Publisher’s info: All penniless college student Taiga Mutou wants is a cool job and a cute older woman as a girlfriend. So when he spies a Help Wanted sign outside an office and a hot girl inside, he applies for the job, no questions asked. After a few bumps at the beginning, things start going Taiga’s way, prompting him to steel his courage and ask out Yuiko, that hot girl he spied through the window, on a date. And when she later asks him if it’s okay that she’s a fujoshi (a very, shall we say, distinct kind of comics/animation geek), he tells her it’s fine out of sheer excitement. But poor Taiga has no idea how much trouble he’s just gotten himself into!
Last week, I reviewed Peepo Choo, by Felipe Smith, a manga that viciously, but hilariously rips into otaku culture (among other). It seems that getting geeks to laugh at themselves in manga is on the upswing, because this week’s book, My Girlfriend’s a Geek Vol. 1, pokes fun at fujoshi, or the girl fan of boys love (bl) anime and manga. However, where Felipe Smith uses satire like an explosive force, in this series, Rize Shinba, uses a subtle, even gentle hand, turning the mocking lampoon into an affectionate jest. You might say the fujoshi and the boys who love them are more ribbed than ridiculed here.
My Girlfriend’s a Geek is quite charming, a layered, frothy comedy of errors where our hapless hero, Taiga Mutou finds himself willingly falling down the rabbit hole as he follows his new girlfriend into her secret world of manga fantasies and predilections. What’s exploited very well here is the triangulated distance between the girlfriend Yuiko’s full-on, hardcore fandom, the reader’s knowledge of that fandom, and Taiga’s complete lack of awareness of everything he’s getting into. We laugh because we know what Taiga does not: we know what Yuiko means when she tells Taiga that she finds his formal speech cute because, “the hints of younger man Seme really tugat my heart. Polite speech is so Moe!”
In this first volume, much of his reaction is to shrug off the strange and murky aspects of Yuiko’s obsessions with a kind of “who cares, I’ve got a hot older girlfriend” attitude. It isn’t until about three-quarters in that he begins to get a clue as to what kind of relationship he’s in, or what kind of place he has in Yukio’s fujoshi-colored-glasses view of the world. And, while I imagine this is even more funny if you are a gal like Yukio, I found an interesting perspective reading it as a former young geek who’s only desire was a girlfriend. The way the geek roles are reversed, but not the typical gender roles (Taiga wants to get the girl, Yukio is the older, pretty object of his affections), mean I get a certain kind of laugh just seeing the frisson of desires that at times complement and at times confound one another. (It’s also nice to see that it wasn’t necessarily my own geek obsessions holding me back as a young man…)
Not only did I enjoy this volume, but I also wonder what’s in store for our young couple—where does this lead them? What conflicts lie ahead? And will Taiga ever be able to get ahead of the curve on Yukio’s perverse imagination? It’s definitely worth checking in so see where Rize Shinba takes things.
Side note—there’s an excerpt from the book that this manga is based on, which evidently was developed from a blog. (Sort of like if they made a tv show based on S**t My Dad Says…oh, wait) That was terrible, I thought, and made me feel even better about this manga. Rize Shinba has crafted a fun bit of comedy and romance out of a bumbling, yapping unfunny mess.