Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Monster Secret
Asahi Kuromine is really trying his best to keep his classmate Shiragami's secret. Even though he's known across the school for his big mouth, he's determined to protect Shiragami - but with even more secrets piling up, how can he possibly avoid letting one slip? On top of his class rep's alien identity, now he's got Shiragami's childhood friend to contend with, a girl who literally transforms into a wolfman when she sees the moon. And with even Kuromine's school principal getting in on the secret identity action, things are only going to get weirder from here.
There's something inherently charming about a good manga romcom. You know the character relationships are probably going to stagnate, and you know any steps toward true romance will likely be walked back in a chapter's last few panels, but just seeing a bunch of teenagers enjoy awkwardly romantic times together can be a nice vacation in itself. If the cast is endearing and the writing is consistent, a fine romantic comedy can wander in pointless circles for many rewarding chapters.
Of course, My Monster Secret is still pretty far from hitting true stasis. The story's second volume is roughly split between chapters that introduce or elaborate on new cast members and chapters that bounce around between the ones we've already established. There's a chapter dedicated to Shiragami figuring out a way to move in sunlight without getting tanned (likely something the author realized would severely limit future story ideas), then another one where the entire main cast works to make something resembling an edible curry. In between these small adventures are two major introductions to the cast - Shiro/Shiho, Shiragami's woman/wolfman childhood friend, and Akane Koumoto, the school principal with a surprising secret of her own.
There are a variety of small strengths that put My Monster Secret ahead of the standard harem pack. First, the manga's cast continues to be a generally charming bunch. Making Asahi and Shiragami friends from the start really goes a long way toward making their adventures more enjoyable - they actually get to share in each other's feelings instead of bouncing off each other in more predictable “will they or won't they” fashion. Shiragami is also an inherently compelling heroine; her mixture of denseness and exuberance makes it easy to see both why people like her and why she ends up in a lot of trouble, provoking many of this volume's moments of insanity.
The other characters are a bit less compelling, but still provide some good changes of pace. While Shiho starts off more one-note (she's the more mature/sex-hungry character type), her friendship with Shiragami gives the main heroine a welcome relational counterpoint, and Shiho herself gets some strong moments in the cooking chapter. Class rep Aizawa's material is even stronger - the chapter where she's forced to recruit Asahi to move her battery-drained body to the nurse's office is one of the volume's strongest. The combination of premise-based weirdness and Aizawa's unique personality (straight-laced, but prone to getting caught up in her own martial self-image) makes for a great contrast to Asahi and Shiragami.
My Monster Secret's art also improves in this volume, moving from the first volume's distinctive but uneven and sometimes unattractive designs to consistently expressive and very unique character art. The character designs are lanky enough that My Monster Secret's cast actually look like teenagers, without sacrificing any of the larger-eyed expressiveness typical of high school stories. Eiji Masuda seems to have an understanding of anatomy and bone structure that gives his characters just a bit more weight and specificity in their movements, which both improves their natural body language and makes for a greater comic contrast when the manga goes into over-the-top physical comedy.
Overall, while My Monster Secret's story is still pretty routine harem romcom material, it's energetic harem romcom material that kept me laughing from start to finish. The premise is being put to work in a variety of interesting ways, and the mix of endearing characters and appealing art make the manga an eminently readable experience. If you're looking for some fluffy romcom fun, it's a very good time.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B+
+ Cast is endearing and art is improving, episodic stories make strong use of the premise
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