Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Monster Secret
With Youko Shiragami having maybe-sorta rejected him, Asahi is left in an awkward quasi-friendship state, not sure if even his friendship with Shiragami can be salvaged. A winter ski trip might offer just the chance he needs to rekindle their relationship, especially after a misguided snowball fight leaves the two of them stranded in a mountain lodge. But with Shiragami's dad hot on the trail of anyone who might be getting a little too close to his daughter, it may be tough for Asahi to simply survive his everyday school life. And when the senior Shiragami sends yet another lackey to check in on Youko, her pleasant school life might end up coming to an unexpected end.
Harem-style romantic comedies are very good at dragging themselves out, but eventually, things have to progress before the audience gets bored. The last several volumes of My Monster Secret have seen the series undergo some slow structural changes, moving from episodic gags to more long-form narratives, and then starting to actually push the core relationship of Shiragami and Asahi. But with last volume having somewhat reset the manga's romantic tension, volume seven sees the story returning to neutral, offering a variety of comedy-focused adventures without all that much forward momentum. In spite of that, this volume actually turned out to be one of my favorites yet, on the back of one simple strength: these chapters are very, very funny.
Eiji Masuda has been steadily honing his comedy chops, character writing, and artistic abilities all through this comic's running time, and the results are on clear display here. In spite of the fact that the narrative is mostly stuck in neutral, there's an air of true romantic tension here, with Shiragami and Asahi both stuck in that fraught yet dramatically fertile limbo of “we know we like each other, but we can't move forward.” There's no more frustration over characters not understanding their own feelings - instead, there's the more sympathetic frustration of not knowing exactly what to say to your crush. And as that tension builds, My Monster Secret runs through some of its best gags of the series so far.
Some of this volume's highlights find unexpected comedy in simple and even cliche concepts. Rin's “nympho detection” skills are put to great use in one chapter, where Shiragami, Koumoto, and the principal are all informed they don't exude any sex appeal. This unfortunate revelation leads into a great sequence where they all compete to make Asahi's nose bleed, a gag that somehow avoids being mean-spirited or exploitative in any way. The comedy rests heavily on the casts' inept attempts at seduction, offering a great mix of character-based humor and physical comedy. Big panels of Shiragami and Koumoto attempting awkwardly provocative poses demonstrate Masuda's great control of body language, coming off as simultaneously unsexy, endearing, and extremely funny.
Other chapters lean into the manga's sillier conceits to the point of absurdity. Mikan's fortune god glasses have always been one of My Monster Secret's most ridiculous concepts, and this volume leans into that madness by introducing an entire hierarchy of glasses-shaped fortune gods, all of whom travel around in the beaks of pigeons. The manga smartly doubles, triples, and then quadruples down on the fortune glasses concept in nearly as many pages, offering a building sense of absurdity with Mikan's suspicions playing counterpoint. The chapter simultaneously demonstrates Masuda's understanding of comedic escalation and his mastery of visual gags, staying entertaining in spite of not really affecting the narrative in any way.
In the volume's final chapters, Masuda introduces yet another secret-laden character, the self-proclaimed devil Karen Shirogane. Masuda's visual evolution is once again put to the test here, with much of Karen's material relying heavily on dramatic shading and overwrought expression work. As a character who bounces between dramatic presence and feeble silliness, Karen's comedy demands an ability to switch between dramatic tones on shading alone, and Masuda rises to the challenge. On top of that, Karen is also just one of the most inherently charming characters we've seen, offering a style of character and comedy that neatly fits a hole in the story's cast.
Overall, My Monster Secret's seventh volume doesn't feature dramatic twists or do much to reinvent the wheel, but it consistently demonstrates just how enjoyable classic romantic comedies can be. I'm excited to see Asahi and Shiragami's relationship progress, but if Masuda can keep pulling off episodic gags this strong, I don't mind the wait. My Monster Secret is comfort food done right.
Overall : A-
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ Consistently inventive and well-executed gags had me laughing throughout, Masuda's art continues to improve
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