Otomen Volume 1 Review: Does viz’s best seller shojo title deserve it’s popularity?

oto9Asuka Masamune is number one at Kendo in Japan, a first-degree black belt in Judo and a second-degree black belt in Karate. However Asuka has a dark secret, he loves sewing, cooking and reading shojo manga! However due to a traumatic incident during his childhood he feels a need to hide his femininity and play the part of the school jock. Unfortunately for him, when he begins to fall in love with Ryo Miyakozuka he can’t help but let his feminine side show, despite soon finding himself helping her with sewing and cooking he still denies his true self to her. Will Asuka ever be able to show his true colors to anyone?

As a guy who thoroughly enjoys reading josei and shojo manga I couldn’t help but emphasize with Asuka’s fears that those around him would begin to discriminate against him if they discover his real interests. Despite this however I did find his personality a bit extreme occasionally and I also found other character personalities to be a bit flat. As of the end of the first volume I still know hardly anything about Ryo despite the fact that Asuka’s feelings for her are apparently reasonable and well founded. Whilst I understand that he is there for comedic effect, I found Juta’s character difficult to believe, as an artist myself, I also felt his career to be slightly unbelievable. Despite these flaws I strongly believe that if Aya Kanno can simply give some back-story to her characters and develop Ryo’s personality a bit the rest of the series can be compelling. Whilst story lines were quite typical of the genre there is a great balance of slice of life, romance and action. Therefore there’s enough for a wider audience to be interested in reading this series, so if you’re put off by it being shojo title it’s still worth while giving a try.

Aya Kanno’s character designs are fantastic. They’re pleasing to the eye and the emotion in each character’s face gives an insight into what they might be feeling. Backgrounds on the other hand are infrequent and when they do appear they aren’t as impressive as the drawings of Asuka or Juta. From the amount of assistants listed who helped to create these chapters I get the impression that Kanno put too much of an emphasis on them working on character designs and applying screen tone rather than creating detailed backgrounds – thus this could be the reason for the unbalanced feeling I got throughout this volume when it came to the artwork. Whilst action sequences are well drawn, I felt that through having several short sequences of action the emphasis on what was going on during each fight was often lost.

Whilst this first volume just contained a few rather cliché story lines and had unbelievable characters, Aya Kanno’s character designs made up for these flaws. Through adding some back-story to the protagonists and perhaps introducing some new characters to the mix I strongly believe there’s a possibility for the second volume to be compelling.


What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. AnnaLar

    Enjoyed the review Will!

  2. Amanda Duke

    The stripes are really gorgeous in this one. Which other manga’s would you recommend that are like this?

    • WillStocks

      Hmm… that’s a tough question. I would say that Ouran High School Host Club’s is similar as one of it’s main themes circles around gender roles, and it’s also a comedy too. I’ve heard that W Juliet is similar due to the female protagonist being masculine and the male protagonist being feminine. I guess you could argue that Bakuman is similar as the main mangaka bases some characters on his friends (if I remember correctly). On the other hand if you’re looking for another manga which has a similar art style try looking at Soul Rescue (another manga created by Aya Kanno) although her art is not as mature as it is now. Another option would be to look at which series from the magazine which Otomen was originally published in (Bessatsu Hana to Yume) have been translated into english as it’s readership will like similar art styles or plot set ups. Hopefully that helps 🙂

  3. genkisloth

    As one who has read the whole series (I just finished the last one today) I can wholeheartedly say that over time they give adequate back story to both Asuka and Ryo. The character development is quite good and Otomen is honestly one of my favorite mangas of all time. Stick with it and I promise you won’t be disappointed!

  4. Nice review! I’m interested in this manga now and can’t wait to read it.

  5. The great irony is that (from the manga cover) this anime is also a shōjo manga.

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