The Spring 2018 Manga Guide
You Got Me, Sempai!
What's It About?Serina gets into a graffiti war with an upperclassman after he scribbles song lyrics on her desk during a committee meeting. She discovers his name is Mizukawa and after earnestly asking his opinions on music and making him a mixed CD, Serina asks him out.
He's surprisingly fun, if a bit awkward, and Serina's cheekiness makes the pair a good match. The two decide to see where this relationship takes them, but as Mizukawa's song said, it's unrequited love that's easy compared to working out a real relationship.
Is It Worth Reading?Lynzee Loveridge
This is a surprisingly fresh high school romance that doesn't dilly-dally in starry-eyed purity. One of my biggest gripes with teen-targeted romance manga is that the couple's physical affections to one another can be stymied in a way that seems oddly toothless compared to any of the teens I knew. You've Got Me, Sempai rejects that trend, but keeps the pendulum from going too far to the other end either. This isn't Scum's Wish, either. This is a pair of kids who are attracted to one another who aren't afraid to sneak around behind their parents' backs and kiss on the couch.
Serina is a particularly proactive heroine when it comes to her desires. She's thoughtful, going as far as to fix Mizukawa's bike for him when she hears it needs repairs. She's understanding, and decides to take a nap next her boyfriend instead of wake him up for their first date because she knows he's working a job late at night. She also communicates her own desires instead of getting mad that Mizukawa doesn't just “know” what she wants; even if that desire is an expensive piece of jewelry. And yeah, she's interested in the physicality of a relationship, too.
Mizukawa isn't the best communicator, but he isn't cold or frustrating and seems genuinely interested in doing his part to have a successful relationship. He acknowledges Serina's thoughtfulness and respects her boundaries. When the two get into their first fight it'll feel familiar to anyone who's been angry with a person (and vice versa) but you have to continue sharing a space with them. The pair use actions to try to settle things without either immediately saying “I'm sorry” first, these are stubborn teenagers after all.
You Got Me, Sempai! is a a romance for fans who want something a little more realistic and without the cliffhangers based around characters who refuse to talk to one another. It's a refreshing set-up starring an easy to like couple. I recommend checking this one out.
There's a fine line between a sweet romance and a slightly dull one. You Got Me, Sempai!'s first volume repeatedly skips back and forth across it as it tries to come up with a plot that is simultaneously about two people forming an adorable high school couple that's a far cry from some of Kodansha's other shoujo romance offerings (looking at you, anything by Jun Yuzuki) and a story nearly devoid of conflict. While I do love a happy story and a romantic outcome, part of the reason those are such enjoyable aspects of the romance genre is that we have to enjoy the getting there; we have to harbor some doubts that things are going to work out.
That isn't a doubt that's anywhere to be found past the first chapter of this book. Granted, Serina's headlong tumble into love with Mizusawa based on graffiti they leave on her desk is precipitous enough that we can reasonably question whether or not they've got a solid foundation for their relationship, but those doubts get cleared up really quickly. Just looking at the chapter titles should show most readers that this is about a couple being together rather than getting together. That's not a bad thing at all, but again, there's never really any doubt about things working out over the course of the volume. We can tell, even if Serina can't, that Mizusawa likes her back, and he's obviously planning some sort of birthday surprise for her in the final chapter. That things seem to be moving awfully quickly doesn't sound any warning or wedding bells either – everything is treated as perfectly normal within the context of the story.
None of that is a bad thing per se, and it is a really nice break from the more toxic or angst-ridden romance plots we tend to get in shoujo manga. The issue is more that there just isn't any tension here. Even when Serina allows that he can lay one finger on her and that finger turns out to be incredibly talented at taking off her clothes, there's no will they/won't they tension, and their first fight is still calm enough that neither of them goes storming off in a huff. Partially this is because the art is just okay and doesn't do a terrific job with complex emotions, but it's also just not in the nature of the story. That may change with volume two, but it seems more likely that this will just continue to be a low-key, kind of sweet romance. There's nothing wrong with it, but there isn't a whole lot to get excited about, either.
You Got Me, Sempai! volume 1 might present one of the healthiest depictions of romance with a tsundere there is. Mizukawa is reluctant to reveal his true feelings and he can, on occasion, say or do something just a little hurtful, but for the most part, he's supportive and kind in his own way—and he's also quick to apologize when he messes up. He's not sickeningly sweet when dere, nor is he ice-cold when tsun. He's reticent and easily embarrassed, but the fact that he cares for this freshman who basically throws herself at him is clear. Most of all, he respects her boundaries and lets her decide how much physical contact they can have, testing her comfort levels and always waiting for her to give the go-ahead. It's a lovely, awkward first real relationship story, complete with fits and starts when it comes to physical contact and minor misunderstandings that at least never reach melodramatic levels of annoying.
However, if there's one drawback, it's that these two characters barely exist outside of their relationship with one another. Serina in particular is basically stricken at first sight (or first desk defacing, as it were) and decides immediately she wants to date this guy based on some slightly poetic back and forth they have on the nature of love. He doesn't even remember her name before he accepts her invitation to date her—though he does make a romantic remark about only knowing her for ten minutes, but maybe that'll just be the first ten minutes in seventy years together. Though the characterization is somewhat shallow—and the secondary characters are almost non-existent—the romance is so cute and awkward and well done that it's easy to still root for these two characters.
Mase's character designs build off common designs for “bubbly, optimistic high school girl” and “cold, reticent high school boy,” but her faces in particular are unique and good for a variety of facial expressions. Screentones are relied on more often than background art, so there's a lot of white and gray space, but the art never feels lacking.
There's more to You Got Me, Sempai! volume 1 than there seems to be at first glance. The typical melodrama of shojo fare is pushed aside for a realistic and healthy depiction of flawed but adorable first love. The characters might be all-consumed with their romance right now, but for the most part, that's actually a plus for the series rather than a minus.
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