Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kaya Satozuka is the consummate secretary, able to tend to her boss' every need and to organize better than any computer program. Her fatal flaw? Unless she scrapes her hair back and wears glasses, Kaya has the face of a middle schooler and is far too pretty to be taken seriously. This is a problem for her new boss, Kyohei Tohma, a seemingly relentless playboy and sourpuss. But Kyohei is hiding something beneath his womanizing and prickly demeanor – he's one of the things that goes bump in the night and sucks blood. Will a (ridiculously hot) vampire prove too much for Kaya to handle?
Ah, the romance novel. Whether it is in prose, verse, or sequential panels, romances follow a very set formula with a few variations, and when you're in a certain mood, nothing is better than curling up with one and pretending that the rest of the world has gone away. In terms of English translated manga, we generally get our romances set in the schoolyard, but with the release of Tomu Ohmi's Midnight Secretary, readers get the story of a working woman and her boss, both of whom are in their twenties. (Viz's earlier release of Yuki Yoshihara's Butterflies, Flowers also took place in the office.) The result is a story that could easily be transposed onto the pages of an Avon or Harlequin paperback, and it is just as enjoyable as those old grocery store standbys.
The heroine of the piece is twenty-two-year-old Kaya Satozuka. Kaya has just graduated from college and has been working for the large and powerful Tohma corporation as a secretary. She's just been transferred to being the executive secretary for Director Kyohei Tohma, a gorgeous, prickly twenty-six-year-old about whom very little good is said, other than his hotness factor. His first reaction to Kaya is to send her away because she isn't pretty enough. Kaya, however, snaps back at him that her looks should have no bearing on her capabilities, and she proves her worth to Kyohei in a matter of hours. He continues to grumble about her appearance, but Kaya's competency and rejection of his domineering nature win him over. As for Kaya, she's not thrilled with her boss, especially the way he seems to rotate through lovely ladies for desktop liaisons on an every-four-days basis. Concerned about the women's listless appearances after their trysts, she hides in his office to search for illegal drugs. What she learns is somewhat more disturbing – Kyohei is a vampire and he likes to sex his food up before consuming it so that it a) tastes better and b) hurts the ladies less. Kaya's a little freaked out, but ultimately she takes it all in stride.
Anyone who's ever read a vampire romance knows where this is going, and by the end of this first of seven volumes, Ohmi's story is already headed down the traditional path. Fortunately Ohmi does it well, and even if you're simply re-reading a familiar storyline, there's still a lot of fun to be had. Kaya and Kyohei's relationship fate is sealed when they both think about how they can't stand the other, but watching their interplay is entertaining, especially since Kaya will take no guff from her boss. Kyohei tries to bully her, but she's a strong woman, a bit stronger than some of the other manga romance heroines we've seen in English, and she sticks to her guns. In fact, it is Kaya, not Kyohei, who moves their relationship to the next level, and his attentions are never forced upon her. She is surprised, yes, but never unconsenting. She acknowledges that Kyohei's sort of an asshole, and he is never able to use that against her. Kaya is a grown woman and she acts like it.
Ohmi's art takes a little bit of getting used to. She draws the dewiest long-lashed eyes since Riyoko Ikeda, and there's something a bit disconcerting to see them on an office lady's face. Hands can sometimes stray into “huge” territory on all characters, and the only time her art is truly fluid is during the sensual scenes. On the up side, Kaya does look distinctly different and yet recognizably her when her hairstyle changes, and Kyohei's body language is well defined. Backgrounds are scare and tone is fairly heavy, but the panels are easily followed and the translation is smooth. A couple of the splash pages are truly lovely (prettier and better composed than the cover, in fact), and Ohmi's tidbits and anecdotes are fairly amusing.
Sensual, fun, and about grown-up people who act their ages, Midnight Secretary is a classically plotted vampire romance that should please fans of the genre or just those who'd like a romance that's a little more adult. It's clearly josei despite the “shojo beat” label, and while it isn't a deep or meaty story, it is a nice change in the realm of English translated manga.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Kaya is a grown-up and acts like one, all romance is consensual. A fun take on the standard vampire romance, some funny chibi images.
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