by Aya Kanno
Format: Softcover, 5x7, black and white, $8.99
Reviewed by: Publishers 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. Asuka's 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 don't 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 Asuka's 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. Kanno's other manga in translation include the sci-fi series Blank Slate and angel comedy Soul Rescue.