Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Love Me, My Knight GNs 1-2
Yakko works days in her father's okonomiyaki restaurant while attending college at night. She's not all that aware of the contemporary rock scene because her dad only plays enka in the restaurant, but she knows that her best friend is really into a group called Beehive. What she doesn't know is that Satomi, the big-haired regular at the restaurant, is their keyboardist, mostly because he's let her think that he works at a gay bar, at that Goh, the handsome guy she bumped into at school, is their vocalist! When the truth comes out and both guys start pursuing her, what's Yakko going to do?
Classic shoujo fans, rejoice: BookWalker has begun releasing Kaoru Tada (of Itazura na Kiss fame)'s 1982-1984 manga Ai Shite Knight digitally. While that is a bit of a blow for those of us who prefer physical editions, it's still wonderful to be able to read the series, which inspired a TV anime in 1983 and a live-action series in 2013.
The story follows Yaeko Mitamura, better known as Yakko. She's attending college at night while working in her family's okonomiyaki restaurant during the day, mostly interacting with the restaurant's customers rather than people her own age. As a result, she's a little behind the times – her dad prefers to play enka music over anything more modern, and she thinks that Satomi, the handsome man around her age who frequents the restaurant, is gay because of his long, poofy 1980s hair. Yakko tends to judge things at face value, which reads less as her being close-minded (although her dad is a bit) and more a result of her naivete. Even though it isn't explicitly stated, we get the impression that since Yakko's mom died when she was in middle school, her father has been very protective of his only daughter, keeping her close and ruling with, if not an iron fist than at strong one. Thus Yakko has limited experience with things outside of her father's ken, making her ripe for a social awakening.
That starts when she finds a young man asleep in her college classroom. At first she's simply floored by his hair, bright red in front and blond in back. Soon, however, she begins to see him everywhere – he's the older brother of the little boy she befriends and Satomi's buddy who begins coming to the restaurant with him. Her initial assumption is that he must be gay too, but when her friend convinces her to attend a concert for Beehive, her favorite rock band, Yakko learns the truth: Satomi not only isn't gay, he's the keyboardist for the band and Goh, the fellow with the two-tone hair, is the vocalist. When the concert ends with Satomi declaring his love for Yakko, she's completely overwhelmed and can't quite figure out what to do.
As far as love triangle set ups go, this is a pretty good one. The late Kaoru Tada had a deft hand with characters in conflict, and we can see that at play here. Yakko has just had everything she thought she knew about someone turned upside down, and she's frankly a little scared. That's a feeling that she carries through both of these volumes, because she and Goh swiftly begin to fall for each other and she's not sure what to do with her own emotions. Satomi recognizes that he's rushing her initially, as well as that he screwed up by not being honest with Yakko to begin with, so when he sees that she and Goh are starting to crush on each other, he manages to control his jealousy to a degree and understand that ultimately it's Yakko's choice who she dates, even if he's not happy with the results. As for Goh, he feels guilty for liking the same girl as his best friend and he does try to keep his distance romantically from Yakko. Basically both guys leave it up to Yakko to decide who, if either of them, she likes, and while they both do pursue her, it isn't hugely aggressive.
While Yakko does fall into the “clumsy cute” category of shoujo heroine, she's also not quite as dim as Kotoko from ItaKiss. She's naïve, not unintelligent, but she also still acts like a girl in her late teens. She's a character who very much feels like she's balancing between adulthood and childhood, not entirely sure which side she wants to fall on yet, and that makes her more sympathetic than simply being adorable would. (It would be nice if she could learn to properly flip okonomiyaki, though.) This does make her slightly less mature than either of her love interests, who are a couple of years older than her, but that largely feels like a function of the fact that they're out on their own and she's still living with her father. In Goh's case, he's also raising his much younger brother, and the manga acknowledges that he's basically a father-figure rather than a brother. Part of this does inform his feelings for Yakko, as his brother likes her and wants her to be his mother-figure, something that indicates that Goh isn't just looking for a girlfriend, he's looking for a life mate. Because the characters are in college (or beyond it), that allows Tada to go into more depth on that front without it straining our credulity too much.
Tada's art is not particularly polished and definitely looks much more cartoony than readers of modern manga will be used to. It isn't bad in the sense that it's easy to tell what's going on and the characters are all distinct; just don't put too much truck in anatomical correctness or consistency. The pages are very busy, in part because of the out-of-the-bubble text on the page. This is complicated by the fact that this text isn't always translated. Cursory reading of it shows that it doesn't actually add much to the story – and when it is plot-important it is translated – but it is annoying to have untranslated text in a professional release. The translation quality isn't top-notch, but it is fluent with just a few off word choices. Given that BookWalker's full-volume release is, as of this writing, under $4, that makes it easy to recommend buying it regardless.
Love Me, My Knight (the official English title) is classic 1980s shoujo at its best. With interesting, likable characters, a plot steeped in the culture of its time, and a more respectful romance plotline than we tend to see in modern shoujo, this is fun even if you aren't into older titles. It is of its place in history, so some parts will feel awkward to contemporary readers, but if you're just looking for a nice read, this absolutely fits the bill.
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : C
+ Fun story, good characters, tolerable amount of angst
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