Reviewby Lissa Pattillo, May 20th 2010
My Girlfriend's A Geek GN 1
Taiga Mutou wants what many others his age do – spending money and a cute girlfriend. Luck smiles on him when he spots a wanted ad on a company employing an attractive slightly-older woman who's just his type. Doesn't take much to obtain the job but procuring the girlfriend takes a while longer. Taiga goes about it in all the right ways – being a generally nice guy, working up the nerve to speak with her, asking her out and showing a genuine interest in her hobbies – or at least saying he's okay with them. Had he looked up some definitions however, he might have been more prepared for what was to come when she said to him, “I'm what they call a fujoshi.”
A story about a boys' love fan sounds like fun potential on its own, but the real success of My Girlfriend's a Geek is that it's viewed from the perspective of the boyfriend. Don't understand the boys' love thing? Do the words seme and uke confuse you? Well they boggle Taiga's mind and when he starts putting the pieces together, he learns there are some images you simply can't burn from your brain. In the case of My Girlfriend's A Geek however, many readers will find they're more than happy to keep these images in their mind and this book proudly on their shelves long after they're done.
The focus on Ameya's fujoshi-nature doesn't completely kick in until mid-book but there's an almost entirely different kind of charm in watching Taiga work towards asking her out in the book's first half. He's hard working and kind but also self-conscious and nervous. Following him as he makes an earnest effort to help out at his new part-time job and learn more about Ameya is sweet. With the story following him, we get to see how he interrupts each thing Ameya says and does, from her perked interest in him wearing glasses to his attempt to drum up conversation only to be heartbroken when he realizes he may have foiled himself by trying too hard. What makes these scenes so enjoyable is how believable they are, not overdone or over-emphasized, just natural and subsequently quite relatable.
As Taiga gets to know Ameya better, he comes to realize her mind is usually pre-occupied with very specific thoughts. Once telling her he accepted her as a fujoshi, she opens up to him in a way she doesn't usually with others and this leads to Taiga needing to become accustomed to a lot of new terminology. But he takes it in relative strive and even tries to see things from her perspective such as rereading their favourite manga series, which also sports her favourite pairing, and trying to see what she sees. While he doesn't succeed, the book definitely does in delivering what is one of many well-executed in-jokes that those both inside and outside the boys' love fandom will appreciate. Though Taiga may be getting the hang of the vocabulary, from ukes to semes, when he introduces his best friend to Ameya, he has no idea what kind of fodder he feeds her. The resulting spread page of her imagination and Taiga's response is easily the most hilarious part of the book.
Just as the courting portion of the story in the book's first half, Taiga's believable responses to Ameya is what makes this book work so well. His reactions to her eccentricities are comical and not because they're exaggerated – it's simply because they read so believably and are handled in earnest. The source material for the series is a novel based on a blog where a writer shared his own experience with his fujoshi girlfriend and that personal touch remains ever-present in this manga edition.
Rize Shinba, the story's artist, is perhaps better known for her boys' love work. A few of her series have also been licensed in English – Mister Mistress (Deux Press) and Intriguing Secrets (Digital Manga). It feels a natural fit then for her to be drawing this work because of her affinity with the theme, and coupled with her years of experience doing both boys' love and shoujo stories, the visual work in My Girlfriend's A Geek is a real treat. A combination of the classic shoujo-styling of screen toning, chibis and delicate line art made up the groundwork for a style that's bursting with energy. There's a lot of good physical humour popping off the pages ranging from the proverbial in your face to the more subtle of gestures. The character mannerisms are great, whether it's the giddy-confidence Taiga wears when he feels he's getting somewhere with Ameya or the subsequent apprehension that appears on his face when he can tell the boys' love gears in her brain are turning by the looks on her face.
Yen Press has done some really nice work on the book as well, sparring a few tiny blips. The adaptation of the book is well done - the way the characters' speech is written comes across naturally and the understanding of the subject matter being discussed come across informed while maintaining all the necessary entertainment-factor. The cover design is also really cute proving both colourful and eye-catching. As far as the minor downsides, there is a moment where some text overlap was missed in their final product sweep and the way the after word is laid out proves a little confusing on top of the intentionally-awkward layout of the novel-preview included.
My Girlfriend's a Geek comes together as an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek combination of shoujo-romance and wily boys' love fan stereotypes that are more fun than offence. While most notable for it's quirky premise, it also still pulls off being a charming story about a young man making honest effects to win the affection of a girl. Whether or not her affection for him will ever outshine her devotion to boys in love with each other may be another story altogether. A fun and light-hearted read, My Girlfriend's a Geek is a playful first volume that can be enjoyed by a variety of readers, though boys' love fans will likely find it the most endearing.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Great humour that shows an understanding of the genre and its fans, cute artwork and believable characters
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