Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Tamaki Hasegawa's life has been anything but easy, and with the deaths of her parents in an accident, she ended up having to drop out of high school to try to support her younger brother Taichi. Now twenty-three, she's virtually unemployable at any job that would pay the bills, including Taichi's tuition. All of that is about to change the day she “saves” political scion Kagetora Sugo from his bodyguard. Tora immediately offers Tamaki a job as another one of his bodyguards, but Tamaki is hesitant. After all, nothing has gone right in her life for a long time – why should this be any different?
SP Baby, Maki Enjōji's two-volume 2015 romantic comedy, would probably have been a slightly better story if it had had three volumes to play out in, because Enjoji just doesn't have quite enough space to really get into the characters' backgrounds. It's hard to blame an author who wrote this series through pregnancy and the birth of her child, however, and as it stands, SP Baby is still pretty good, with Enjoji still managing to adequately explain why both Tama and Tora are the way they are.
Most of this character work comes in volume two, where Enjoji explores Tamaki's firm belief that it's her destiny to harm those she wants to help and Tora's inability to feel pain. Volume one focuses on setting up the story: Tamaki Hasegawa is an unemployable twenty-three-year-old who had to drop out of high school after her parents' deaths in order to support her younger brother. That's not entirely why she can't get or hold a fulltime job, however – Tamaki isn't very good at looking before she leaps, and her efforts to help people often go awry. That's what happens when she spots Kagetora Soga being chased by a shouting man on the street: it turns out to be his bodyguard and Tora's technically the one in the wrong. Tora, however, is instantly fascinated by Tamaki's willingness to throw herself into what she perceives as danger to help a stranger, as well as the fact that despite a total lack of martial arts training she managed to land a kick on Mikeyama, the highly skilled bodyguard. He offers her a job as his personal guard, although it quickly becomes clear that he's perhaps more interested in having her near him for more romantic reasons than in actually employing her. There are hints that he's somehow involved in her past, but she largely ignores them – Tamaki is more concerned with being paid and in nursing her crush on Natsuo, the neighbor who went out of his way to help she and her brother after their parents died.
It becomes apparent fairly quickly that Tamaki's bad luck comes less from actual luck and more because she's so attached to the idea that she's a bad luck magnet. If you pay attention to Tama's actions, you can see that she's really causing a lot of her own problems by just jumping headfirst into a situation before she gets all of, or any of, the facts. This isn't because she's not smart, nor is it a result of an overdeveloped sense of compassion; Tamaki is trying to work through something in her past that colored the way she sees both herself and the world. More than anything, this misconception is what drives both Tamaki as a character and the story as a whole. It isn't that she's actually in love with Natsuo or opposed to recognizing Tora's feelings, it's more that she's afraid that if one more thing goes wrong it will simply prove that what she believes about herself is that much more solid. She views every little problem or mistake as further proof that she's doomed to harm instead of help despite her best efforts. Screwing things up with Tora and the job he gave her would push her over an edge she knows all too well that she's teetering on.
Despite the fact that Enjoji's previous series to be published in English, Happy Marriage!?, didn't do too much with darker themes, it isn't new ground for her to cover, as in other works she has handled grief, medical issues, and mental health in more depth. That's why it's such a shame that this series doesn't have enough time to really explore Tora's issues in as much detail or to spend a little more time on Tamaki's. Tora is the character who suffers the most from this, as we only get the barest explanation about his sensory problems. (Enjoji mentions in her notes that she had done the research to take this farther but ran out of time.) This makes him not only a less developed character, but less of a character in general, reducing him basically to the emotional support/savior figure for Tamaki. While this is hardly unusual in the romance genre in general, it does still make the story suffer in this case, especially since the groundwork was laid for him to be more.
SP Baby is less sexually explicit than some of the other series for older female readers released by Viz, which frankly doesn't really affect the story itself. Enjoji's art, while at times anatomically suspect, is clean and attractive, and it's easy to tell her characters apart. With no actual villain, even the side characters are able to be likable and fun, with Mikeyama standing out particularly as someone it'd be nice to read a series about on his own. At only two volumes, SP Baby isn't as good as it could have been, but it's still an enjoyable story about two damaged people finding out that maybe things aren't as bad as they always assumed they were with each other's help.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B
+ Tamaki being her own worst enemy gives the story a good break from romance geometry cliches, likable characters, clean art
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