Reviews: My Monster Secret
So much more than just a romantic comedy (manga)
On its surface, the premise doesn't sound like much: boy who sucks at lying discovers that his crush is a vampire, and she'll have to leave if her secret gets out. Love triangles and supernatural shenanigans ensue. Also, most of the characters are a bit dumb. But that summary really doesn't do justice to the execution. While a lesser story would coast on the novelty of having vampires, aliens, demons, time travelers, and wolfpeople running around, this series makes sure that each character is more than whatever role they happen to fill. While a lesser series might coast on the inherent goofiness of the premise, this series draws humor from a myriad of sources. Some is situational, some is character driven, some (a lot) is driven by Mood Whiplash, and some is simply silly art. More impressive is the fact that the story can pinball between complete absurdism and genuine relationship drama without ever becoming Narm. And yes, there is relationship drama. But it's the good kind of drama. Not melodrama that makes you want to slap the characters upside the head, but interesting interactions between a bunch of confused teenagers as they try to work out their feelings for each other without hurting anyone. Misunderstandings happen, but they're understandable (the serious ones, anyway), and it's rare that everyone involved isn't ultimately sympathetic. This story conventions of the genre in a way that allows a real examination of the characters and what makes them tick. There's a theme to the story: everybody has a secret of some sort, and figuring out when to reveal it and who to reveal it to isn't easy. Unlike most romcoms, there's a solid emotional core to the story; the characters don't just exist to facilitate jokes, even some of the ones who might look like walking joke machines at first. All of this is helped by the art style, which can nail ludicrous silliness, terror (yes, in a romcom), sadness, and joy. The degree of stylization does take some getting used to, but in the end it very much works in the story's favor. It also has a legitimately satisfying and heartwarming ending, which is more than a lot of stories can say. That isn't to say there aren't a few issues. The story takes a while to really find its own tone (pretty much when Akane shows up) and there's some weirdness in both the art and characterization in the early chapters (Mikan is a complete bitch in her introduction, but mellows out later on). The "gods of fortune" probably have the lowest entertainment-value-to-screentime ratio in the series, and several of the characters introduced later on (Yuka, Sen, and Saki), ultimately don't contribute much to the plot. But overall, this manga is one you should check out, even if you don't like romantic comedy. It's really its own thing. Also it has a demon riding a time-traveling dragon into the past to avoid a dentist appointment. I mean, come on; you have to be at least a bit curious.