this since his own daughter is like his own son, which conveys how ridiculous the adults in this story are. We have two characters here who are clueless about being men and women, but what's re-assuring is that they can teach one another about themselves. Honestly, this is a very sweet story about two teens who need one another in ways that we take for granted. Personally, I love it when my boyfriend makes me breakfast and selects my lotions from Bath & Body Works. Does that make him less of a man? Heck no! Asuka and Ryou will learn that its okay to do things that are beyond the traditional gender roles because it we were all the same then life would be boring!

Information about the Author:
According to Wikipedia:
Aya Kanno (菅野文 Kanno Aya?, born 30 January 1980 in Tokyo, Japan) is a Japanese shōjo manga artist. She is the former assistant of manga artist Masashi Asaki of Psychometrer Eiji fame. Her debut was in the January 2001 issue of Hana to Yume with Soul Rescue. Thus far, her work has only been serialized in Hakusensha's shōjo manga anthologies: Hana to Yume, The Hana to Yume, Hana to Yume Plus, and now primarily in Bessatsu Hana to Yume, in which her latest work, Otomen, is currently running. Also, she has completed Kokoro ni Hana wo.


Teen Romance Manga

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 8 & up

Books Similar to Otomen:
  • Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
  • Skip Beat by Yoshiki Nakamura

Awards & Recognition:
Publisher's Weekly
An otomen as defined by this book is [a] male who has feminine hobbies, skills, or way of thinking. Asuka, the title otomen of this well-drawn comedy, secretly reads shojo manga, makes stuffed animals and prefers caramel macchiatos to coffee. Forbidden by his mother from girlish behavior after his transvestite father abandoned the family, Asuka takes on a very masculine public character. He is nationally ranked at judo, karate and kendo. Asukas tragedy is somehow hilarious. He falls for Ryo, the nongirly daughter of a manly martial arts instructor who finds Asuka unacceptable as a friend, let alone a potential suitor: Men dont go in the kitchen! he bellows. The strange deus ex machina character Junta acts as a catalyst to bring Asuka and Ryo together while enjoying Asukas elaborate bento lunches. The over-the-top gender stereotyping is ham-handed at times, but reveals interesting insight into what the Japanese consider the most manly and most girly extremes. The strong artwork carries the comedy premise further than the script could alone, and the manga-within-a-manga, Love Chick, is a hilariously accurate parody of typical shojo. Kannos other manga in translation include the sci-fi series Blank Slate and angel comedy Soul Rescue. (Feb.) 

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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