Eensy-Weensy Monster

April 15, 2011 dreamkaleidoscope
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Note: This review is a bit more spoiler-filled than my usual reviews, since I had some issues with the ending.

TITLE: Eensy-Weensy Monster
RATING: Teen (13+)
SCORE: 7 (Good)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Masami Tsuda (mangaka of Kare Kano), romance, comedy

My last few reviews have been heavy on CLAMP, so this month I’ve decided to focus on Eensy-Weensy Monster, a new series from the mangaka of Kare Kano.

Compared to genius Renge and beautiful Nobara, her two best friends, Nanoha Satsuki is just your average, ordinary high school student. She’s frequently overlooked by her classmates and teachers until one day she unleashes her inner “monster” on Hazuki Tokiwa, the “prince” of the school. Everything about him — his looks, his popularity, his grades, his athletic ability — gets on her nerves for no apparent reason, and the usually nice Nanoha tells him off, calling him an “arrogant bastard” to his face.  

Hazuki ends up taking Nanoha’s words to heart and realizes that she’s right. He’s vain and superficial and only cares about himself. Deciding that he wants to become a better person, he stops hanging around his adoring fangirls, causing his popularity to take a hit, and strikes up a friendship with a disbelieving Nanoha, eventually falling in love with her. But is it Nanoha he really likes, or is it the “monster” inside of her?

Eensy-Weensy Monster is a very sweet and funny romance. There’s no annoying third parties trying to break them up — unless you count Hazuki’s fangirls, who make a half-hearted attempt to separate them in one chapter before finding an even more handsome “prince” to swoon over — and no melodramatic plot twists to keep them apart, just simple misunderstandings as Nanoha and Hazuki struggle to comprehend their growing feelings for each other as they fall in love for the first time. That’s probably the series’ greatest strength. Tsuda does a wonderful job of showing how two people can have wildly different interpretations of the same event. For example, in one scene, Hazuki comes across Renge giving Nanoha tutoring lessons. He smiles, admiring how hard she’s working to understand the lesson, but Nanoha thinks he’s laughing at her since doing well in school comes so easily to him. Moments like these make it understandable why it takes a while before the two of them get together.

The problem is, due to the way the series is structured, it takes <i>too</i> long for them to get on the same wavelength. The series is twelve chapters long, with each chapter covering a month of time. For the most part, this works fine in the first volume. They don’t like each other at first, after all, and it takes time for them to become close since Nanoha isn’t sure if Hazuki is sincere in his desire to be her friend. It’s realistic that it would take a few months before Nanoha accepted Hazuki as a true friend. However, in the second volume, though Hazuki realizes he’s in love with Nanoha and confesses to her in June, they don’t officially get together until the last chapter, happening in November. That’s six months Nanoha keeps Hazuki waiting for an answer to his confession, even though she realizes she’s in love with him too in August.

You really have to admire Hazuki’s patience; most people would probably give up after waiting so long for an answer to their declaration of love. In fact, if Hazuki had started dating somebody else during that six month period, it would make sense why Nanoha waited so long to tell him that she loved him, too. Unfortunately, the misunderstandings that were so charming in the first half of the series start to wear a bit thin in the second as Nanoha makes a mountain out of a molehill, misinterpreting something Hazuki says in the worst possible manner. Honestly, the last few chapters would have worked better if they had happened over the course of a couple of weeks, not months. The one month/one chapter set-up is a clever enough gimmick, but I just can’t help but feel it was really unnecessary for a story like this one.

Still, the likable characters and gentle humor make up some for the mistakes in pacing. I particularly enjoyed Hazuki’s development from clueless, self-obsessed pretty boy to somebody who truly cares about others. I liked his resolve to become a better person, even if it meant losing some of his popularity, and his genuine admiration of Nanoha is very touching, especially since Nanoha doesn’t think she’s anybody special. I also found his slight jealousy of Nobara — who is so beautiful and charming that even the girls want her — quite hilarious. As for Nanoha, she’s admittedly most interesting whenever her “little monster” makes an appearance, but even the “normal” Nanoha can be a little devilish at times, cutely flirting with Hazuki without even realizing it. I also enjoyed the friendship between Nanoha, Renge, and Nobara, which unfortunately fades mostly to the background in the second volume. It would be easy for someone like Nanoha to feel at least a little resentful toward her friends for their brains and beauty, but she doesn’t at all.  

As for the artwork, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Tsuda’s drawing style. Her noses come out strange sometimes, and she overdoes the screentone whenever characters blush or are flustered, which happens often. Still, some of the page layouts are really effective, especially when showing Hazuki’s and Nanoha’s point of views of the same event side-by-side.

I debated between giving this an eight or a seven. The second volume isn’t as good as the first due to the strict adherence to the one month/one chapter format and the relative lack of Renge and Nobara, but the story still made me smile. I also really enjoyed the way Tsuda explored both Hazuki and Nanoha’s feelings in nearly equal measure over the course of the series. In the end, I gave it a seven, but it’s really borderline. I’d still recommend Eensy-Weensy Monster to anybody looking for a cute romantic comedy that isn’t too much of a strain on the wallet.

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