I’ve kind of moved away from reading high school romance manga the last couple years. Mostly because I felt like I couldn’t handle the drama and the kinds of tropes that are commonly used in those stories. But, there are still a few times I’ve dipped back into those kinds of manga, and Abe-kun’s Got Me Now was one of those times. I saw it pop up on Twitter, which is where I get most of my recommendations these days, and thought it might be interesting. I was mostly caught by the cover of a super tall, muscly man holding a girl over her shoulder. If you’ve read my reviews before, I’m sure you know that I’m a sucker for a tough guy with a heart of gold, so I thought maybe this manga would have some of those qualities and be generally enjoyable. So, I picked up a copy through Comixology and started reading. The more I read though, the more I got the sense that this might not be exactly my cup of tea, but it was entertaining enough to continue until the end at least. The series is created by Aki Iwai and published for English release by Kodansha.
The story centers around high-school girl Akari who could care less about the school’s beefy, gorilla-esque sport stars, particularly Abe-kun the Karate Club Ace in her class. But after Abe-kun hurts his arm after preventing a basketball from hitting her in the face, she takes it upon herself to make sure he gets healed up. Shocked by her kindness, Abe confesses his love for her, and will not take her disinterest in him as an answer. Unused to dealing with strong, pushy guys, she tries her best to avoid his advances even as she feels herself being drawn into his strength.
Iwai has a fairly standard shoujo manga style. It’s not particularly fantastic, but I think it’s strong for what the manga is trying to be. The pages aren’t too crowded with panels or text so the art and story has some time to breathe and make an impact in the important moments. However, it does have a common problem that I see in a lot of shoujo romances where artists have trouble drawing proportions right, especially when it comes to the hands and some other body parts. I find myself staring at Abe’s hands and thinking, that isn’t quite right…, as I’m going through the pages. There have also been a few instances where I thought the face proportions have been off or a little janky. It hasn’t completely impacted my enjoyment of the manga, but these are the things I can’t quite stop myself from noticing.
Iwai can definitely draw muscles though, and it definitely adds a nice touch to her manga. Abe and the whole karate team are put on show with their large muscles, with Abe frequently taking off his shirt to show off or just being generally unaware of the people around him. It is quite enjoyable from the romance and visual standpoint, and I do think it makes up for some of the more janky art that we see in other parts of the volume. Iwai also does a pretty good job with action shots and perspective. Abe is always stepping in dramatically to make his thoughts and feelings known, and we see these very dramatic action shots from him pop up once and awhile. I think these definitely add quite a bit of visual interest to the whole volume and adds to the dramatic mood that is constantly being refreshed and added to throughout the plot.
As for the story and characters, I’m not entirely sure how I feel. It has the air of a pretty typical shoujo manga, filled with drama, pushy love interests, and power plays as they go through the whole “will they won’t they” stage of things. The biggest issue in the whole series is Abe as a character. He makes me slightly uncomfortable as a love interest and I can feel Akari vacillating between being attracted to him and being alarmed by some of the things he does to her. From the moment he confesses to her he makes it a point to tell her that he doesn’t lose to anyone, like winning her affection is some kind of competition that he can win through brute force. I hope you all see why this is alarming. I used to be fine with manga with these types of male characters, but now I really can’t stomach them. Seeing abusive tactics being normalized in manga that is targeting teenage girls who are just getting into dating makes me worried for how those girls are going to see and internalize these ideas. Abe, in real life, would be someone I would tell people to stay away from.
Akari frequently points out how she prefers her childhood friend’s more quiet and less tough demeanor to Abe’s, but is constantly pressured by Abe and her friend to form some kind of relationship with him. She is constantly telling him no, rejecting his advances, and finally tells him to straight up quit it with the pushy behavior, but he still won’t give up. The concept behind his character is that he is a winner at everything, and that through his perseverance he’ll win her heart. However, the things that he does would constitute abuse in the real world. When she is invited to be the Karate Club’s manager, he rejects this idea completely, telling them all that he doesn’t want to share her attention and she shouldn’t be nice to them. This is a classic tactic used to distance someone from other people to make them dependent on the other person. This made me cringe, but then he decides to take it up a notch and traps her in the boys dormitory, in a bed, on top of her, basically implying he wants to have sex with her.
Then the volume ends. That’s where we end, with the prospect of Akari being assaulted. Even though we see some indications that she has feelings for him, how much legitimacy can we attribute to this relationship that is founded on his inability to give her space or take no for an answer? I’m not sure if I will pick up the next volume, and honestly I’m glad I decided to buy it on Comixology and not in physical form to avoid having to find somewhere to donate the copy or have it take up space on my bookshelf. But maybe I’m being too harsh here, and maybe I’ve outgrown this genre and age group. I don’t want to completely discount the manga as a whole, but I also don’t want to completely write off the kinds of ideas that are being presented through the progression of Akari and Abe’s relationship. We know, in the end, they will get together. The question is, though, how healthy will their relationship be?
If you’ve had the chance to read this manga, let me know in the comments what you thought. I believe there is a volume two out right now, and if you’ve also had a chance to read ahead let me know if the story gets better.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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