Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Feb 2nd 2006
Riiko has something of an image problem; she's constantly chasing after men who are way out of her league. Unlucky in love, Riika heads to an online website that offers her a “lover figure”… which manifests itself on her doorstep the next day as a very cute android... er... guy who's dying to be her boyfriend! What's more, he's the perfect man; he loves to cook, clean, and make sure Riika is satisfied… but when the price tag comes, Riika's going to deal with a terminal case of sticker shock.
Say what you will about world-famous shojo comic artist Yu Watase, when it comes to popular opinion among manga readers, her work generally falls into one of two categories: unconditional love or seething, barely-contained hatred. Absolute Boyfriend, her latest candy-coated feminine fantasy, isn't going to change that; it's the same light-as-air shojo concoction she's been writing for years. Her fans will eat it up like it's fine ambrosia, while her detractors will happily toss it into the paper shredder. Your appreciation of Watase's art and storytelling style will directly determine how much you enjoy this book.
The story is your average Watase tale; a one-dimensional and particularly shallow girl encounters some crazy fantasy circumstances and finds herself surrounded by hot guys. In this case, Riiko, the story's protagonist, can't get a date with any of the cute guys at school, so as a lark, she signs up on an enigmatic website for a 'Night Lover.' The next day, an impossibly cute guy shows up on her doorstep in a box naked, ready to cook, clean and jealously defend Riiko at every corner. Quick, someone call the Pulitzer Prize organization.
Seriously, though, this is all nothing new. Riiko is violent, self-absorbed, bratty and perpetually apprehensive about everything. Her dream boyfriend, Night, looks like Tamahome (at this point I'm pretty sure Watase has a little stencil of Tamahome she just fills in whenever she needs a new male character), and is basically the male version of your average maid fantasy character, with a few added bonuses thrown in (like the tendency to punch out anyone who dares insult his precious girlfriend). Heck, there's even Soshi, the hunky, sarcastic childhood friend who teases Riiko and secretly harbors emotions for her. The gang's all here, and you've seen all of this before.
At its very core, Absolute Boyfriend is the female-targeted equivalent of a harem show (okay, let's be fair, this is the female-targeted version of Chobits. I'm a little surprised CLAMP hasn't sued yet). The characters are all paper-thin and do little more than play out Watase's juvenile fantasy. If you walk into this expecting anything more than that, prepare for disappointment. So far, the story's only saving grace is the Soshi character; perhaps Watase is setting up a story here that might actually encourage young girls to drop the fantasy of one day meeting the ‘perfect’ guy, someone who looks like a manga character, slavishly devotes his entire life to making them 100 percent happy and has no flaws at all. It's pretty obvious the story is going to eventually focus on how Soshi, the flawed guy, is a better match for Riiko, but this is Yu Watase we're talking about here. There's no guarantee this manga will ever rise above its genre clichés.
It continues to shock me that Watase hasn't bothered to change her character design templates at all over the years. Every character in Absolute Boyfriend looks like a character from one of her previous manga series. In fact, if you erased all the dialogue and replaced the character names, this manga would be directly interchangeable with Aashi no Ceres, which looked exactly like the “present day” chapters of Fushigi Yugi. I'm not sure what keeps people coming back to Watase's art style, but I know it isn't variety.
Still, as an airheaded confection that's good for light reading after a long day, Absolute Boyfriend should please its target market. High school girls will probably find a lot to like about it, especially if they're not familiar with Watase's other works (and thus would be incapable of noticing how she's repeating herself, or how she's directly lifting her basic plot outline from Chobits). If you're a longtime Watase fan, then this'll be more of the same and it probably won't disappoint. Everyone else? Well, your mileage may vary, but given how many other excellent shojo titles are out on the shelves right now, it's hard to seriously recommend this.
Overall : C
Story : D
Art : C
+ Probably a quick, fun read for teenage girls.
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