Stacked up against prior releases, this volume ranks low even among the other First Love Monster volumes.
Title: First Love Monster (Hatsukoi Monster)
Publisher: Kodansha (JP), Yen Press (US)
Story/Artist: Akira Hiyoshimaru
Serialized in: Aria
Translation: Alethea and Athena Nibley
Original Release Date: January 24, 2017
Review copy provided by Yen Press
If you’re like many (most?) readers and are a bit… shall I say, concerned about the age difference, then you might happen to know that this volume seems to give the first “out” for Kaho x Kanade. But, well, this is shoujo, so the chances are small. Not to mention that even if you aren’t supporting Kaho and Kanade as a couple, you also have to put up with:
- A terrible second choice love interest.
- A teacher in a kid’s swimsuit.
- A kiss between a man and a kid.
- A lot of seriousness involving romance.
- Another potential break-up setup.
In other words, business as usual and some new pervertedness. (Note that even Hiyoshimaru admits First Love Monster “doesn’t really have any non-perverted characters”. So that’s her words, not mine.)
The volume starts off with Kanade proclaiming he can’t be with Kaho anymore. The mysterious Sadako’s identity is revealed, and, as you might expect, this whole sequence is full of misunderstandings and childishness. As much as I rag on this series, there’s just something about adult-looking boys tearfully defending the world’s ugliest dog and, later, worry that their friend’s love interest may actually be a ghost. The disconnect of Kanade and friends’ inner and outer selves always serves to bring a smile on their face.
Honestly, I wish Kaho and the whole “first love” was never written into the story. Not only does First Love Monster keep focusing on the drama, but it’s annoying drama. Heck, even before the main manga ends, one of his friends remarks Kanade and Kaho keep breaking up and making up. Kaho keeps agonizing over Kanade’s feelings, especially when Jouji tries to change so he can be closer to the one he loves. Meanwhile, Atsushi Taga just keeps an-Taga-nizing Kaho, but he keeps dropping not-so-subtle hints that maybe his feelings aren’t just steeped in hatred.
More surprisingly, there are signs that Kaho’s feelings are starting to change. On one hand, a high school girl should not date an elementary school boy. But when the other option is a man who verbally harasses other people by calling them “foolish girl”, “virgin boy”, and once tried to sexually assault the heroine, you have to wonder if Kaho could be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fryer.
Meanwhile, Kouta, the boy who should be the male lead, is still being forced to cross-dress. He also gets stuck with Kaho’s brother as a roommate and is shot down immediately by a girl he meets. Plus he’s so down on his luck that he views Atsushi’s insults as having some love behind them. Poor Kouta. If there’s an award for Gets the Short End of the Stick, I’m nominating Kouta.
The volume itself also feels rather thin. The main story ends at page 119. Then there are two bonus stories, one starring Kouta and one starring Ren-Ren. The bonus chapters take the volume to about 150 pages, and there are about 10 bonus pages if you count the next volume preview and translation notes. So while the number of pages is in the ballpark for an average manga volume, it feels shallow. I mean, did we need to get through 120 pages for yet another potential break-up?
The art also doesn’t feel like it has improved in this sixth outing. Hiyoshimaru still draws those odd curves in characters’ faces which makes them look awkward and unbalanced. But the bigger issue is when the characters are only partially facing the reader: mouths should still be under noses, not under an eye! It really looks as if characters’ lips have just suddenly shifted. Meanwhile, the dialogue is full of puns and misunderstandings, and the twin translators do a pretty good job of trying to adapt these into English. Still, it made me wonder how much cotton is stuffed into Gin’s and the other’s ears to turn “love at first sight” to “lapha-fresh rice”. Maybe they’re aging so fast they need hearing aids…
The short version: if you’ve followed First Love Monster for this long, there’s no reason to get off this train you’re on now. But even then, this latest release ranks low even among the other First Love Monster volumes.