Reviewby Lissa Pattillo, Jun 13th 2010
Otomen GN 6
It's the return of the Beauty Samurai as Asuka and Hajime's reprise their roles as the beautifying duo adorned in samurai clothing and out to make the world a more beautiful place one young woman at a time. However, what started as good-Samaritan act has gone a little farther than anticipated when toys and movie deals start springing up. It's a good thing that it's given Asuka some experience on stage however – he'll need it for his live rocker debut later. But they're not the only ones facing some unpredictable territory as their excitable acquaintance, Yamato, tries his hand at wooing another girl while flower-favouring Kitora seeks to help the same individual find peace in posies.
Sometimes the Otomen-factor of this series seems a tad too much, despite the name. Asuka remains an adorable lead, a fun-to-follow image of the ‘man who loves girly things’ and he still makes up the bulk of the story's charm. However, once you stack on top Hajime and his love for makeup and Kitora and his obsession with flowers, you start to lose the quirky element that makes Asuka's situation so unique a viewpoint. One was sort of original – but three at once? Sometimes Otomen feels like it's becoming its own worst enemy in regards to mimicking itself into monotony. All three are entertaining in their own way but definitely take away from the 'I'm such a rarity' point.
But Otomen still sports a fun group of characters working with the lead trio to make for an entertaining story that doesn't rely entirely on the guys-who-like-stereotypically-girly-stuff aspect. The series continues to share its glitter time with Yamato – a young man with a girlish physique who dwells on the dream of being manly, Juta Tachibana – best friend to Asuka and secret shoujo manga creator, and Ryo Miyakozuka - the often amusing but notably lacking in volume six female member who's the tomboyish object of Asuka's affections.
Volume six opens up with a continuation of Asuka and Hajime's stint as the Beauty Samurai – an impromptu endeavour from a previous volume that has since exploded to talk show appearances, cute little toys and even a movie deal. It's a pity that readers don't get to see more of the film which would have been a hilarious endeavour. While Asuka comes to terms with the results of his newfound success-of-sorts, another plot element takes off from volume five's end. Asuka clues into the seemingly obvious sooner than readers may expect but the author is quick to offset the lost-suspense with a twist, playing well on readers' own resulting expectations. These scenes have begun setting in motion what could prove a largely relevant part of the series by introducing in-person an element sitting in the wings since book one.
The following chapter focuses heavily on Yamato who seeks Asuka's council in the hope of having a successful love confession. The situation starts out well intended enough, but with the overzealous Yamato involved, you know it's going to get a little weird. Lo and behold, Yamato shows up dressed in trendy punk-style motif and proceeds to take Asuka on a whirlwind 'date' through the town. The chapter is a prelude to the revelation of Yamato's current crush, one of Juta's sisters. Prepare for a double-take, the visual similarities between the two will be lost on no one – cast included – and it's a momentary visual trip-up.
Continuing along the story's fairly linear path, Kitora takes his equivalent of centre-stage to try and soothe the newly discovered flower-trauma of Juta's aforementioned sister. It's cute watching him try, though at the same time a little suffocating watching the sister's request to be left alone go unheeded. Kitora's intent remaining almost purely on the flowers instead of the sister is also a somewhat sad, but in execution mostly amusing, factor in the ordeal.
Viz Media's work on the series continues to be an appeasing combination of tactful adaptation and creative design work. The character speech reads with an natural overall flow so it's easy to get absorbed into the story without getting tripped up by stiff dialogue. The visual work on the series has lots of fun little eye-candy extras, such as the stitching-design for the classic Shoujo Beat trimmings and a simple but suiting logo that well suits the very word it's displaying. Though these special touches are a fun compliment to the story's eccentricities, it is a little disappointing that this book's cover artwork is the series weakest to date. It sports an awkward anatomical pose that looks like someone else's arms are clutched in front of Asuka, all wrapped in a tacky red bow. It may do well to poke jest at its own subject matter but it still could have done well looking a little more thought-out.
While also a little tacky but infinitely more fun, the final chapter of this sixth volume sees Asuka don heavy eyeliner and an exposed stomach for his first appearance as a visual-kei style rocker. If that wasn't enough to end on a memorable note, the final page of the book sees a snappily dressed individual leap to Asuka's rescue and their identity alone will leave readers eager for the next book.
Regardless of its occasional attempts to remind us of a character's uniqueness that seems a bit moot by volume six, Otomen is still full of silly, unbelievable situations but ones with so much heart about being true to one's self and those you care for, that it continues to ooze that addictive kind of shoujo fluff and giggle-worthy antics you just want more of.
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : B-
+ Silly but entertaining scenarios and clever plot-relevant teasing to keep fans guessing
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