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March 11, 2013

Bento Bako Weekly: Otomen volume 14

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Otomen
Author: Aya Kanno
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 14 (of 18), $9.99
Vintage: 2012 by Hakusensha, January 2013 by Viz Media
Genre: Romantic comedy

Asuka and Ryo take a bit of a back seat in this volume, to make way for stories focused on Kitora, Kasuga, and Hajime. Kitora wins a local market contest that nets him two pairs of tickets for an overseas trip to Pukkanabona, home of the legendary flower Delamezla. As it’s couples only, he invites Asuka and Ryo along, as well as Juta’s little sister, Kuriko. When they arrive, Pukkanabona is nothing like the flower paradise it was advertised as. In fact, the place is covered in snow and the sun never breaks through the clouds. They’re also met with a very excited tour guide who looks amazingly like Juta, but who is a native to the country named Yuta. Yuta announces that they are the town’s very first tourists, and he’s orchestrated a tour to draw in tourism for his home town. The experience includes sleeping in a traditional (and very cold) tent outdoors, forming balls of dough into delicious bread, visiting a large snow covered rock, and exploring an old road buried under the snow. Kitora, of course, cares only about one thing – the Legendary Flower. But Yuta is being evasive and insists they will see it later during their visit. An impatient Kitora chases after what appears to be a flower spirit, and ends up “attacked” by it out in the snow. Feeling he has been rejected by the thing he loves the most, a dejected Kitora returns, and everyone is told the true story of Pukkanabona. Kitora, who has always felt that flowers were everything, and he would be alone without them, learns that he is not alone because he has friends who care for him. Not only that, but rather than be obsessed with the flowers himself, he wants to share their beauty with his friends. Next up is Kasuga, who will be graduating soon and heading off to college. But before he goes, he wants to confess his true feelings to the woman he loves – Jewel Sachihana. He’s not the only one preparing for the next stage in life, however, as Hajime has just been told he is meant to succeed his father in politics. Asuka fails to realize that Kasuga wants to confess his feelings for Jewel, and instead thinks the young man is after the shojo author’s true identity (ie: Asuka, who was disguised as her before). He tries to enlist Hajime’s help, but is blown off as Hajime is attempting to focus on their upcoming kendo match.

The bulk of this volume centers of Kitora and his search for the Legendary Flower. It’s a nice little story, about friendship, and sharing your treasures with those you love. Kitora learns a lesson about himself and the way others feel about him, specifically that he’s not as alone as he once thought, because those around him genuinely care for his well being. He also learns that the things that mean the most to him can mean even more when he shares them with his friends. The hunt for the Legendary Flower becomes a joint experience for the whole group rather than just Kitora’s singular goal. Plus Kuriko gets to see some very lovely expressions on the usually stoic boy’s face. Hajime’s role this volume brings some serious tones along with it. He just wants to follow his own path, and has been working hard to achieve that goal. At his father’s wish, he has been avoiding his true self and focusing on becoming the best at kendo, hoping that once he makes it to the top, has proven himself, he’ll be able to choose his own path. Unfortunately, his father surprises him with yet another designated path as his successor, leaving him at a loss. How can he be true to himself while becoming what his father wants him to be? That’s a struggle for the remaining four volumes. Kasuga, meanwhile, appears to be wrapped up rather nicely. Remarkably, he overcomes much of his hatred for otomen as Asuka helps him prepare (unknowingly) for a date with Jewel. He’s still not entirely over his past with Asuka, but he does appear to understand his former friend better, and even respect some of his hobbies. After all, baking a cake together, especially when it’s going to be given to someone you love, can be quite fun indeed. Everyone is turning toward the future, trying to figure out how to follow their own desires while not disappointing those around them. Fortunately, they’re surrounded by those who care about and support them, and appreciate them for who they truly are. That’s going to go a long way in their remaining time as carefree high school students.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.



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