Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Monster Secret - Volume 5
Just when Asahi Kuromine thinks his life couldn't get any weirder, a new girl arrives - from the future! Claiming to be Asahi's own granddaughter, she's apparently come to the past to prevent an apocalyptic future defined by nympho mania. But before Asahi can even parse that fairly bewildering backstory, his school's athletic festival arrives. With the principal Akane promising an actual wish to whoever wins, and the ranks of competitors including vampires, aliens, time travelers, and even members of the faculty, it's shaping up to be a far more hectic series of trials than anyone would have anticipated. Love may have to take a backseat to self-preservation in My Monster Secret's fifth volume.
The last two volumes of My Monster Secret have seen the manga drifting through a variety of chapter-length adventures, before settling into the more long-form and ultimately satisfying trip to Shiragami's parents' house. In light of the events of volume five, it seems that even creator Eiji Masuda realized the relative strength of dedicated arcs over one-off diversions, as this volume is largely divided into two multi-chapter stories. Of course, that's after we get introduced to the newest addition to the cast - Asahi Kuromine's granddaughter from the future, Rin Kiryuin.
Rin doesn't actually get to do all that much in this volume, but her presence is still a welcome addition. To a cast already full of upbeat character archetypes, she adds a sort of deadpan little sister type, blessed with the wonderful quality of not being romantically interested in Asahi himself. That lack of romantic interest is starting to become one of My Monster Secret's greatest features; though Shiragawa, Aizawa, and Akemi all have some romantic interest in Asahi, the majority of the cast are simply ridiculous goofballs with more self-focused goals.
Those goals all get a chance to shine in this volume's first major arc, the school athletic festival. The stage is set by principal Akane setting the prize as an actual wish granted, which prompts furious competition among the cast's most ruthless members. Making use of close to a dozen key players, the festival is a madcap display of constant incidental comedy. Not every joke here landed for me, but the arc demonstrates such consistent energy and regular gags that it's hard not to get caught up in the fun. Watching Shiragawa's twenty-foot-tall father “disguise” himself with a luchador mask, or take videos of his daughter's exploits while in the form of a giant bat, is pretty close to the essence of what makes this manga fun.
The volume's second arc is even more rewarding, if only because it lets Mikan Akemi come into her own as a character. Akemi has up until now split the difference between “simplistic antagonist” and “third string romantic rival,” but an arc that sees her and Asahi diving fifty years into the future ends up adding some welcome texture to her relationship with our hero.
This arc also makes strong use of the fact that Akemi is one of the few main cast members who isn't allowed to know about all the various cast secrets. Confronted with spectacles like Rin's tiny dragon or Aizawa's alien form, Akemi can only assume that she herself is losing her mind. Forcing Akemi to act as the “straight man” also goes a long way towards humanizing her overall character. It'll be interesting to see if she moves towards becoming a confidant for Asahi in the same way Shiho fills that role for Shiragawa.
Overall, this volume represents a welcome embracing of narrative continuity in service of both comedy and character. By following the characters through multi-chapter arcs and watching them evolve throughout, they come across as both more fully realized people and more flexible comedic ingredients. Even the art feels more confident here; the manga does a good job of emphasizing Shiragawa's father's comic scale, and the introduction of Rin's dragon gives Masuda plenty of opportunities to show off visually. After a series of volumes spent gathering characters and rambling through small adventures, My Monster Secret seems to be arriving at a new level of storytelling confidence.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B+
+ More dedicated arcs help the story build character and deliver gags better
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