Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
My Boyfriend in Orange
Moe's family has just moved back to her mother's hometown following the death of her father. Still mourning her loss, Moe is having a hard time fitting in at her new school and just generally feels adrift. Then one day during a fire drill she is “rescued” by Kyosuke Ebihara, a young member of the local fire department. He reminds her that there may be things worth pursuing in life, but can she convince him that he's one of them?
Manga about firefighters is its own unique subgenre, and Kodansha's digital release of My Boyfriend in Orange marks the third such story to be translated into English. It's also the only one that's a shoujo romance, so if men in firefighting gear is your kind of men in uniform, this may be the perfect series. It certainly does inject a little realism into the basic romance plot device of the man saving the woman over and over – in the case of this story, that's the hero's actual job.
That's actually not the only semi-realistic element of this first volume. Heroine Moe has just moved to her mother's hometown following her father's death, which is implied to have been from some sort of illness. She's just started high school and is feeling very lost – there have been too many drastic changes in her life all at once. What this means is that she's trying to find something that can help her recapture the stability she's lacking while still trying to fully mourn her father: when we meet her, she's all alone on the school roof, trying to smoke one of her late father's cigarettes to feel a connection with him. It's at this point the school has an incredibly detailed fire drill, complete with firemen in full gear, and Moe, the only student not accounted for, is “rescued” by Kyosuke Ebihara, a twenty-something fireman in charge of making sure everyone has gotten out of the building. He chastises her for smoking and unceremoniously takes her down a rescue slide she somehow failed to notice, and thus a fascination is born.
What's interesting here is that Moe's first thoughts are not “he's so hot” or any variation thereof. She's struck by the fact that he's wearing orange, and that the backlighting of the sun makes it look a little like he's standing in the sunset. This is significant because the last time she saw her father outdoors, he, too, was lightly glowing orange, albeit from an actual sunset, so she's immediately associating Kyosuke with the lack of a father figure in her life. This calls her initial attraction to him into question – is she really pursuing him because she has a crush on him, or is this actually transference? That her little brother also immediately latches onto Kyosuke when they bump into him at the grocery story later does point to the latter – even their mother comments that Kyosuke seems to be filling a gap in little Ryu's life.
This is definitely dangerous ground to base a romance on, and it will really depend on how Tamashima proceeds with it as to how comfortable readers will be following Moe and Kyosuke's relationship. For his part, Kyosuke is fully aware that Moe is having a hard time emotionally. When he “rescues” her from the roof, he notices that no one in her class, including her teacher, had noticed that she was missing, speaking to her isolation, and the later grocery store meeting introduces him to the fact that her father is dead. This makes him resistant to her declaration of love – not only is she younger than him, he's also clearly uncomfortable with the thought that he might be taking advantage of her in a time of emotional weakness. That does begin to change as the volume progresses, and I felt better about their relationship by the end of the book, even if it was still a little awkward to think about.
At the point where the volume ends, Kyosuke knows Moe much better than she knows him. In part this is because she's much more comfortable and open with him than he is with her – and she has a tendency to get herself into trouble by acting before she thinks, such as when she tries to get a picture of a local arsonist before calling the fire department or when she climbs a tree to rescue a kitten and then freaks out about getting down. Since these issues generally throw her into Kyosuke's jurisdiction (and in all honesty, it doesn't feel like she does it with that in mind), he's getting a pretty good idea of who Moe is when she's not isolating herself. He's actually the one who encourages her to try to make friends at school, again bringing up that worrying father-figure issue, and his effect on her life without the romance factor is generally positive.
Non Tamashima seems at least vaguely aware of what she's doing on the transference front, so it should be interesting to see how she handles it going forward. Her notes say that she wasn't originally keen on doing a firefighter story, but now she's enthusiastic, so that should show in later volumes. Her art does pay good attention to gear details, and while it generally as the sort of basic LaLa/Dessert house style, it isn't unappealing even if it doesn't really stand out. My Boyfriend in Orange looks like it could be an interesting take on the basic shoujo romance, and depending on how some of the issues are handled going forward, it just might be able to stand out as something a little different in its genre.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Interesting take on both firefighter romance, good detail to fireman gear, complex emotional situations
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