Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Monster Secret
It's tough to be surrounded by inhuman admirers. Asahi still just wants to get closer to Shiragami, but beyond the fact that she's a vampire, all the rest of their friends aren't much help, either. A trip to the pool seems like the perfect opportunity to strengthen their relationship, but when the rest of the gang tag along, things get significantly more complicated. An all-you-can-eat cake buffet offers another bonding opportunity, but between Mikan's arrival and Asahi's nosey buddies, that too becomes more trouble than it's worth. Keeping secrets is hard enough, but when you're trying to hide your feelings and your crush's pointy fangs, life can seem like a series of disasters.
The idea that harem comedies “don't go anywhere” is a pretty common and understandable complaint. Manga in the genre often hang on a central “will they or won't they” question, but their chapters proceed as a series of moments where characters walk up to the brink of relationship changes and then promptly slip on a banana peel. This can get frustrating over time, as the investment you feel in some characters' potential feelings is diluted by many chapters of inaction. But that's all part of the ride; just like a TV detective will always have another case to solve, so too will harem protagonists find obstacles blocking their smallest efforts right up until the series ends.
If you're not feeling particularly tolerant of that sort of dramatic stasis, this will likely be the volume when My Monster Secret starts to feel a little long in the tooth (pun only slightly intended). The manga has introduced a fairly broad cast at this point, and with these chapters, it settles into a comfortable rhythm of episodic adventures. Asahi likes Shiragami, Shiragami is completely oblivious, and the rest of their friends all have their own loyalties and feelings. Add some immediate new problem, sprinkle a dash of idiocy on all characters involved, and stir.
Manga like this hang on the charm of the characters, the snap of the comedy, and the creativity of the episodic conflicts - and so far, My Monster Secret consistently nails at least two out of the three. The characters are the manga's most consistent variable; as was true in the first two volumes, it's still fundamentally satisfying to read a romantic comedy where all the characters actually like each other, and aren't engaging in some strained romance of antagonism. The things keeping these characters apart aren't the complexity of their feelings - it's a mixture of insecurity, kindness towards their other friends, and the fact that everyone here is really, really stupid.
That stupidity is the source of a lot of the manga's comedy, and as far as buffoons go, these are some very entertaining buffoons. Characters' attempts to solve situations generally just escalate them in other directions - Aizawa will attempt to protect Mikan by revealing her alien self, and then Shiragami will almost blow her own secret attempting to protect Aizawa. Aizawa's brother Sho will pretend to be a ghost, and then get scared when other characters point at him and scream “GHOST!” Akane will attempt to hide Mikan's glasses by tossing fifty pairs in the air, all while forgetting she's actually wearing Mikan's original pair.
It's all very silly, charming stuff, and the manga finds many inventive ways to make use of its characters' combined stupidity and fundamentally good nature. “Charming” is by far the best word to describe My Monster Secret - its simple characters, upbeat comedy, light fanservice, and reliance on classic episodic adventures like the pool visit or test of courage makes it feel almost nostalgic among harem stories. You won't be shocked by any of the manga's turns, and some of the jokes are too predictable to have much impact, but its strong cast, generally consistent comedy, and occasionally clever riffs on its monster-girl premise keep things warm and entertaining all through these chapters.
The manga's art continues to improve, meaning that for perhaps the first time, this volume's fanservice shots actually parse as fanservice. Those moments are few and far between, though - more often, the manga's art is being put to work making silly, exaggerated faces and embarrassed reaction shots. My Monster Secret's characters are taller and more full-bodied than most manga designs, built with dangling limbs and strong, defined cheekbones. Their more pronounced physical presence adds a sense of space and impact to the manga's physical comedy, and the manga's confident linework and emphasis on believable posture also enhance the physicality of its world. The manga's expressions can get a little samey, lessening the comic impact of some reaction panels, but the art is overall confident and distinctive in a very appealing way.
I'm having a very good time with My Monster Secret. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's well-constructed and endearing and consistently funny. There's much to be said for a strong riff on an old classic.
Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Cast continues to charm, humor is fairly consistent, art is distinctive and appealing
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