by Rebecca Silverman,

Missions of Love

GN 2

Missions of Love GN 2
Now that Shigure knows Yukina's weak point, he is not above using it against her. But is he really comfortable with the results? Meanwhile Akira figures out part of what is going on and prepares to make his move on his beloved while Yukina, slowly figuring out the ways of love, finds herself wondering about both her writing and the possibility of Shigure having feelings for her.

With this second volume of Ema Toyama's Missions of Love, Yukina decides that her research (and perhaps budding feelings) require Shigure to take some extra steps – he must act like her boyfriend. Seemingly willing, Shigure begins shepherding her around only to take advantage of her fear of being without her glasses. He removes them and leaves her at the mercy of his fangirls, who, in true manga fashion, begin advancing on Yukina in a distinctly threatening manner. This is where we start to see that Shigure may be starting to care for his tormenter, as he suffers pangs of guilt...only to find that Yukina's quiet cousin Akira has stepped up to save the day. Thus begins an open rivalry between the two boys, although it is unclear whether Shigure (at this point) is really emotionally invested in Yukina or just really, really annoyed with Akira. (It looks as though that will come clear in volume three.) Akira, for his part, is devoted wholeheartedly to his cousin, who glibly tells him that he has no chance. While she probably doesn't see this as cruel, Akira takes it To Heart, and glimpses of his face beneath his bangs make it clear that he is not going down without a fight.

Toyama's art both helps and hinders the tale as it races through its second volume. There are at least two major artistic inconsistencies that may cause a reader pause – Akira magically appears in one scene sitting directly across from Yukina, somehow not having been visible in the previous panel despite the far side of the desk being shown, which is quite disconcerting and plays havoc with visual continuity. A second issue is that chapter six ends with an image of Shigure pinning Yukina down which shows him straddling her. When chapter seven opens with a recap image, he's kneeling between her legs. While the latter picture obviously has more impact, it is jarring to the observant reader and breaks up the tension created by the situation, albeit momentarily. These issues aside, however, Toyama's art does its job quite well. In an interesting use of tone, all surfaces appear to be reflective, cloth included, which gives everything a very shiny quality. Characters are always recognizable, and Yukina's face both with and sans glasses changes noticeably while still being recognizably her, reflecting her emotions. Backgrounds tend to be eschewed in favor of roses, sparkles, and other shoujo trappings, but since the story is more about emotions (and emotional manipulation) than its setting, that doesn't really detract unless you aren't a fan of heavy toning.

It really is this emotional manipulation that creates the series' biggest problem. When Kodansha retitled Watashi ni xx Shinasai!, they may as well have changed it to “How to Foster Unhealthy Relationship Fantasies in Middle School Girls.” While Toyama is obviously not the first to do so - and where would shoujo manga be without the vaguely unsettling romance? - she is among the first to do so in an English-translated shoujo for a younger audience. Yukina's assumption of control over her classmate is one that we would decry were she the male, and the fact that Shigure appears to be falling for her in no way makes things better. Further compounding things is the fact that Yukina herself is clearly lost in a fantasy. Chapter six makes it clear that she sees herself and Shigure as the characters in her cellphone novel, quite possibly to the point where she confuses fiction with reality. While the old saw of “write what you know” absolutely has some truth to it, she is altering her real life to suit her fictional one, which is treading some dangerous ground.

Ultimately Missions of Love still reads like a sexy book for middle schoolers. Yukina is far from a likeable heroine, neither Shigure nor Akira come off as particularly desirable male leads, and the less savory elements of the story detract from its romance components. Were the genders reversed, there would likely be more of an outcry, because really what Yukina is doing to Shigure is not so far off from what Ryoki does to Hatsumi in the infamous Hot Gimmick. But perhaps that is what makes this series appealing – after all, it is only fiction.

Production Info:
Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B-

+ Shiny quality to art is visually interesting, rivalry between Shigure and Akira adds a different kind of tension.
Relationship is far from healthy, some visual inconsistencies. Yukina's confusion of reality and fantasy is a little unsettling.

Story & Art: Ema Toyama

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