We’re back with the next batch of contenders for Round 2 in Substandard Shoujo Spectacle. A quick summary of last part’s standings: Black Bird has managed to outdo its first chapter and has made it to an A-, whereas Suki Shite Sadist has toned things down a bit but there is still plenty of ridiculous things going on so it gets a B+. Meanwhile, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is barely keeping up because it actually has likeable leads and goes to great length to show us that Haru has problems but he’s getting better, so it finishes with a measly D+. What is this round going to bring us? A drop in quality for each of the manga, unfortunately.

Hot Gimmick

  • The popular girls are bitches as usual (can’t have a shoujo without that can we?), and our dear heroine must try to persuade them that there is nothing special about her relationship with Azusa (who is super popular with the ladies and a model to boot!)
  • Akane’s period magically came while Hatsumi was out getting her a pregnancy test. I don’t know whether I should laugh or roll my eyes.
  • Flashback to Ryouki groping her cause we can’t get enough of that. And look Hatsumi is already falling for heart-throb Azusa. All it took was for him to come to her defence just once. More shoujo cliches I say! I want MORE!
  • And of course Hatsumi’s little sister is totally oblivious to Ryouki’s asshole side and totally impressed with him. Ah, but maybe she is aware and likes that. After all, she abuses Subaru cause he’s a nerd (and nice) and if Suki Shite Sadist taught us anything, it’s that girls are just naturally drawn to the biggest jerks and completely disgusted with any guy that has even a single shred of respect towards woman.
  • Meanwhile Ryouki loses no time in reminding Hatsumi that she is his slave.

Don’t date the sluts, they are not worth it cause you know, who wants “used goods”.

  • Of course Ryouki assumes Hatsumi is a total slut and tells Subaru as much. I guess he figures since she’s a slut, using her for sex is a-ok! Of course sluts don’t mind having sex with random people at their beck and call. You know, this logic seems vaguely familiar. Where have I heard this before?
  • Ah, but Ryouki just feels like “bullying” her cause she laughs too much. Bullying? Riiiiight. I can see Ryouki and Naoya have been talking. Or is this the new buzzword for sexual assault in Japan? When Subaru suggests it’s cause he likes her, Ryouki denies it. Aw, how cute. Ryouki has the mentality of a 6 year old.
  • Ah, the usual girl bullying another girl because of a guy. It’s always great to see these awesome female relationships in manga.
  • And of course Hatsumi has no backbone so she doesn’t even say anything. But we like ’em nice and docile, don’t we? Ah, but Hatsumi doesn’t think getting bullied like that is her fault. It’s clearly all Azusa’s fault. Cause he’s a model and attractive. And her skipping class with him? That’s also clearly his fault! Damn you Azusa!
  • That’s right Hatsumi, don’t be stupid and think too deeply about Azusa asking you to help him shop for a bed. Wait, what are you doing? Why are you getting so frustrated with what you should wear? I thought you said you won’t think too deeply about this?
  • Ah that sweet talker Ryouki. Nothing like telling a girl to come to his house within 5 minutes and hanging up. I just love being ordered around. *swoon*
  • Hatsumi is determined to clarify things with Ryouki, but she ends up being scared into submission by his tendency to bark orders at her. Now we can’t have her be decisive and assertive, that’s just so not feminine. Plus how will we get all those kinky Ryouki and Hatsumi scenes if she actually tells him off? Clearly outside of endorsing this sort of behaviour, the only option is to have an extreme doormat. Guys, it’s progress!
  • Ryouki loses no time in getting things started. Oh, how I like a decisive and forceful man. That’s so totally masculine. Passivity is feminine and I don’t want no girly man.
  • Seems he’s been reading some guide book for sex for virgins. Book tells him when a girl says no she really means yes. Ah, but don’t worry, the book isn’t wrong! It notes that only girls with sexual experience are like that. When a virgin says no, she really means no. Clearly sex must be some crazy addictive stimulant cause once you get a taste, you can never ever say no. Makes one wonder how people managed birth control back in the day.
  • Ah, but don’t worry guys, he wasn’t actually intending to rape her. He just wanted to let his female teacher know he has a girlfriend. And what better way to do that then to pretend to be getting in on with her. I think I’m starting to understand why he’s a genius!

The Silver Lining?

It’s nice that Hatsumi isn’t falling for Ryouki but Azusa, who is treating her nicely. She slaps Ryouki when he tries to force himself on her and is clearly not ok with him expecting her to be his sex slave. But that’s about it. Nothing else really good to say outside of the aggressive sexual behaviours still being framed as unwanted and wrong. I mean the setup is just really tasteless. The author couldn’t come up with a more interesting setup to put her heroine through all this sexual exploitation and just blatantly has her heroine become an unwilling sex slave. I mean, this is the story line hentai works utilize cause they are lazy and only care about showing off the sex. When you have a story line that is used in 80% of hentai works, you clearly aren’t trying hard enough to at least pretend that you aren’t doing this for the sex.

Ranking: A-

Only Virgins Can Say No and Mean It. What an exceptional chapter! Hot Gimmick and Black Bird are really neck-in-neck. Although I do think Hot Gimmick still has the edge. Nothing like bringing up age old primitive notions of purity and soiled women being ok to use and abuse in our charming leading man. Where Kyo seems to genuinely care about Misao, Ryouki just wants to use Hatsumi for his sexual conquests because she’s a dirty slut. That alone shows us who is the king of the asshole hill. Now the only problem is Hatsumi’s rejection of Ryouki. If that can only be fixed, then Hot Gimmick will shoot up to the top and reach Suki Shite Sadist chapter 1 levels! Just a little more Hot Gimmick, you can do it!

Hadashi de Bara wo Fume

  • And in case you guys thought that the male lead in Hadashi is going to be all nice and sweet, Hadashi loses no time in making sure we know he’s a jerk. How? Why by having him boss Sumi around by forbidding her from speaking with anyone but him. Whew, and here I was worrying that Hadashi would give us one of those loser nice guys. I’m so happy we’ve got yet another ass for a love interest.
  • Ah, but Sumi is all lovey-dovey with Mr.Knight in Shining Armour (the first dude who saved her back in chapter 1). She even treasures that handkerchief he gave her. Aw, how cute. Nothing like falling head-over-heels for some random dude that gave you a bit of money and a handkerchief and worshipping anything that he has touched.
  • Not that that’s going to stop her from marrying our hero, Souichirou, though! My, she even stops to think just how much this resembles a painting. Nothing like thinking how pretty everything is when you are about to marry a stranger for money. I mean, what is there to be worrying about. Clearly everything will be fine! He must be an outstanding citizen, that’s why he buys a wife. I guess mail order brides were popular back in the Meiji era too.
  • And Souichirou loses no time in barking orders at Sumi once again. Gotta keep up that bad boy persona after all! It has such a proven success rate. She may be smitten by Mr. Shining Knight right now, but she’ll come around. They all do.
  • Oh dear, our heroine is rather slow it seems. She didn’t make the connection that she’s getting married until Souichirou points it out. Ah, got to love them nice and dumb, right?
  • For all her gaiety before, she becomes quite nervous now that she realizes she’s getting married right this instant. But not to worry, one touch from Souichirou and all is well. Guys, I’m having this weird deja-vu feeling. I could have sworn I’ve seen a scene like this already

There’s “glass is half full” optimism and then there’s this.

  • Now that Soichirou’s magic man touch has worked its magic, Sumi is all happy again. And she’s got a lot to be happy about, like for example, that she’s marrying a handsome rich dude. JACKPOT right? Sumi you should totally be Kei’s mom’s daughter, she would be so proud of you. You clearly get the feminine thing, unlike that silly Kei.
  • Aw, look more cute stupidness naiveness from Sumi: when she has to make her vow of love, she gets all flustered because she only promised to marry Souichirou for money. And OH MY GOD, how can I swear to love him in front of a Christian God when it’s all a lie?! Oh we totally understand Sumi, you have our sympathy. Wait, what’s that? You say Christians make up less than 1% of all Japanese people and were historically concentrated in western Japan? Psh, like historical accuracy is important. The most important thing is DRAMA! And we gotta have our heroine be all hot and bothered about vowing to love a man she doesn’t, even though she was so determined before and even though she should have no qualms about lying to a God she doesn’t believe in.
  • But we can’t have her say no either, so Souichirou must threaten our heroine with money once again to get her to say “I do” and when it comes to money, Sumi is willing to do anything. God? hah, money is her only god and salvation! What’s this you say? It doesn’t make sense that she hesitated? Nonsense! She clearly must to everything with drama and tension cause we have to make everything all dramatic. It wouldn’t be a shoujo soap opera otherwise! Clearly Hadashi is striving very hard to remain faithful to all the tried and true shoujo cliches. What’s a little character derailment in the grant scheme of things?
  • And of course we have our much needed non-consensual kiss! I mean no shoujo story wouldn’t be complete without one and Hadashi wants very much to be the super typical shoujo story. Ah, but Souichirou isn’t doing this willingly either cause he has to “kiss the bride” as per tradition, least people start suspecting him. See, he ain’t so bad!
  • HOLY SHIT SHE SLAPS HIM! What a delivery! What tension! This girl was clearly ready to become a prostitute one chapter ago. I cannot believe how mature and in control she is. She is simply an amazing character!
  • And that’s our big cliff-hanger for this week! What will happen?! Will Sumi lose her chance to make loads of money? Man my heart can’t take this, I’m sitting at the edge of my seat here!

The Silver Lining?

Ugh, you know all that good stuff I said about chapter 1? Well, it’s great that Souichirou didn’t save her cause of love and all, but this chapter was a massive drop in quality. I don’t know if I even care about his ulterior motives anymore. I just wanted to bang my head against my desk at the thought processes of Sumi. Really, what is this girl thinking? She’s marrying a total stranger and she’s off in LALA-landᵀᴹ. Chapter 1, how could you deceive me so?! Why did you tease me that Sumi might actually have a brain? You know how disappointing it is to see such a drop in quality? Ugh, so much drama, so much shoujo cliches. Honestly, it is loads better than Black Bird, Suki Shite Sadist, and Hot Gimmick in terms of how disturbing some of the messages are in those three, but this heroine is hard to take seriously. I mean, even for a real person that is super naive. I just cannot imagine anyone even coming close to the sorts of reactions Sumi had if they were placed into her situation. Look, it’s not offensive (beyond characterizing women as so infantile in their reactions) and that’s great, but I can’t really say I see anything good about it beyond that because the heroine is unlikable and the hero isn’t much better. I hate to say this, but Misao from Black Bird is a lot better. She may be put through loads of shit and likes a bastard like Kyo, but at least she isn’t so stupid. She actually uses her brain! She knows what her situation is like, that demons want her cause she’s the magic bride. She’s not off in LALA-landᵀᴹ and all happy and go lucky. I mean, Sumi is getting married to a total stranger for money. These aren’t the sort of reactions she should be having. Misao’s falling for Kyo may be unbelievable, but her other reactions don’t stick out like sore thumbs and make her look like she has the mentality of a six year old (and I’m probably insulting six year olds by saying this too because most of them would have more sense). Silver lining? Yeah, there is some, but for me personally, it’s not enough to save this chapter. Nor really worth mentioning cause, yeah, it’s nice and all that Sumi isn’t being subjected to groping, assault and whatnot, but if that’s the only good thing, that’s not saying much for this manga.

Ranking: B+

Overly Dramatic Shoujo Cliche Love Story #4759.  What a comeback! This is a total turnabout! I am utterly surprised and delighted that Hadashi found a way to make it back into the game. Really, there is nothing better than giving us a bossy egotistical male lead with a silly brain dead heroine, and filling up the story with as much cliches and drama as you can. Dare I start to expect things from Hadashi?

And that’s it for Part 2. Part 3 is the final part. This round had a lot of stuff going on for each manga, so the write ups were pretty long. Hopefully next round I won’t need to trim it into three parts. ^__^;;;;

–SW

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