Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Monster Secret
In spite of all their trials and tribulations, Asahi and Youko have now been happily dating for a full month, and the future has never looked brighter. Emboldened by his success and head over heels for Youko, Asahi decides it's time to the next step – that's right, it's time to go on a date! But of course, nothing is ever simple for Asahi and his friends, and with Youko's father Genjirou still stalking their school as an assistant teacher, Asahi will have more to worry about than simply picking the right date spot. The madcap misadventures of Asahi and company continue in My Monster Secret's twelfth volume!
It's always felt a little strange to me that so many romantic comedies tend to end the moment their principle couples actually get together. Embracing an actual relationship means abandoning some of the “will they or won't they” appeal that keeps people reading, but active relationships are full of just as many relatable conflicts and endearing moments as the overt courtship process. In fact, it's more often once characters are in a relationship that they begin to actually understand one another, and learn to love all those strange quirks that are only known to those who truly matter in our lives.
The best moments of My Monster Secret's twelfth volume exploit the romantic potential of an active relationship to marvelous effect. This volume's centerpiece is a pair of chapters focusing on Youko and Asahi's first date, as Asahi's initial plan to take Youko to an aquarium is disrupted by all the nonsense you'd expect from My Monster Secret. While Asahi sweats about potentially holding Youko's hand, a peanut gallery hosted by Youko's parents and resident troll Akane offer running commentary, ultimately leading into a sequence where Genjurou disguised in a giant sunfish costume is fended off by his wife brandishing garlic cloves in a scuba suit. It's exactly the kind of nonsensical escalation you'd expect from My Monster Secret, and it demonstrates that even as the core conflict of the this manga evolves with Youko and Asahi's relationship, its spirit and sense of fun are entirely intact.
That first date chapter wasn't the one that really killed me, though. After the farcical fireworks of the aquarium visit, Asahi and Youko are at last given some time alone, where Youko reveals she made boxed lunches for the pair of them. These pages of Youko and Asahi awkwardly appreciating each other's company count as some of the most endearing, adorable sequences in all of My Monster Secret, elevated by Eiji Masuda's ever-improving expression work and our long familiarity with this pair. Youko's mix of panic and joy at Asahi complimenting her cooking basically knocked my heart right of my chest, offering an endearing payoff twelve volumes in the making. Watching these kids attempt to get together was very charming, but watching them actually loving and supporting each other is even better.
The date-focused chapters are easily the highlight of this volume, which is otherwise packed with a scattering of goofy side character-focused vignettes. Those other chapters are as hit or miss as you'd expect from My Monster Secret, with some chapters offering novel character pairings and engaging concepts, while others lean heavily on single jokes this manga has already driven into the ground. On the positive end, we get great conceits like an earth-focused documentary from Aizawa's home planet; on the negative end, there's a whole chapter dedicated to “he thinks that character's a girl, but they're a guy in disguise,” and if I never have to see another spinster-related gag, it will be far too soon.
Aside from the charming material focused on our main pair, what ultimately redeems this volume of My Monster Secret is its sense of genuine end-of-an-era progression. Many of the chapters here, even the ones not focused on Asahi and Youko, are preoccupied with attempting to pair off this manga's secondary cast, and find something approaching a happy ending for each of them. It's perhaps odd to feel encouraged by the idea of a much-loved manga nearing its end, but My Monster Secret has had a long run at this point, and the sense of characters actually moving forward in their lives is very welcome. That, paired with Masuda's tremendously expressive art, makes this an altogether appealing volume of My Monster Secret. It's still very fun to hang out with this ridiculous crew.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : A-
+ Chapters focused on Asahi and Youko are terrific, Masuda's art feels more confident and full of character than ever
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