Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Doing His Best to Confess
Natsuaki is the class heartthrob for his handsome looks and enigmatic face, but secretly he's crushing hard on Nashida, a girl in his class. No one, not even his best friend, is aware of this, and that makes it even harder for Natsuaki to get up the courage to tell Nashida he likes her…especially since every single time he tries he's either interrupted or completely misunderstood!
A lot of comedies, particularly of the romantic variety, rely on the preternatural density of their characters to make their storylines work. That's a tricky proposition, because sometimes it means that the characters are intensely annoying as they miss signals that might as well be shot at them out of a cannon for all of their subtlety. Fortunately, that's not the case with the adorable Doing His Best to Confess, which, while it does rely on characters of unusual cluelessness, also pairs it with an incredible earnestness that ends up making things cute rather than patently ridiculous.
In large part this is due to the inability of most characters to read our protagonist's face. High school student Natsuaki looks like a total dream: he's handsome, has just the right body for the school's vest-sporting uniform, and appears either contemplative or wistful, depending on how you interpret his facial expressions. In reality, however, he's no different from any of the other kids at school; he's just got one of those faces that are really hard to read, and he's just as likely to be thinking about lunch as contemplating the existential nature of human life. In fact, he's much more likely to be on the lunch track, because he's not nearly as studious or deep as his appearance leads people to believe. It's a great example of how people are going to see what (and who) they want to, regardless of the reality of the person or situation. For his best friend, not being able to read Natsuaki's face is something of a game; for the girls in his class, it just lets them turn him into the perfect, unattainable man.
That is, if they think about him at all, and that's not necessarily the case for Nashida, Natsuaki's crush. Nashida isn't quite a disaster, but she's definitely not on the same page as most of the other kids in class. She's a little bit careless, a lot enthusiastic, and thicker than a brick in the observation department. You'd almost think that she was deliberately misunderstanding Natsuaki at times if she wasn't so darn earnest. While there are many examples of this throughout the book, the best is when Natsuaki saves her from having to sit between two rowdy boys (who, it must be said, are absolutely going to toss things over her for the entire school day) and then tells her he did it because he's in love. After spending a few blank moments trying to figure out what “love” has to do with seats, Nashida suddenly breaks out in a smile and agrees that it's a pretty great seat, in the back near the door. Poor Natsuaki has no idea what to do.
The volume, though slim, is full of little moments along those lines that let us know the absolute absurdity of the situation. It does lean into some familiar rom-com tropes that take away from things a little bit; Natsuaki realizes Nashida can't cook to save her life and has to rescue their outdoor cooking class curry from her lack of peeling and cutting skills, he wants to buy her a present and is at risk of going way overboard, and there's an implication that she's “manlier” than he is, i. e. better at sports and other physical activities. The art, although pretty, is also fairly standard for the genre, with Nashida's choppy bangs (which she of course cuts herself) and the vests on the boys' uniforms being the only things that really stand out.
That's relatively small potatoes, though. The lighthearted silliness really makes up for a lot of sins here, and the juxtaposition between what other characters think is going on and what's really happening is very well done. Certainly the fact that Natsuaki is busy contemplating a house that looks like it has a face while girls are swooning over his purported philosophical dreaminess is a good example, but Nashida's tendency to always leap to the wrong conclusion is another – when Natsuaki, who thinks he's conveying his interest in her by staring at her, is gazing in her direction, Nashida thinks he's just really interested in the schedule posted in front of her row of desks. In another book, we might think that she's doing this on purpose; in this one, she really comes across as that obtuse.
At the end of the day, that's what makes this fun. It's light-hearted and good-hearted at the same time, devoid of mean humor as it gently ribs its characters while still enjoying them for who they are. It's not necessarily a story that could work in a long series format, but as a cute and silly look into the lives of people who are remarkably untalented in the romance department, it's a lot of good, clean, fluffy fun.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Cute and earnest, no mean humor. Nice boys' uniform design.
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