Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Stupid Love Comedy
Suzu Sakura is an up-and-coming shoujo mangaka who can't keep a deadline to save her life. She could really be a top creator with her natural talent if she could only rein herself in and buckle down to work. Her new editor, Osamu Hasegawa, is about at his wit's end with her, but he valiantly keeps fighting the good fight…which makes Suzu think that he might be in love with her! But there's no way that could ever be true, right? Right…?
There is an archetype in romance fiction known as the TSTL heroine – “Too Stupid To Live.” While she's most prevalent in historical romances, she also makes many an appearance in romantic comedies, and although she can be fun in small doses, a little of her goes a long, long way. (Romance novelist Elizabeth Cameron has a pretty good description of her here.) That's the major flaw in Syusyusyu Sakurai's English-language debut, Stupid Love Comedy – heroine Suzu is very much in the TSTL mold, and while she's funny for the first volume included in this three-book omnibus, but volume three she has moved firmly into “very grating” territory.
That's truly a shame, because the premise of the series is one that's fun: shoujo mangaka Suzu Sakura is talented and has a lot of potential to be a big hit, but she can't meet a deadline to save her life. In part that's because she's so imaginative, and she gets caught up in her own world, drawing something that seizes her creativity when she's supposed to be working on her required pages or just getting lost in her imagination. All of this has to end when she gets a new editor, Osamu Hasegawa, transferred over to shoujo from seinen due to conflicts with his boss. Hasegawa is not going to put up with any of Suzu's shenanigans, and thus begins a clash of personalities of the sort romantic comedies are made on.
As you may be able to tell from the author and character's names, this manga is somewhat autobiographical, which immediately makes it a bit awkward for Sakurai to incorporate any romance elements. While it may have been quite freeing for her to basically come clean about her god-awful work habits, her honesty in this case might have been better put to use in a fully autobiographical work, because attempts to work in elements of a romance plot between Suzu and Hasegawa are constrained by the fact that Sakurai and her editors are so present throughout the omnibus. The result is that things just feel awkward, without the reader being clear on what's meant to be funny because it's real and where we're meant to laugh because it isn't. Simply put, it feels too personal to be safely comedic – it's a brand of comedy that works more comfortably in stand-up routines than on paper.
Of course, the fact that Suzu's a TSTL heroine also undermines some of the humor. While Sakurai, who has an extensive catalogue of works, is clearly a master of shoujo and thus can make some wonderful, pointed references to genre tropes (and draws an impressive Suzue Miuchi style), Suzu's manic actions make her look more like someone incapable of learning to control her own behavior than a humorous parody of shoujo creators. By the time she skips out on drawing her pages to go to a concert, returns wearing concert-exclusive clothes, and posts about it on social media, it has become abundantly apparent that she isn't going to learn from either her own experiences or Hasegawa's lessons. Since this happens in what was originally volume three of the Japanese publication, by this point we should reasonably expect a (fictional) character to be making some changes. Instead, her total disregard for her work, her immaturity, and the fact that she has to be told multiple times that she's not allowed to post about her bad habits or fantasies about Hasegawa on social media just make her come off as obnoxious. Add to this that she's constantly harassing Hasegawa about how she loves him, while others try to convince him that he loves her and you just have a recipe for annoyance. Ultimately Suzu's total lack of character development stymies what would otherwise be a fun series, consistently cutting the story's metaphorical feet out from under it and not allowing the humor to truly succeed.
While parts of this story work well, such as the total absurdity of the bonus chapter in volume three that takes reverse harem tropes and throw them into a blender of weirdness or the very attractive art style and clear page set up, Suzu herself works hard to make this a difficult read. Volume one is decently fun, but the omnibus deteriorates from there, and it's difficult to recommend a book when only the first third and a couple of bonus stories are all that can be safely said to be worth reading for a majority of people. It's a shame, but what was meant to be an amusing title for a comedic book really is a warning that sometimes the title isn't kidding and means what it says.
Overall : C
Story : C-
Art : B
+ Attractive art, beginning and a few of the side stories are decent
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