I always keep an eye out for new and interesting boys’ love titles, and one that recently caught my attention was Tea Cup Toy Boy, published by Juné Manga. The collection features three short stories, all by Memo Kamiya. The titular story stars Toi, a high school student who wakes up one day to find himself shrunk so small he can fit in a tea cup. “The Happy End Credits to the Princes,” meanwhile, follows a pair of classmates named Yamato and Hinata. Hinata has a one-sided crush on Yamato, who decides to at least try going on a date with the other boy, and the plot unfolds from there. The final manga included, “How to Train an Incapable Boyfriend,” is about a couple getting on each other’s nerves due to domestic trivialities. So, is this volume good?
The collection’s titular story is easily its best. The magical realism of the premise is fun, and by and large the execution’s strong. The opening panels with Toi sitting in his tea cup is funny, as are various shots of him using toy furniture and other small objects. There are also a number of cute panels in which he finds himself face to face with cats or other previously innocuous things, resulting in majorly shifted power balances. Toi’s condition largely goes unexplained, save for a later complication: upon falling in love his heart literally grows in size. The matter-of-fact presentation of the plot is very effective. Rather than asking the reader to analyze events beyond their face value, the story allows one to embrace all the silliness for what it is. Kamiya even lampshades Toi’s predicament a bit as his parents and doctor seem much less concerned with his sudden shrinkage than he does.
Unfortunately, the story’s actual character development and the pacing of the romance are less successful. Neither member of the love triangle besides Toi is particularly well fleshed out. Their introductory scenes give solid first impressions of their personalities, but there’s little growth for them as individuals or as potential partners for Toi. Cute though some of the flirting may be, the heartfelt declarations of love toward the story’s end don’t feel fully earned. Given how intertwined this aspect of the story is with the resolution to Toi’s shrinkage, it also undercuts how the fantasy element plays out. The concluding sex scene also feels tacked on and unneeded.
The book’s other two stories are similar to the first in that they impress overall but still have significant flaws. “How to Train an Incapable Boyfriend” has arguably the most well-developed characters in the collection, and their back-and-forth bickering is both well-paced and entertaining. On the downside, the ending is a bit predictable and falls flat. On the other hand, “The Happy End Credits to the Princes” has a solid premise but is a mixed bag character-wise. The unsure nature of the protagonists’ feelings for each other is well-handled throughout the first half or so, but the resolutions to their characters arcs feel predetermined and lack convincing build-up. The manga isn’t terrible by any means though, and it more or less accomplishes what it sets out to do: deliver a light and fluffy story where two leads get together by the end.
While the writing throughout this collection is a bit of a mixed bag, the art is not. Kamiya’s visuals are very effective at setting the tone, conveying characters’ personalities, and just plain being pleasing to look at. The facial expressions run a full range from over-the-top and comical to emotionally earnest, helping the manga feel as emotionally driven as one would expect from boys’ love romance. The shading, patterns, and page compositions all look good and boost each other’s strengths. A lot of the more well-paced scenes and effective comedy also owe a lot of their success to how Kamiya structures them visually, quickly cutting back and forth between subjects to highlight both major and minor tonal shifts.
Overall, Tea Cup Toy Boy is an enjoyable collection. The main story makes fun use of magical realism with its memorable premise, as well as delivers good comedy. The art throughout the book is strong as well, although the character work and pacing of the romances leave a bit to be desired. Nonetheless, this isn’t bad for a lighthearted read.
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