It would be a typical set-up — if the main character were a guy.
Obsessed with video games, living on a diet that would make a nutritionist blanch, and only caring for a pet kitty cat — the protagonist has no friends and, by default, no romantic life. School is the character's only escape from the voluntary prison of his bedroom, an eight-hour daily obstacle to raiding dungeons and salivating over anime waifus.
In anime, this typically male character can be considered a number of things: a shut-in, a NEET, a hikikomori. And this character, of course, will be thrust into a situation where he is surrounded by gorgeous females through whatever happenstance and winds up in a bundle of provocative scenarios no guy would normally get into.
It wishes fulfillment to the nth degree — a way for the viewer who may relate or be in a similar situation to insert himself into the show, choose the character he most likes, and live vicariously through his anime equivalent.
"Romantic Killer" by Wataru Momose shakes up this formula by making the typically male lead a female. Anzu Hoshino is a high schooler who loves video games, chocolate, and her adorable cat. Suddenly, all those things she loves are taken away by a magical fairy who claims that because of Japan's declining birthrate (ooh, social commentary!), his kind's magic is depleting because they get their power from children.
So the fairies are taking it upon themselves to choose the romantically disinclined and force them into crazy situations, so they fall in love, essentially creating the ideal shojo manga scenario.
Contrary to how most people in the situation would respond, Anzu doesn't want this at all. Taking her games and especially her cat means war. And even her parents have been shipped off to America on a surprise job transfer, leaving her entirely alone in her home, a tired romance trope that's perfect fodder for private trysts and doe-eyed antics.
"Romantic Killer" has Anzu shunting every plot device, knowing the fairies are using her in their questionable, pretty selfish plot to reinvigorate their mana through what is almost a forced marriage. Of course, the more she fights her fate, the more she realizes she actually loves the tall, aloof guy who is always bumping into her.
In its first volume, "Romantic Killer" offers many cute laughs and comfy vibes. This isn't a salacious story, it's meant to be a fun romantic comedy for teenage girls with many references to video games and other manga that will make older readers smile. As the lead character, Anzu is fun, cute, and easily relatable — though her muse is uninteresting and lacks much character aside from "hot guy."
Let's talk art now, and I found this manga to look a little flat and boring. Character designs don't stand out, and backgrounds and actions are all pretty bland. Shojo manga tends to overexaggerate the hotness or cuteness of a scene with sparkles, huge eyes, and a kind of brightness that can be cloying for a reader such as myself.
That particular style isn't on display here. Instead, we get full-color pages, a rarity in the manga. That splash of color makes otherwise middling art pop a bit more. Nothing about the presentation is bad, but nothing about it stands out, either.
Volume 1 ends with the introduction of another hot guy for Anzu to potentially fall in love with, a seemingly unnecessary addition given how much she develops with the first guy. Of course, it's just a means to prolong the story and create a love triangle that will result in many more familiar antics.
Another great romantic manga worth checking out: ‘Call of the Night’
Comprising four volumes, "Romantic Killer" is sure to become a favorite current release for fans of romantic comedies. I'm not the right demographic for this manga, but I still found myself engaged and enjoying this first volume to its cliffhanger conclusion.
And if you're on the fence, an anime adaptation is releasing it at the end of October on Netflix that will send fans scurrying to the bookstore to get a taste of the source material.
"Romantic Killer" manga releases Oct. 4
Manga provided by the publisher