Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
I Married My Best Friend To Shut My Parents Up
Machi's parents have always put a lot of pressure on her, and now that she's in her late twenties, they want her to get married. The problem is that Machi's never found the idea all that appealing or had a successful relationship, so despite the fact that she's used to giving in to her parents, she's been resisting. When she mentions the issue to her friend Hana, however, Hana has an idea – she and Machi should get married, or rather, get a certificate of partnership, so that Machi can say she followed the letter of her parents' law. Machi agrees, but just because Hana's another woman, that doesn't mean that this will work any better than if she'd married a man…right?
However you felt about Naoko Kodama's previous English-language release NTR probably isn't a good gauge for whether or not you should read I Married My Best Friend To Shut My Parents Up. Although both stories feature same-sex couples, even Kodama herself says that there really isn't much similarity between them, joking that this volume is by “Light Kodama” while NTR is the work of “Dark Kodama.” But perhaps more importantly than that, this single-book tale is about a consensual adult relationship and learning to stand on your own two feet, even when your parents deny your very existence, whereas NTR is much more a work of teen angst and melodrama.
It also deals with a few much more socially relevant issues, a couple of which may hit close to home for some readers. Machi, the “I” in the title, may end the book in a lesbian relationship, but it wouldn't be fair to strictly classify her as homosexual – she's much more likely to be on the asexual spectrum (probably demisexual) given the way that she reacts to relationships and her discomfort with both men and women in terms of how those relationships pan out. She's not completely averse to a physical component, but she does need to have an emotional connection with the person, and watching her move towards that emotional attachment is a large part of her character development throughout the book. We could even argue that she agrees to Hana's idea of obtaining a partnership certificate (similar but not analogous to marriage) because she's known that Hana has had feelings for her since they were teenagers, and therefore she's confident that Hana isn't trying to use her somehow. It is, in fact, the very human things that Hana does that eventually win Machi over, rather than specifically female things; that Hana happens to be a woman feels almost secondary except when Machi feels jealous, and then that's only because Hana's with another woman and she knows that Hana is gay.
The certificate of partnership that the two women obtain, specifically in Shibuya, is an actual marriage-adjacent registry open to homosexual couples in Japan. Shibuya was the first city to offer it in 2015, which may be why Kodama chose to set the story there. It is not, however, precisely the same as a marriage registry, which would have given Machi's parents a very technical way to object to their daughter's decision. Kodama, however, choses to take a different route – when Machi and Hana show up at Machi's family home, certificate in hand, her parents react with anger that Machi partnered with another woman. They accuse Hana of “twisting” their daughter and yell at the two to get out of the house, essentially enacting the coming out nightmare. While Machi is upset at first, eventually she does find this to be the perfect excuse to get two very toxic people out of her life. Flashbacks (used sparingly) show us that Machi was subjected to her parents' unrealistic and burdensome expectations of absolute perfection from elementary school on, and that a large part of her difficulty in relating to other people stems from their insistence that people would look down on her for failing to live up to their expectations. While this obviously isn't true for all (or even most) people, Machi's partnership gives her the chance to finally think about what she wants for herself as opposed to what she thinks she has to do – and it also allows her to start standing up for those things and fighting back against a world she has allowed to push her around.
There are a few less comfortable pieces to this story, not the least of which is Hana just barely skirting the “predatory lesbian” trope as she seems to pursue a relationship with Machi who has already rejected her and whom she believes to be straight. The book also never really takes the time to fully delve into Machi and Hana's growing relationship, feeling like we're missing a few steps as Machi comes to care for Hana before ending on a vaguely abrupt note. As a two volume series, this could have been a more engaging work; as a single book, it skirts around that without truly landing any real emotional punches.
On the whole, I Married My Best Friend To Shut My Parents Up is a nice enough story. It touches on some important and interesting issues and it does manage to give us enough to feel complete. It lacks in a few areas, but with pleasant art and a decent plot about adult women, it's good enough for genre fans without going out of its way to be anything more.
Overall : B-
Story : C+
Art : B
+ Touches on some important themes, adult protagonists keep things grounded
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