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by Christopher Farris,

Romantic Killer

GN 1-2 Review

Romantic Killer GN 1-2

Who needs romance when you've got video games, chocolate, and cats? Unfortunately for Anzu, the wheels of capitalism extend even to a magical fairy realm, and she's been selected for a program pushing her to get busy and create more children to energize things. Before she's allowed any say in the matter, Anzu's three greatest material loves are whisked away by fantastical interloper Riri, and she's tripping into hot dudes and stereotypical shoujo situations! Is a girl like her doomed to succumb to the whims of this contrived romantic thriller, or will Anzu be able to strike back instead as a romantic killer?

Romantic Killer has story and art by Wataru Momose, with English translation by Adrienne Beck, touch-up and lettering by Inori Fukuda Trant, and design by Shawn Carrico, with Nancy Thistlewaite as editor.


Romantic Killer's strongest asset is almost certainly its title-fulfilling heroine. Romance stories with romance-averse main characters are hardly uncommon, but Anzu takes it to a heretofore-unseen level. There's a pointed degree of comfort, of contention presented in her life comprised of chocolate, video games, and her adorable kitty, with the tone of the narrative seeming to be genuinely sympathetic to her energies even as it's upending them. What we get for Anzu is still a story of connections between people and the growth that occurs as a result. However, as of these first two volumes, the story still seems refreshingly dedicated to reinforcing her romance-disinterested ways.

Instead, the focus in these initial couple of volumes of Romantic Killer is enthusiastically on the comedic potential in both its high concept and Anzu's exhausting efforts to push back against every step of it. That point partway through the first volume, where she resolves to stop taking everything Riri throws at her with panicked exasperation and instead face the situations with head-on intent to sabotage, is where the whole idea seems to come alive. Before that, it's possible to read a degree of unfairness, a mean-spirited angle in the contrivance of the concept forcing these shenanigans onto an arguable aro/ace lead. But it soon becomes clear that Anzu is very much the central star here, and the following incidents all see her coming at them with her own, specifically anti-romantic efforts.

That allows the comedy to snowball barely into farce territory while still working because the writing is self-aware of its absurdities. It's not just the tired old element of "this is a stock genre element, and the joke is we're calling attention to it." It goes further than that. Anzu is familiar with all these genre tropes, and her recognition of them, followed by efforts to avoid them, make up the majority of the action here. Even when she stumbles ass-first into one of Riri's setups, her refusal to engage with it expectedly is chalked up in a style that always makes her the entertaining lead point. Whether she's taking the stereotypically masculine position in conveniently falling onto Tsukasa or unhesitantly charging at an underwear thief wielding a golf club, we get that sense of how out-of-their-depth Riri might have been in selecting her for what could have been a more expected engagement with this idea. Anzu isn't trapped in this magically manipulated world with all these romance tropes; they're trapped here with her.

For all the unchecked insanity of the introductory volume, the second book does feel like it settles down a bit by contrast. There's a little more sense of the laid-back and lackadaisical as we settle into Anzu's weird life with these hot boys. She doesn't want to smooch them, but she also doesn't mind them as friends and mostly wants to find a way to free them from the magically mandated chaos of her life (and get all her stuff back). It still works because Anzu's inherently entertaining self propels things even when she usually engages with her new friends, particularly her first boy Tsukasa, with whom she bonds over a mutual aversion to romance. Her refusing to wing woman for another girl interested in him because she knows Tsukasa is disinterested is a downright heartwarming high point of the second volume.

Junta, introduced towards the end of the first volume, is a bit trickier to engage with at this point in the story. The plot's initial implication that he's been magically brainwashed into childhood-friend proximity to Anzu can make his presence feel as weird to us as it does to Anzu. There are scattered implications that there is more going on with Junta's situation than meets the eye. Even his seemingly artificial childhood attachment to Anzu comes off like his pleasant memories of her are at least accurate.

Rounding things out is Hijiri, introduced partway through the second volume and completing something of a trifecta of stereotype romance story boys. Hijiri is interesting in concept, as he is a popular romantic lead who is self-aware of his status and comes off as entitled because of it. It makes for a neat meta-exploration between Romantic Killer's parodic narrative and how someone like that might come off in "real life." And he provides some keen opportunities for Anzu to demonstrate how deep her dedication is to her anti-romantic exercises. It remains to be seen if there are more depths to mine from his character beyond his later transformation into a stock tsundere. Still, at the absolute least, he's also used as an indicator of Anzu's positive effects on people vis a vis not dating them, as related by Hijiri's delightful chauffeur, Tsuchiya.

The artistic effort carrying all this comes off well for a net-comic-turned-official publication. The full-color presentation is an interesting indulgence for a work like this, even if some of the compositing with the backgrounds can look odd with it. Faces and bodies can occasionally come off misaligned when they aren't being goofy on purpose, but in their defense, they are extremely good when they're goofy on purpose. One gets the impression that Wataru Momose conceived of this whole setup to provoke as many outlandish reaction faces from Anzu as possible. The art falls back onto drawing her with hard-boiled manga male facial features more than I would like compared to its excellent wacky expressions. But there's still plenty of extremely on-point face-game throughout. There's also a ton of referential and meta-humor appropriate enough to this kind of story; all adapted briskly by the translation here. Sometimes it feels like too many elements are flying by, including some minor story foreshadowing elements that can get lost in the shuffle. But overall, it's a striking, distinctive look.

How you react to Romantic Killer will ultimately depend on how receptive you are to this barely controlled chaos. Anzu herself does enough work, feeling like she has agency in driving this story, so it never comes off like the narrative itself is being mean or dumping on her (even as Riri's efforts are putting her through several layers of hell). But it can still be a lot to take in at once, and even as likable as most of the cast is, it's not like the structure is the sort of thing you can take as a chill experience, even when things considerably settle down in the second volume. It is, in the parlance of our times, A Lot. Give it a shot because while I admit that there's a lot here that might not work for everybody, there's still a lot that works.

Overall : A-
Story : A
Art : B

+ Anzu is a great lead, Explorations of non-romantic efforts can be just as heartening as they are hilarious, Top-tier face game
Art can look askew when it's not being intentionally goofy, Premise might feel too chaotic or disagreeable to some readers

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Wataru Momose
Licensed by: Viz Media

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Romantic Killer (manga)

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