Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Monster Secret - GN 9
Shiragami did it! She really, truly did it! Alone with her crush Asahi on a romantic ferris wheel ride, Shiragami drew up all her courage and actually kissed him. And now, the running and hiding begins.
Having finally expressed her feelings in the most direct way possible, Shiragami now finds herself unable to talk with Asahi at all. And with Shiragami having launched the opening salvo in a new stage of romantic drama, her rivals now seem even more fired up than ever before. While class rep Aizawa steadies herself to finally tell Asahi she loves him, Akemi plans to skip confession and head straight to marriage proposal. And with the second years' trip to the tropics approaching, there'll be plenty of opportunities for drama as My Monster Secret enters a cutthroat new stage!
After eight long volumes, it finally happened. The last chapter of My Monster Secret's previous volume concluded on Shiragami actually kissing Asahi, following through on dozens of chapters of hemming and hawing and romantic longing. At long last, Asahi knows Shiragami likes him too. At long last, their relationship can begin.
Of course, things are never that simple in a romantic comedy. As we soon learn in this volume, Shiragami followed up on that kiss by immediately fleeing the scene, leaving Asahi to very reasonably wonder whether she intended to follow through at all. And so instead of focusing on Asahi and Shiragami's first steps in a new phase of their relationship, volume nine instead charts the ripples of her climactic kiss outward, detailing how all of My Monster Secret's other romantic contenders deal with this new surprise.
It'd be easy for a volume focused on not following through with that kiss's most immediate consequences to come off as frustratingly slow or dramatically irrelevant, but fortunately, the threat of Shiragami's actions really do seem to fundamentally change the tenor of My Monster Secret's drama. Characters like Aizawa and Mikan seem to know they've run out of time, and thus the tone shifts from “I can't let people know I like Asahi” to something closer to “everyone except Asahi knows I like him, and I'm ready to kill anyone who tells him the truth first.” On top of that, with Shiragami stepping out of the spotlight this time, My Monster Secret also manages to find plenty of comedy and conflict in some unexpected character pairings.
The greatest discovery of this volume is undoubtedly how well Aizawa and Mikan play off each other. In the past, these two have basically never interacted outside of big ensemble scenes - there were “Aizawa chapters” focused on her problems, and “Mikan chapters” focused on her problems, but those chapters would generally focus on one or the other interacting with the actual leads, Asahi and Shiragami. But with Shiragami's arc stuck in deliberate limbo, this volume ends up repeatedly forcing Aizawa and Mikan to cross romantic swords, each of them desperate to catch up to Shiragami. And the results are some of the funniest and most satisfyingly character-reflective showdowns of the manga so far.
The two of them play off each other so well that it actually surprised me they'd never been put together before. Mikan's tendency to blow everything out of proportion is perfectly bolstered by Aizawa's competitive streak, making most of their interactions into a deadly serious yet laugh-out-loud series of dramatic escalations. Aizawa's straight-laced persona is also perfectly matched by Mikan's underhanded tactics, and given the two of them have received by far the most character development aside from the main couple, it's also easy to believe in the shared qualities that would make each of them respect the other. This volume's high point comes when the two engage in a fishing competition that lets both their personalities shine, gracefully demonstrating the character-focused charm and over-the-top comedy that give this manga such an endearing heart.
Other chapters here make great use of different underused pairs, from an unexpected alliance between Rin and Shiho to a terrific series of pratfalls focused on Karen and Shiragami's dad. Unlike the unusually weak chapters from the manga's previous volume, these chapters focus on the things that are most lovable about these characters, and then match them with opponents who let those lovable qualities shine. And all the while, the urgency of Shiragami's kiss gives the story an actual sense of momentum, even if the chapter-to-chapter content is still mostly stuff like nymphoism competitions and vampires dramatically plummeting into the ocean.
On the whole, in spite of coming after the manga's greatest dramatic step forward in ages, this volume more consistently demonstrated how well My Monster Secret can thrive in dramatic neutral. There's certainly some actual narrative momentum now, but by capitalizing on underused character pairings and celebrating the things that make this cast so likable, My Monster Secret manages to mostly tread water while still offering a very enjoyable ride. Though the journey may be slow, there's still plenty to enjoy in the scenery.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B+
+ Finds great comedy and silly drama in some unexpected character pairings, Shiragami's kiss gives this volume a welcome sense of urgency
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