There’s no shortage of manga series about straight couples that intentionally play with gender roles and expectations. Otomen, My Androgynous Boyfriend, The Way of the House-Husband, etc. Another such series has just been localized courtesy of Kodansha: Natsumi Shiba’s Mr. Bride. The manga stars Hayami and Yamamoto, a pair of co-workers who end up in an unusual pseudo-courtship. Hayami is Yamamoto’s senior at work but she’s the less responsible one in terms of housework and general cleanliness. Upon coming to her house and seeing how filthy it is, Yamamoto takes it upon himself to start cleaning up for her. The two bond through the experience, with Yamamoto ultimately taking on the role of Hayami’s “wife.” So, does this domestic comedy get off to a good start?
The success of any romance is largely contingent on the couple in question’s dynamic, and Hayami and Yamamoto make for a great pair. The aspects of their personalities initially brought out by the series’ premise are natural sources of tension, but also quickly relatable and likable. Depending on one’s mood its easy to be either a Hayami or a Yamamoto: exhausted from work and getting lazy, or alternatively looking at messes and feeling disgusted that they’ve gotten so bad. There’s never a sense that the manga is judging either character too harshly, which helps prevent it from becoming too melodramatic. More sides to the characters get revealed as the volume develops as well, making for a satisfying read.
The series also excels artistically. Shiba’s use of screen tones is absolutely fantastic. Utilized liberally for purposes of shading and enhancing the mood throughout, they always look meticulously applied. The color balance between light grays and darker blacks is always well-balanced, which helps make the patterns all the more pleasing to look at. The sheer variety in screen tones used is also impressive; there are never any issues with the visuals becoming too repetitive or predictable.
The line-work throughout is also very nice; the subtle variation in line weights is pleasing to look at and the characters’ facial expressions range from the humorous to the emotionally moving. Shiba’s work successfully straddles the line of looking polished and consistent while also retaining enough room for slight stylistic shifts in service of enhancing the story or individual punchlines.
Besides all this, Mr. Bride‘s comedic timing is also great. The flow of action across panels is always clear and easy to follow, with characters frequently disrupting slower paced sequences via quick, impactful wit. This frequently plays out with Yamamoto having extreme or unexpected reactions to Hayamo right after page turns. As previously mentioned there are also brief changes in artistic style that contribute to the comedy. These usually concern the rendering of Yamamoto’s face, which is sometimes rendered with much less detail or alternatively with deeper, horror manga-esque inking and hatching.
In terms of cons, the only matter of note is the story’s pacing. While individual scenes are well-paced, the overall progression of the characters’ relationship still seems a bit fast. This may be due to Shiba wanting to expedite events to the point of the couple’s cohabitation, but it still doesn’t feel fully justified within the manga itself. The quick pacing here also robs the reader of the chance to see more of the couple’s pivotal bonding on the page itself.
All in all, Mr. Bride is a very promising series debut. Shiba takes a simple concept and executes it effectively via strong comedic timing, lovely use of screen tones, and solid character development. It takes little time at all to grow attached to the lead couple and start rooting for the success of their not-yet-quite-a-romance. The volume’s only notable con is the degree to which is rushes some plot elements, but it remains a funny read even while doing so. Romantic comedy fans should definitely check this series out.
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