Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Monster Secret
With the student council president Karen Shirogane's not-so-devilish secret revealed, things are only becoming more hectic for Asahi and his classmates. First off, Akari's birthday somehow leads to Shiho losing her nympho powers. After that, Karen ends up trying to exorcise the class rep's no-good brother. And just after that, it seems like Mikan is on the verge of discovering Aizawa's secret! With all of these secrets floating in the air, it seems like there's barely any time for Asahi and Shiragami to actually get closer. Love will have to contend with all manner of nonsense if it wishes to succeed in My Monster Secret's latest volume!
My Monster Secret has worked hard to build up its cast roster over the last few volumes. Building on the initial love triangle of Asahi, Shiragami, and Aizawa, the manga has since introduced over half a dozen secondary leads, from the deadpan Rin Kiryuin to the wildcard Akane Koumoto. When the series' conflicts draw all these characters together, the story can pull off effortless comedy bits where each character in turn adds their own spice to the drama. And here in the eighth volume, My Monster Secret seems determined to prove that even the least of these characters can carry their own chapter conflicts.
Unfortunately, my main takeaway from this volume was that no, a fair number of these characters simply can't do that. After a breezy but altogether successful opening segment focused on newest addition Karen, this volume's first focus experiment centers on Asahi's teacher Akari Koumoto. My Monster Secret has previously found solid comedy in riffing on Akari's street thug roots, but this chapter's conflict is “Asahi is feeling insecure about her birthday,” and thus pretty much the entire chapter is dedicated to stale, mean-spirited spinster jokes.
When My Monster Secret's humor centers on the idiocy of its characters or the madness of their secrets, you get the sense the series is laughing with its cast. It may riff on their quirks and subject them to horrible embarrassment, but it ultimately likes them the way they are, and wants them to succeed. Jokes about Akari being old and lacking sex appeal are pretty much the opposite of that - tired cruelty that makes the manga itself feel like a less friendly place. My Monster Secret has dabbled in these stale jokes before, but making them one of the centerpieces of this volume makes them a lot harder to ignore.
Half-baked premises and unfunny gags haunt many of this volume's other chapters. The followup to “Akari is old” is “Shiho has lost her nympho powers,” a simplistic conflict that doesn't really invite any emotional investment or giggles. As a character, Shiho's main point of emotional resonance is her concern for Shiragame - her nympho nature is just a gimmick, not a relatable element of her personality that can actually support a real conflict. On top of that, many of the punchlines in this chapter come down to simple “Shiho strikes unsexy poses” gag that lack the visual creativity to really sell themselves. By the time this volume reaches the “let's have one of Asahi's barely-characterized friends fall in love with Aizawa's buffoonish brother,” I found myself hoping that this truly represented My Monster Secret's lowest point.
The silver lining of this volume is that even if My Monster Secret's secondary characters aren't the attention-commanding stars they think they are, the manga's actual leads are as charming as ever. A mid-volume chapter focused on Asahi and Aizawa mines a great deal of sympathy out of Aizawa's fundamentally compassionate nature, and pulls off great visual gags centered on her dorky antenna. And the volume's last chapter, which returns Asahi and Shiragami to the amusement park, finds charming awkwardness in the two's fast-approaching relationship. This is almost certainly My Monster Secret's worst volume yet, but its various issues can't keep this story's beating heart down.
Overall : C
Story : C
Art : B
+ Material focused on the central trio is all charming, funny, and emotionally rewarding
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