Otomen vol. 1-8 – Aya Kanno

Otomen is a romantic comedy by Aya Kanno that has been running in Bessatsu Hana to Yume magazine since late 2006. Brought to a North American audience by Viz in 2009, Otomen has been popular among shoujo fans in the states. Kanno approaches the stigmas of gender stereotypes in Otomen, using her lovable characters and appealing artwork to highly entertain shoujo fans, and possibly cause readers to rethink what should be expected of males and females.

The Gist: Asuka Masamune is an “otomen”. He likes girly hobbies like sewing and cooking, and reads shoujo manga. Due to his father becoming a transvestite, he must hide his girly fascinations in order to accomodate his paranoid mother. He poses as a manly man at school. However, once he crushes on on Ryo Miyakozuka, his feminine tendencies start to come out. The gender opposites when it comes to homemaking skills, Ryo and Asuka make a perfect pair for Juta Tachibana’s newest manuscript. Asuka worries about others discovering his girly side while other guys, like Juta and kendo captain Hajime Tonomine, struggle with similar issues. Otomen explores the gender stereotypes society tends to force on people, and the importance of being yourself.

“OTOMEN” L to R: Hajime, Kotoro, Asuka, Juta

The Characters/Romance: I like Asuka Masamune. Being an artist, I respect others who have artistic abilities, no matter their gender. So I had a huge problem with Asuka’s mother, and her paranoia of her son becoming like his dad. I think every parent wonders about the tendencies of his or her child. However, it’s not okay to make your child change who they are for you. *Steps off soapbox*

Asuka acts like a very loving and generous man all the time for Ryo. Guys like Asuka who enjoy homemaking are hard to find – because of the stereotypes parents force upon their children. It’s sad for me to watch Asuka struggle with his enjoyment of sewing and reading shoujo manga. Eventually he comes to accept this person that he is, and it makes him much stronger.

Juta Tachibana has to be my favorite character in this series. Always on the sly side, trying to hide his “girly secret”, he acts like a player when he’s just used to swimming in a sea of estrogen from all his sisters at home. He can relate to Asuka, but isn’t able to reveal the reason behind why he can commiserate so well. Juta’s character is great comic relief.

The female lead in this series, Ryo Miyakozuka, is equipped with fighting skills and bravery. This is a continuation of Kanno’s use of opposite stereotypical gender traits. Although Ryo could kick your ass, she can’t bake a cake. That makes her a counterpoint to Asuka’s homemaking skills. Kanno uses her character many times to portray Ryo as a hero type character with Asuka in the role of the damsel in distress. An interesting working dynamic for a shoujo manga.

In Otomen, Kanno has some great examples of males who enjoy typically female interests. Besides Asuka and Juta, there is Hajime Tonomine who has a talent for applying makeup, and Kitoro Kurokawa who loves arranging flowers. Asuka comes to realize he is not the only “Otomen” out there, and he and the others learn that their talents can be appreciated without the stigma of being “odd” because of it. I applaud Kanno for making boys the main characters of her story. That is uncommon in a shoujo manga, and it makes this one stand out among others.

Line Art of Asuka in his Kendo Uniform with a Guitar

The Art: I realized after flipping back through the books, one of the reasons I enjoy Kanno’s series so much is because of how clean the artwork looks. The toning applied to this series is minimal for a shojo romance. I love the line art of this series. The panels flow smoothly, and the character designs are all attractive. Kanno’s colored pieces stand out with vivid palettes.

The Audience: This series is highly appropriate for teens and tweens. It is a good work for thought as well, considering the gender stigmas that all the characters overcome.

The Media: Otomen is available from Viz media in 11 volumes. Volume 12 has a set release date of February 7, 2012. As well as the manga there has been a live-action production of the series in Japan.

Heart of Manga Rating:  ♥♥♥♥ Highly Recommend

This series is an enjoyable read with characters that are great sources of humor as well as endearment.

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Super mom and teacher until the kids go to bed, then romance manga addict and writer until the caffeine wears out! Specializes in the shoujo and josei genre of manga and anime.
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