Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
So Cute It Hurts!!
The jig is up for Mego – now that Aoi knows she's a girl, is there any way that their relationship can continue? It turns out she's underestimating his feelings for her as they embark on the next stage of cuteness together...from two feet apart? Meanwhile Mitsuru can't quite bring himself to tell Shino that he's really a boy while Azusa can't manage to tell him that she likes him...you know what they say: the course of true love never did run smooth!
Have you ever eaten Pixie Stix? They're paper straws filled with flavored sugar, basically the sweet equivalent of an energy drink, and this is important because reading Go Ikeyamada's English-language debut, So Cute it Hurts, is basically the literary version of eating one. Volume four brings us into a new arc of the story, but don't worry – even if twins Mego and Mitsuru aren't cross-dressing anymore, there's still plenty of cute, sweet, and shoujo-y goodness as Ikeyamada guides the characters onward in their troubled romantic lives.
The volume opens after the end of the school cross-dressing scenario. Mego has finished taking Mitsuru's makeup tests for him and they've returned to their old schools. This turns out to be more of a problem for boy twin Mitsuru, who is leaving behind a much more complicated romantic situation than Mego, who has somewhat successfully won her guy: in fact, they're officially boyfriend and girlfriend, something her fujoshi friends just can't wrap their heads around. But of course it can't be that simple – despite the fact that he's admitted, to both Mego and himself, that he likes her, Aoi can't just overcome his “allergy” to girls, and so the two embark on their new relationship standing literally two feet apart at all times. While flashbacks offer hints that this is less an “allergy” and more residual trauma from Aoi's past (that may involve Azusa, or at least her mother), and Ikeyamada doesn't strictly play it off for laughs. Yes, there are funny moments because it's an inherently absurd situation, but when we look at Aoi's reactions, it's clear that he's really struggling to overcome his issue because he truly cares about Mego. It's sweet enough to make you need to brush your teeth after reading, but it's also pretty heartwarming. Aoi and Mego's romance is just enough off the normal shoujo romance path that it's interesting as well, and there are plenty of hints strewn throughout the book that make it clear that there's something more going on behind the scenes.
This background story also looks like it will effect Mitsuru's more traditional love triangle. Mitsuru is in love with Aoi's deaf sister Shino, but he hasn't been able to tell her yet that he's a boy. Meanwhile the school bully, teen model Azusa, has (reluctantly) fallen for him, and in this volume she finagles a date...which he mistakes for a duel. Most of the volume's humor comes from their outing, as Mitsuru never quite manages to figure it out and Azusa can't bring herself to tell him. Her faces continue to be a highlight of the art as she cycles through a series of totally bizarre facial expressions completely at odds with Ikeyamada's art style and the frilly Goth Loli dress she's wearing. Azusa and Mitsuru's scenes make great use of comic art as well as dialogue, making them the stand out scenes in the book, no matter how sweet Aoi and Mego's are. The juxtaposition of Azusa's overwrought outfit with the kendo armor Mitsuru shows up wearing is consistently humorous (as passers-by keep mentioning) and works well with the tortured and/or confused thoughts of the characters as both of them try to figure out what's going on and why. (Azusa seems genuinely confused by her inability to tell Mitsuru what she's feeling...and by his inability to just figure it out.) The lunatic parallels of the two dates make for fun reading as well, switching back and forth between the gooey sweetness of Aoi and Mego to the prickly tension of Azusa and Mitsuru.
There is, however, a serious side to this volume, albeit not until the very end. We still don't fully know the story behind Aoi's injured (or missing) eye or Azusa's hatred of Shino, and from the hints scattered around, which come much more frequently towards the end, we can infer that the two are somehow related. That Aoi has more physical damage than just the eye indicates that he has been through a major trauma, likely, as I said before, tied to his “allergy,” and Azusa seems to be tied up in that somehow. More interestingly, from the end of the book it looks as if Shino is the only one not suffering from whatever this shared past is, or at least not as much as the other two. What does this have to do with Aoi's sacrifice and Azusa's hatred? While it almost certainly will have an impact on Mitsuru's love life, it seems to go farther than that, giving this otherwise cotton-candy story a stronger backbone than we might have expected.
So Cute it Hurts is in some ways the ultimate shoujo – it has fluffy romance, a tragic past for some of the romantic interests, love geometry, and ridiculous antics in the name of love. What it lacks is also a plus – there's no abusive hero, making this a shoujo romance that might bring back genre fans who fell (or jumped) off the train while that trend was popular. It's almost too sweet and cute for its own good, and Ikeyamada really needs to lay off shoving the title in our faces every chapter by actually having a character say it, but if you just need something sweet to get you through the day, this book continues the series' trend of being just that.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Can be very funny in both story and art, hints at a stronger underlying story help cut the cute. Both twins' plots are different enough not to feel repetitive.That kiss!
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