Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Monster Secret
Summer vacation has arrived, but that doesn't mean Asahi Kuromine's getting much time to relax. Though even simple events like summer festivals are complicated when you're in a love polyhedron, things get even dicier when Asahi and his friends go on a camping trip. Driving out into the country, they find themselves camping in Shiragami's literal front yard, where her vampire father is none too pleased to see them. Can Asahi keep the fact that he knows Shiragami's secret under wraps, and even if he does, will Shiragami's dad let any boys in her life survive?!?
My Monster Secret has established its romcom platform at this point. Having started off with the classic will-they-or-won't-they bond between Asahi and Shiragami, the manga has proceeded to introduce the requisite romantic rivals, perverted friends, goofy mentors, and aggravating family members that all tend to pad out entries in the genre. They've undergone bonding experiences and moments of self-discovery, all without ever getting an inch closer to actually establishing a relationship. And now, in its fourth volume, the long-running harem stasis is ready to begin.
The specter of narrative pointlessness hangs over a decent amount of this volume's material, particularly in its early chapters. Having established such a broad main cast, the manga puts them to work in a series of chapter-long hijinks, centered on concepts like “Asahi and Aizawa go to a school festival while Shiragami spies on them,” or “the gang all race to buy a limited-edition hamburger.” The actual stories here are pretty disposable, but that's to be expected - more of an issue is My Monster Secret's tendency to get muddled in its own broad cast.
Much of any harem's appeal comes down to how much the audience can come to like its extended cast, and so it's understandable that these chapters often try to include basically all of them. But in sequences like the burger battle and a later car ride, the presence of over a half-dozen characters sometimes makes conversations seem incoherent, and disrupts the comic flow of the proceedings. It at times seems like My Monster Secret is attempting to impress through sheer volume of tiny dialogue gags, but this volume's busiest scenes tend to be more confused than energetic. The manga should have more confidence in itself - My Monster Secret's characters are strong and distinctive enough that they shine when they're given full spotlights, as opposed to just being a wacky chorus all crammed in a room together.
That issue of trying too hard to cram too much in also applies to this volume's visual design. My Monster Secret's character designs and expression work have improved tremendously since the first volume, but Eiji Masuda's grasp of perspective is still a little suspect. This volume specifically attempts a number of gags that ride heavily on the spatial relationships between characters, and also introduces a number of shots with more ambitious, multi-layered perspectives. While I appreciate Masuda's attempts to broaden his visual vocabulary, the results here are typical of artistic growing pains - messy perspectives, visually muddled compositions, and gags based on a tangibility of physical motion that isn't quite there yet.
That said, all of these complaints largely add up to “this is a somewhat messy volume of a generally compelling harem comedy.” My Monster Secret is still full of strong gags and endearing character moments, and Shiragami's parents each make the most of their appearance in their own way. There's a great scene early on where Aizawa's recognition of her own feelings is undercut by a shot of Asahi with ice cream cones in his eyes, and a later sequence where the school principal literally shakes Shiragami's house to make the dumb kids inside kiss. My Monster Secret may be undergoing genre fatigue and visual growing pains, but it's still a charming example of its genre.
Overall, in spite of some medium-sized issues here and there, My Monster Secret's fourth volume still maintains the general appeal of the series. The cast is endearing, it's still easy to see how they're growing closer, and many of the smaller gags land very well. My Monster Secret is still a charming, breezy time.
Overall : B-
Story : C+
Art : B-
+ Plenty of solid gags, main cast is still very endearing
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