Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
To Write Your Words
Yuka is a romance novelist specializing in sweet, innocent stories. Unfortunately, her editors feel that there's no more readership for her work, and they've decided that if she can't change her style to something more adult, they're going to drop her. This puts Yuka in a bind because not only is she not comfortable with erotic romance, but she's got basically no experience with it. When a chance accident leads to a broken arm, her handsome dentist (who has some secrets of his own) offers to transcribe her writing. Without much choice, Yuka accepts – but what she doesn't count on is that Hasegawa is much more inspirational than she ever imagined.
Despite what the synopsis sounds like, To Write Your Words has much more in common with something like Arte, where the heroine learns her trade through solid instruction, than Overcumming Writer's Block (being digitally published by Renta!), where the writer heroine gets her inspiration through actual prurient means. That's not to say that Aki Amasawa's English-language debut isn't a romance and doesn't have aspects of a more overtly sexual story, but rather that instead that's only a small piece of what helps Yuka to overcome her writing issue. What this means for potential readers is that those looking for a sexier story may be disappointed while those wanting something on the sweeter side may be turned off, and that's too bad on both accounts.
The base plot of To Write Your Words is that Yuka has had some success as an author of sweet teen romances that exist in a beautiful platonic universe, building on emotions rather than the sex of more modern romance novels. Unfortunately, the tides of popular taste are turning against her, and Yuka needs a new hit if she doesn't want to be dropped by her publisher. As a last-chance effort, she's given an assignment to write what the editors term an “erotic romance” (to Western readers, it just sounds like a plain old romance novel in the genre fiction sense), something Yuka's neither comfortable with nor equipped to write. She's determined to do her best, though, and is all set to keep at it when she slips on a staircase and breaks her wrist. Her dentist, Hasegawa, is present for the fall, and he offers to be her transcriptionist while she recovers so that she doesn't lose her job. After some hesitation, Yuka takes him up on that, and is surprised to discover that not only is her writing flowing better with his help, but that he offers her really solid craft advice.
This opens up the story to parallel plotlines, which it doesn't entirely take advantage of. On the one hand we have the romance budding between Yuka and Hasegawa, who is a genuinely nice person trying to overcome his own issues around writing in order to help her. (Naturally these problems stem from his father, a renowned author who abruptly stopped writing and certainly didn't give his son the most stable childhood.) On the other, we have the writing plot, which consists of Yuka developing better craft skills and learning what works best for her in terms of creating. While she believes that it's Hasegawa who is the reason behind her improved ability to write sex scenes (and certainly her attraction to him does help), it's really the dual factors of dictating rather than physically writing and his very good advice that's behind her increased success. That she thinks she needs Hasegawa in order to keep writing well is more of the problem, and hopefully one that the story will tackle in volume two even as the romance factors heat up with the increased presence of another man who has a thing for her.
If there's anything truly worth fretting about in the story, it's the fact that Yuka's editor-in-chief believes that Yuka can't write worthwhile stories if she doesn't explore her own sexual nature. Apart from the fact that this assumes that Yuka has a sexual nature (negating asexuality or demi-sexuality), it's problematic that the woman would basically flat-out say that Yuka needs a boyfriend or to start sleeping around in order to write better. That's a fairly toxic viewpoint, and it completely leaves out the possibility of switching genres – we know that the publisher at least has a mystery imprint, so romance isn't the only thing they publish – or the fact that Yuka may have a trauma that negates the sort of experiences the editor-in-chief is encouraging. While it is her job to help her authors become better writers, or at least writers who will sell better, a callous lack of understanding is not the way to do that. It is, however, in line with other works of fiction that deal with demanding, unreasonable editors; the difference here is that she's not painted as such by the story. While this may seem like an odd complaint for what is a romance manga, it's important to remember that it needs to be actually romantic, and the editor-in-chief risks spoiling that. Fortunately she hasn't done so yet, although volume two is really going to be the determining book on that front, or at least it seems that way as of this moment.
Despite all of that, it is good to see that Kodansha has at last come to the realization that the little girls who grew up on Cardcaptor Sakura are now adult women with disposable income who still want to read manga that perhaps reflects their ages a bit more. Of the titles thus far digitally released, which includes Our Fake Marriage and My Pink Is Overflowing, To Write Your Words strikes the best balance between adult characters with problems and a decent romance plot. It also helps that the art is simple without being overly so; we can tell the characters apart and they're largely drawn well against backgrounds with the right amount of detail. Characters' pasts are taken into account, motivations are considered, and if it has its issues, thus far they aren't quite enough to outweigh the more enjoyable aspects. To Write Your Words' first volume isn't perfect, but it is a much more interesting story than the company synopsis would imply.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Interesting mix of writing and romance plots, consensual romance.
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