Mangaka: Mika Yamamori
Publisher: Yen Press (@YenPress)
Translator: Taylor Engel
Lettering: Lys Blakeslee
WHAT IS IT?
A young girl is forced to work for a reclusive author to pay off her father’s debts in this comedic, slice-of-life manga series.
Think Me Before You meets Cinderella.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
When Fumi Ohno’s father comes home and tells her that he’s drowning in debt, she doesn’t think life could get any worse. That’s when she’s forcefully evicted from her home and offered a job with benefits that she simply can’t afford to turn down. Free room and board in exchange for housekeeping and care of an elderly writer named Akatsuki Kibikino sounds like a dream come true. So, Fumi decides to take up the offer and heads to the Tsubaki-chou neighborhood to meet her new employer, with dreams of paying off her father’s debt through hard work and dedication. It’s only when she opens the door to find a young man lying on the ground that she realizes the great novelist is no kindly elder as she assumed. He’s a grumpy, strange twenty-something who is less than enthused that his new housekeeper is no more than a child. Will these two unlikely individuals find a way to work things out, or will Fumi find herself out on the streets before she can even prove herself worthy?
Yamamori’s art style is delightful. With soft shading and lines, the character designs take center stage in every panel. There’s a traditional shoujo* lean to the illustrations that feels nostalgic, and the modern aesthetics of the characters breathe new life into that cozy style we all know and love.
Fumi’s situation is grounded in realism and the cast is written in a manner that is both charming and down to earth. The high schoolers feel like high schoolers, while the other various age ranges read appropriately for their ages, which helps make the manga feel realistic.
Engel and Blakeslee handled the translation and lettering well. The text is easy to read and shadowed appropriately so that it doesn’t get lost against the artwork, and the translation notes are extremely helpful.
The story itself is an easy, low-key read. It's part comedy, part coming-of-age, and part slice-of-life, making for an enjoyable narrative about the hardships of life and persevering through the complexities without letting it dim your spirit.
Fumi is an incredible main character. Her determination and innocence is endearing, while working through the coming-of-age moments, she begins to see the realities of the world around her. It makes her an empathetic protagonist you want to root for.
Stories about writers are becoming quite common in manga nowadays and, while a bit cliche, Akatsuki’s mannerisms and personality perfectly capture the realities of the creative mind/worker. He balances out Fumi’s optimistic side exceptionally well.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Mild language, some uncomfortable scenes of men being gross and inappropriate, though nothing explicit is shown, and petty high school bullying.
The dynamic between Fumi and Akatsuki is a little odd. There seems to be a developing romantic interest, which is strange considering that Fumi is only sixteen years old and Akatsuki is twenty-eight. They do seem to also elude that Fumi has zero interest in romance or dating, so it’s unclear as to what direction the relationship between the two will take in future volumes.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet is a delightful tale of a young girl caught up in a bad situation who refuses to let the world bring her down. While she’s practically sold off to a cranky novelist to work off a debt that doesn’t belong to her, she never once lets it dim her spirit. That level of pure positivity is charming and it warms your heart more and more with every turn of the page. The well-rounded cast of characters, story steeped in realism, and coming-of-age aspects will draw you in from moment one.
This new series from Yen Press is perfect for fans of titles like Fruits Basket and Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits, and those who like stories that focus on kindhearted and hardworking female leads with actual personalities and substance. This beautifully illustrated manga has a lot of heart and an interesting set-up that will rope you in and have you impatiently waiting for the next installment.
HOW DO I READ IT?
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*shoujo is a genre of manga known for its cute characters and romance lean