The Secret Sakura Shares

When Aoi Narinomiya, the last daughter of a prestigious family, discovers that her grandfather has gone missing, leaving her to carry an astronomical debt, both she and her dog, Sakura, are inches away from finding themselves on the street. When her enigmatic classmate Kei Katsuragi shows up on her doorstep to repossess everything her family owned, Aoi makes a desperate plea for Kei to take in her beloved Sakura–maybe she could at least be spared…? It seems through, that Kei is far less interested in owning a dog than he is in calling a pedigreed kitty his own, and Aoi soon finds herself playing the part of the young man’s prized pet! Disturbingly, it turns out to be a comfortable and reassuring life that Aoi feels she has too quickly settled into, but could Kei have ulterior motives that go beyond just “owning” her?

The Secret Sakura Shares
Secret Sakura SharesBy Akira Hagio
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $20.00

Even though I wasn’t that interested in The Secret Sakura Shares when it was announced at Sakura-con last year, I decided to read it anyway. Reviews were calling it a “sweet” romance, so I gave it a go. It wasn’t so much sweet for me, as I found the female lead to be very annoying, and the whole “master/pet” situation just creepy.

Aoi Narinomiya has been sheltered and pampered most of her life. She was left by her mother with her paternal grandfather, who has raised her to be a “good bride,” but she has no real life skills. She can’t cook or clean, or be useful in anyway, or so she thinks, and that’s what makes her so annoying to me. She gives up immediately, and not only takes on the role of “pet kitty” to Kei, letting him feed her and brush her hair, but she starts to like it. She even tries to act like a real cat to please Kei. All through the story, she bemoans her fate but does absolutely nothing to change it. She is wishy-washy in every sense of the word, and I really don’t like that in my female protagonists.

Kei is the typical tsundere, acting callous toward Aoi, though all he really wants to do it is help her and protect her. He won’t admit he has any feelings for her beyond their master/pet relationship, something he seems to enjoy just a little too much as well. Those moments are just plain creepy rather than sweet. Kei tries to play the “tragic, illegitimate child of a politician” when his family life is anything but. He has the one thing that Aoi doesn’t; two loving parents, and it’s more infuriating than funny that he doesn’t appreciate them.

The other characters didn’t do much to improve the story. Aoi’s two friends, Ayanokouji and Ijuuin were decent enough. They actually cared about Aoi’s well-being. The rest of the males, Karou Houjou and Takumi Saionji, and even her grandfather Tadahide, are less interested in Aoi than using her. Karou and Tadahide give the appearance of caring, but they both have ulterior motives that color that concern. To all the men Aoi is just an object, something to be used for their own gain, and what really disturbing it that not only does Aoi accept this treatment, she believes it’s inevitable. Not even her dog, the Sakura of the title, is loyal to her, seeming to prefer Kei to Aoi.

Despite all this, it wasn’t a terrible read. The story did have it’s moments. Kei’s backstory and parents were fun. The way Kei baits Kaoru by starting rumors at school that he and Kaoru are lovers was amusing, and Ayanokouji’s description of a cat’s “good points” were spot on. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

Overall, The Secret Sakura Shares isn’t a bad title, it just isn’t a  remarkable one. The art is well done. While the characters can look similar, they are still easy to identify. It’s the story that just doesn’t make the cut. Even having cats and dogs in the story didn’t help. There are plenty of other shojo titles that would do just as well, if not better than this one.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Review copy provided by publisher.

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