The Fall 2020 Manga Guide
The Writer and His Housekeeper
What's It About?Emi Machida has led a hard life, but she's learned to be an optimist even if her first housekeeping job is at a dilapidated house. Which, that would be one thing, but the home's resident happens to be Akihito Fukase, a popular novelist of an erotic mystery series and quite the erotic himself. Emi puts her foot down when he tries to use her to help him get material for his books, but when her house suddenly burns down and he offers her a place to stay somehow, she can't resist.
Is It Worth Reading?
Emi's grandmother taught her to keep smiling through no matter what bad thing happens. You know what my grandmother taught me? If something feels wrong, get the hell out. (Well, “heck” out. Swearing was a no-go.) It seems to me that Emi could have used a little more of my bubbe in her life before this volume started, because while it's all well and good to keep smiling through it's not a method that's going to stop the man whose house you're cleaning from dragging you into the bath with him or asking to see your breasts for “research” for his erotic mystery novel.
I do think it's important to clarify that academically speaking, this isn't by any means a non-starter in the romance genre. Romance is just another form of fantasy literature, and no one should be shamed for what they enjoy. In fact, this isn't even the first romance I've read that uses the writer and housekeeper premise – Sandra Brown's 1994 contemporary romance novel Breakfast in Bed has almost the exact same set-up, complete with the author narrating his actions as he uses the heroine for “inspiration.” That means that there's definitely an audience for this plotline – I'm just not it.
That said, I did find this pretty distasteful. Emi has barely walked into Fukase's house to start as his housekeeper when he jumps on her, pinning her to the floor and kissing her without her consent. He follows this up by forcing her to take a bath with him (because he might drown, you know) and groping her breasts, which perhaps later inspires him to stare creepily at her boobs for half an hour for the aforementioned inspiration. The excuse is that when he writes he loses himself in the world of whatever novel he's writing, but that doesn't quite wash, given that later on when he takes her to a ryokan he calls her by name, implying that he knows precisely what he's doing. It also operates on the premise that Emi eventually wants him to keep touching her because she starts thinking that she ought to wash up “just in case;” that could just as easily be read as she's decided that this is a part of her job that she just has to put up with because she needs the money.
If you don't need explicit consent in your romance fiction…okay, I probably still wouldn't recommend this one because it isn't all that well-written and just sort of jumps from scenario to scenario. The art is nice enough, particularly when it comes to Emi, but the plot is paper-thin and the premise more than a little cringe-inducing. I'd suggest picking up Mari Yoshino's Peach Heaven instead, because at least that has deliberately terrible erotica scenes to make you laugh.
Well, here's one for the 50 Shades of Grey crowd.
I like to joke that my kink is mutual consent and respect, but seriously, I can't get into a romance, smutty or otherwise, where one party completely disregards the other's boundaries and personhood. The Writer and His Housekeeper is one such series; the moment Emi Machida walks into the house she's supposed to clean, the owner, a prominent romance novelist, knocks her down and starts sucking on her neck. Then he forces her to get in the bath with him and starts groping her breasts, or, in the words of the remarkably bad translation, her “bulges”.
Things don't really improve from there. Through insane happenstance, her apartment burns down and Fukase, the writer, invites her to live with him. To me, this sounds like the setup for a horror movie or a taut sexual thriller on a channel aimed at a female audience, where she ends up trapped living with a predator who forces her into sexual situations to use as fodder for his erotic novels. Which is… pretty much what happens, actually. But it's framed very differently from how I would, since it's presented as a bubbly romcom.
Sure, Emi sticks up for herself at times and hits him when she reaches her limits, but she also apologizes and makes nice afterward. Fukase's not presented as the dangerous predator he is, but a fundamentally nice guy who just gets too absorbed in the writing process sometimes. Their relationship just makes no sense to me, with no emotional truth or sense of how humans interact. The way Emi processes her feelings toward Fukase is just totally alien to me, as she objects to how he treats her but feels tenderly toward him because he buys her expensive meat, I guess.
I just don't understand how, in fiction aimed at all genders, women are written as feeling safe with or trusting men who have proven themselves to be a clear and present threat to them. The telling and the showing are in direct opposition. But, I suppose if you're into power dynamics and can reconcile the contradiction, maybe you'll enjoy The Writer and His Housekeeper.
discuss this in the forum (29 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history