Bento Bako Weekly: Ai Ore! Love Me volume 2
When we last left off, Akira was taking out some revenge on Misaki Dojima by having his friend Rui fake rape her to teach her a lesson (sigh, really?). Fortunately, Mizuki rushes in to stop it before things go too far (honestly, I’m not sure how far Akira would have let it gone; I can’t rule out that he would have let Rui flat out rape her rather than just give her a little scare). She pushes through Akira and pulls Rui off the terrified Misaki, as Akira looks on, confused that Mizuki would help the girl after what she did to her. (Here’s a hint: It’s because Mizuki isn’t a dick, like a certain someone.) Akira laments his failure as a man, as he couldn’t protect Mizuki (remember, Ran saved her), nor was he able to carry out his retaliation (because, you know, that’s manly). All is forgiven (siiiiiiiigh) as Mizuki realizes that Akira was just trying to protect her. After a rather erotic dream about Akira, Mizuki heads out to meet him for their first official date. While they’re eating, Mizuki spills milk on her clothes, so Akira takes her out to buy some new ones at a boutique. As the store clerk helps pick outfits, it becomes obvious she thinks that Akira is the girl in the relationship, and Mizuki nearly rushes out in embarrassment and anger. Seeing she’s upset, Akira drags her back and dresses her up in the changing room. When she comes out, she is shocked that everyone there is looking at her, awed by her beauty. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of this sudden makeover is that Mizuki immediately starts getting hit on by other guys. Just when Mizuki is reveling in how happy and excited she’s felt all day, Akira switches gears and demands that Mizuki change back into her normal clothes, annoyed that other men than he have seen how beautiful she really is (what? I seriously almost threw up.). Later, Akira manages to land the band a gig at a local club, but on the way home, it starts to rain. Mizuki, wanting to spend more time with him, invites Akira home while no one else is there. Akira (like a typical guy, apparently) thinks he’s been invited in for some sexy time, and puts the moves on Mizuki, but she freaks out and starts crying, which finally gets Akira to stop. As things cool down, Mizuki’s sister comes home and lets in a visitor – former neighbor and Mizuki’s childhood friend, the tall and handsome Shinnosuke. When Shinnosuke sees that Mizuki is going out with a short and weak looking guy like Akira, he becomes angry and argues that Mizuki deserves someone better suited to her. Akira gets defensive and angry, so Shinnosuke, who is a professional boxer, suggests they fight it out in the ring. Akira uses his pretty boy qualities to his advantage in the fight, and ends up getting a few good shots in before declaring that he’s actually the youngest son of a prestigious martial arts family. Shinnosuke accepts that Akira has what it takes to protect Mizuki, but when she goes to apologize to him afterward, Shinnosuke confesses his feelings, and reveals that he worked hard to become strong and manly for her sake. Shinnosuke realizes that being with Akira is going to generate some self-esteem issues for Mizuki. Bothered by Shinnosuke’s words, Mizuki later runs away from Akira after people confuse their gender as they’re walking down the street together (and flat out admits she’s always felt insecure about it…she’s just gotten “used to it”). So when Shinnosuke shows up at her school the next day and offers to take her out, she hesitates only a moment before agreeing. While she’s out with Shinnosuke, no one mistakes her for a guy, his friends think she’s pretty, and no one stares at them as they walk down the street together; all the opposite of when she’s with Akira. As she struggles to figure out why she’s so bothered by not being treated like a woman since she hooked up with Akira, she spots Akira, dressed up like a girl, handing out fliers for their upcoming concert. She suddenly realizes that she’s always been a woman to Akira, and had been too caught up in what other people thought of her to see how happy he makes her. Shinnosuke realizes this, and gives up for the time being, but vows to become the perfect man for Mizuki and steal her heart. It’s Rui Kiryuin’s turn to find himself in a spot of trouble next, as he’s dealing with an arranged marriage with a rival yakuza clan, with a girl he wants nothing to do with. To try and get out of it, Rui hits up Akira to pose as his girlfriend. Akira refuses, so Rui and Ran approach Mizuki next, which of course gets Akira to change his mind. Mizuki misunderstands the situation, and when Akira falls seriously ill, she steps in to play the part of the perfect yakuza woman for Rui. When Akira’s illness keeps him from school, Mizuki decides to visit him. Thinking she’s just another Dankaisan classmate come to bother Akira, Akira’s three martial arts championship brothers (in judo, K-I, and Iaido, from oldest to youngest) try to throw her out. Akira manages to rescue her, but they bull him a bit in his weakness, prompting Mizuki to step in and take over his care. The three brothers are clearly inept at caring for the sick Akira, and it’s at this point that Mizuki learns their mother died many years ago. Once Akira is better, it’s school festival time. The boys decide to use Akira’s cuteness to bring the girls to Dankaisan, by having him dress up as a kitten and letting the girls take photos of him. As things escalate when the girls become more and more demanding, Mizuki arrives just in time and puts a stop to everything. Things quickly switch over to St. Nobara’s festival, where Mizuki is playing the part of a prince for ecstatic fan girls for her class’s café. Annoyed at watching Mizuki flirt with the girls (yes, with other girls, not guys), Akira decides to put the kibosh on Mizuki’s princely act for the rest of the day by interfering with the Sleeping Beauty play. After ruining Mizuki’s concentration by putting himself in the princess role, Akira then “helps” her save the show, but he’s not through interfering. The prince tournament is Mizuki’s last chance to shine, and of course, Akira interferes there, too.
This series makes me want to scream and hurl things. Like my lunch. Or this book, into a fire. I have volume 3 sitting here too, and I should have done them together to get it over with, but I could only stomach one of them this week (and you can see by its release date how long I’ve been putting this one off). There’s just so much wrong with this series, not the least of which being that our heroine, Mizuki, would be better off with literally any other guy in the series than Akira. He is a first class asshat, and I want to punch him in the face repeatedly. He takes Mizuki out to try on some cute, girly clothes, but when people start complimenting her, he grows angry and jealous and demands that she change back into her regular clothes. It’s a rare man who doesn’t want to show off his woman, but Akira’s actions have a more serious effect on Mizuki. She is frequently mistaken for a boy (especially when she’s running around with Akira), and is rarely complimented on her femininity or beauty. When it finally happens, she is so amazed and thrilled…then Akira takes it away. I just want to pound his head into a wall. Akira thinks Mizuki should just be happy that he thinks she’s pretty, and, you know, we should all only care about what our partner thinks of us, and blah blah. But it doesn’t actually work that way. I’m sure Mizuki is happy that Akira knows how beautiful she can be, but even she admits how happy a little recognition makes her. Why is Akira so paranoid and jealous that he has to take that away from her? He’s an enormous hypocrite, to boot. Mizuki isn’t allowed to go showing herself off, but apparently that rule doesn’t apply to Akira himself. Then Shinnosuke comes along, a young man who has worked hard to be a man who can stand beside Mizuki. When Mizuki is with him, she doesn’t have to worry about being mistaken for the boyfriend in the relationship (though honestly, if Akira would stop dressing like he’s twelve, she probably wouldn’t have to deal with that with him either), and no one stares at them because they look as normal as any other couple. Akira basically doesn’t do jack shit to earn Mizuki. Well…OK, I guess he cross dresses so he can help their band. But that’s about it. He’s overbearing, jealous, and manipulative. What the hell does Mizuki see in him? Because I sure haven’t seen any redeeming qualities that would make me even remotely interested in the two of them as a romantic pair, or anything that makes me like him, or want to root for him. Akira annoys me throughout most of this volume, including near the end where he gets fussy over her flirting with other girls, and interferes with Mizuki’s cool princely demeanor. It would be fine if Mizuki was putting on that act unwillingly, or didn’t enjoy it, or whatever, and Akira was trying to help her change for her sake. But he’s not. It’s all because of his jealousy. It’s also contradictory, since before he didn’t want her looking pretty and feminine because it drew the attraction of other men, and then he doesn’t want her looking cool and princely because it draws the attraction of girls. So…I guess he should just lock her up somewhere so no one else can ever see her. She’s completely captivated by him (for some reason), so I don’t know what he’s so freaking worried about.
I’ll admit that Shinnosuke isn’t a whole lot better. He thinks he knows what Mizuki needs, and insists that it isn’t Akira, but himself. At least he’s willing to work for it, to earn Mizuki’s attention and love. I’ve seen worse characters like this who try to pull the main couple apart just because they think they’re better than the other guy, without putting any effort in to win the girl on their own. Shinnosuke thinks he’s the better choice for Mizuki, but rather than simply try to push Akira out of the picture, he’s willing to put the effort into winning Mizuki over and show her why he’s the better man. He seems content to leave her with Akira, actually, but not content to put aside his own feelings. He’s able to see that Mizuki deeply cares for Akira, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to deny his own feelings, just that he seems willing to respect Mizuki’s choice.
At any rate, I really can’t recommend this title to anyone. Unless you’re specifically looking for something mindless and ridiculous, then maybe. But there are other series out there that do that better. I’ve yet to find a single redeeming feature about this series. I don’t find it funny, cute, sexy, or charming, and in fact it makes me physically ill on occasion. The art’s actually not that bad, and Mayu Shinjo comes up with some neat clothing designs sometimes, but there’s nothing special about either of those things to carry the rest of the series.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.