Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight
Hinana lives a regimented life based on what she ought to do. Every morning she wakes up at the same time in the same position, follows the same routine, and gets the same good grades. But secretly she yearns for a fairy tale love, even if she can't bring herself to tell anyone. Her wish begins to come true in an unexpected way, however, when a popular idol comes to her school to film something and she ends up being an extra. A chance meeting with Kaede reveals that he's nothing like his image – and that he might be interested in her! Can Hinana unbend enough to allow herself to follow her dreams?
Readers of digital-only releases may already be familiar with Rin Mikimoto's work, as Kodansha began releasing her series Love's Reach as a digital exclusive earlier in 2017. Now her romance Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight is getting a physical release, and the story proves to be equal measures fun and charming.
The series follows high school second year Hinana, a young woman who lives her life in as organized a fashion as possible. She wakes at the same time, eats the same breakfast, helps her parents, goes to school—order is the basis of her world, but only on the outside. She secretly wants to be swept off her feet in an impossible romance, preferably in the style of romantic old Hollywood films. We can see that in her unguarded actions—her preferred hidden reading material is a Cinderella picture book illustrated with images from the 1990s anime version (which would have been her childhood or in reruns when she was little) and perhaps more telling, her position when she wakes each morning speaks of restless slumber: half off the bed, sprawled as if she can't maintain her poise when she's not actively thinking about doing so.
The basics of the story are fairly typical—Hinana has a chance encounter with popular idol-turned-actor Kaede when he comes to her school to film a drama. In order to maintain some semblance of order, the production company asks only the student council to be extras, and naturally that includes Hinana. She's tentatively excited about the opportunity to see him up close, but she doesn't want anyone to catch on, so naturally she's the one who stumbles upon him ogling student athletes' behinds. It turns out that the heartthrob has a serious butt fetish, and once Hinana finds out, he has no problem sharing it with her. We even get the feeling that it might be a relief for him to be able to drop his “idol” act, and since Hinana isn't the kind of girl to get carried away in his mere presence, she becomes of interest to him.
Hinana herself is conflicted by this. She's flattered, she finds him attractive, but she's not thrilled with his butt obsession and she's not sure she's actually ready or willing to have a romantic relationship. She's an uncomfortable Cinderella to his Prince Charming. Kaede, for his part, seems to be much more enthusiastic, although there are some troubling aspects to this. For one thing, he may well be using Hinana to help soothe himself after the negative publicity he's received for leaving his former boy band, but more at issue is the comment he makes about Hinana having a close male friend when “she's supposed to be his.” While this kind of possessiveness is hardly uncommon in either shoujo or josei romances (or BL or even American bodice rippers, for that matter), it also isn't a particularly good sign. Thus far, Mikimoto is avoiding the more egregious romance genre issues, but it will certainly bear keeping an eye on.
Mikimoto's art is interesting, going between a very classic shoujo look and chibis that have a much less polished feel. Obviously SD characters aren't meant to look as distinguished as the way that characters are normally drawn, but there's a sort of grittiness to Mikimoto's chibis that stands out. I'm torn as to whether this works or not, but I'm inclined to come down on the side of “not,” since they just jarred me out of the narrative every time they appeared. On the more positive side, Mikimoto draws clothing to look much more like what people actually wear, right down to the shot of Hinana's underwear when she trips—there's no sexy stripes or animal faces on the butt, just a plain old pair of flowered undies that you could buy at the Japanese equivalent of Wal-Mart. It's an odd detail, but in a medium where women's undergarments get so much attention, it's kind of refreshing to see some that more everyday women might wear.
Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight's first volume stands to be a fun take on the old Cinderella story . While it does have its issues, it's also a promising start to a romance that has a firm grasp of its characters and sense of its own genre. Even if you haven't read Love's Reach, Rin Mikimoto looks like an author worth keeping an eye on.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Works nicely with the Cinderella tale, characters are well realized, mostly attractive art
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