Manga Review: Otomen

Written by: Aya Kanno
Published by: Shojo Beat
Copy supplied by publisher
ISBN13: 978-1-4215-2186-2
ISBN10: 1-4215-2186-5

Reviewed by Lauren Lapinski

When we think of males and their hobbies, the first thing we usually think of is sports. From baseball to wrestling, if it’s a spectator sport, men will watch it. This is not the case, however, for Asuka Masamume of Otomen, a guy who loves all things girly, and who is forced to hide his passions to appear manly.

Some elements of the story seem a little bit far-fetched, but the story itself is rather cute. There are one or two interesting twists the reader comes across, and the characters are likeable; but the whole concept of what counts as “girly” and what is considered “manly” by the mangaka really needs to be brought into question here.

My biggest problem with this manga, if anything else, is the fact that all the characters, including Asuka, consider cooking to be only a feminine interest. Being the food fanatic that I am, I found this odd. The last time I checked, cooking was widely considered to be something both men and women could pursue. I also couldn’t help but wonder if Aya Kanno ever had time to watch TV or read a food magazine. I’m referring, of course, to the famous Japanese cooking show, Iron Chef. All of the chefs contestants could compete with were male, including the renowned Masaharu Morimoto. If that isn’t enough evidence, a search on Google reveals that there exists a world renowned pasty chef by the name of Sadaharu Aoki who is also a man.

Overall, the manga has is cute points and is admittedly an adorable read, but if you’re a foodie, you may find yourself wanting to grab the characters by the shoulders and shake them while screaming “Cooking isn’t just for girls!” repeatedly.

I understand Japan has very traditional views of gender roles, but this too exaggerated, especially considering the respect professional chefs seem to receive.