Saturday, January 25, 2020

REVIEW: My Girlfriend's a Geek (manga, vol. 1) story by Pentabu, art by Rize Shinba, translated by Stephen Paul

My Girlfriend's a Geek is a contemporary romantic comedy series based on the real-life relationship of author Pentabu and his girlfriend. I wrote about the first volume of Pentabu's original book about 7 years ago.


Taiga is a broke college student who really wants a "cool" part-time job, meaning something that pays well, is easy and close to college, and would involve working with cute female coworkers. When he spots a cute employee through the window of an apparel store advertising for a warehouse loading and unloading position, he jumps at the chance. He easily gets the job...and then spends the next few weeks struggling to even find moments to talk to Yuiko, the cute employee he spotted. When he does manage to talk to her, he can't always keep the conversation going, and he's worried that the summer is going to end before he has a chance to ask her out on a date.

Taiga does manage to get his chance, but his interactions with Yuiko are a bit odd. Why does she get so excited when she sees him in glasses? Why does it sometimes seem like they're talking about completely different things when they talk about manga? Before they started dating, Yuiko told him that she's a fujoshi, but what does that even mean?

I think I bought this, as well as the second volume, because I knew this series was going to be short (5 volumes total) and therefore less daunting. But that wasn't really a good excuse. I already knew what this series was based on - a popular blog in which Pentabu wrote about his relationship with his fujoshi girlfriend, which he later published in book form. I reviewed volume 1 of the book about 7 years ago and was very conflicted about it, so I probably should have passed the manga by. If I was going to read it, I should have used interlibrary loan. But I didn't, so now I have two volumes in my collection to read and review.

I think I was hoping that the story would work better in manga form. Unfortunately, so far it doesn't. Taiga and Yuiko both came across as shallow. Taiga literally chose what job to apply for based on his instant attraction to a random stranger, and Yuiko's interest in Taiga seemed to be at least partly based on the fantasy scenarios she mentally put him in (going ga-ga for him the instant he puts on glasses, the whole Sebas and Uke-Sebas thing). Taiga was repeatedly baffled or horrified by Yuiko's fujoshi fantasies, and I couldn't understand why the two of them continued to date each other. They didn't really have anything in common, beyond the one manga series they enjoyed for completely different reasons.

It's getting to the point where I wince whenever I read a manga or watch an anime where a main or prominent female character is called a fujoshi. There will almost always be a scene where the character observes two real human beings (sexuality sometimes known and sometimes not, but honestly it doesn't matter either way) in her vicinity and fantasizes that they're in love with each other. It's one thing to fantasize about fictional characters in whatever relationships you'd like, but doing that with real people, particularly when you're aware that it would make those people uncomfortable, just seems gross to me. And of course Yuiko did it in this volume with Taiga and his friend Kouji, much to Taiga's horror when he found out. (Again, why are Taiga and Yuiko still dating?)

The one thing in the story that I really liked, although it was very brief, was the explicit recognition that that the fictional character types people find attractive may have nothing in common with what they find attractive in real life. That came up during Yuiko and Taiga's discussion of Yuiko's current favorite fictional character.

If I didn't already have volume 2 in my collection, I'd probably be stopping here. The characters really don't work for me. As for the artwork, it was decent enough, if not particularly memorable. I can think of several shojo series it reminds me of.


Two full-color pages, an afterword essay by Pentabu, a page of translation notes, and an excerpt from the first volume of the books this manga is based on. There are also a few pages with further details about the manga Yuiko and Taiga keep talking about, as well as a "fujoshi glossary" explaining terms such as "seme," "uke," "gap," etc. Some of the words were ones I hadn't realized had fujoshi meanings ("concubine," "queen," etc.).

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