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Manga / Kaiju Girl Caramelise

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"Love is nothing but terror."

Sorry, Minami-kun. It really doesn't look like I can have a normal romance. But... I do want to treasure it. This emotion you've given me, that is. I just hope I don't stomp it into the ground myself —
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Kaiju Girl Caramelise (乙女怪獣キャラメリゼ, Otome Kaijū Kyaramerize) is a manga series by Spica Aoki that started being serialized in February 2018 in Monthy Comic Alive, with collected volumes printed by Kadokawa Shoten starting in June 2018 and an English translation published by Yen Press starting in June 2019. Although Monthly Comic Alive is a seinen publication, the author has called Caramelise a Shoujo series.

Ever since she was little, 16-year-old high school student Kuroe Akaishi has suffered from a strange condition that manifests during times of heightened emotion: parts of her body deform in freakish ways ranging from getting a scaly reptilian hand to growing spikes along her spine. Shunned by her classmates over the years as a result and following the advice of her mother Rinko, she shut herself off from friendship and fun in the hopes of maintaining a semblance of normalcy. She has managed to keep her condition a secret while attending Ginjuuji High School, but her bizarre and antisocial behavior has resulted in her being derisively known as "Psycho-tan" among the other students.

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One day, while spending her lunch break alone, Kuroe's popular classmate Arata Minami strikes up a conversation with her. He convinces her to go with him to a fancy invitation-only restaurant on a kinda-sorta date, where they manage to bond against the odds — and with Kuroe trying to keep her expectations and emotions in check to avoid an embarrassing incident. But when Arata decides to hold her hand while walking her back home that night (in direct response to hearing two mean girls in their class calling her ugly), Kuroe can't contain herself anymore; she runs off in a love-stricken panic and accidentally falls into the Harumi River, where she suddenly turns into a skyscraper-sized Kaiju.

Upon turning back to normal the following morning, Kuroe sees numerous news reports about her giant monster form, now dubbed "Harugon" by the public. No one is aware of the creature's true identity except her and her mother, who is suspiciously unsurprised by her daughter's most recent and most drastic transformation. Kuroe must now balance regular school and family life, her now slowly-growing group of eccentric friends, and her blossoming feelings for Minami with her new need to keep the love monster inside her in check.

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Not to be confused with Kaiju Girls.


Trope examples:

  • Almost Kiss: During the Okutama field trip, Arata is on the verge of kissing Kuroe during a private heart-to-heart, but Kuroe awkwardly declares her desire for more marshmallows before he can — all so she can douse her partially transformed hands in the lake.
    Kuroe: Wh-what was that...!? W-was it maybe...could it have been...? Nuh-uh! No way! It's too soon!! I can't!! That's just—
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Kuroe Akaishi's Honorary Uncle Koutarou Hibino ends up running into her crush Arata Minami at a metal festival. The first thing Koutarou does is jokingly claim to be Kuroe's boyfriend, much to their shock. He then bluntly asks Arata if he is Kuroe's boyfriend; Kuroe manages to awkwardly end that conversation by drawing attention to a band that is starting to play. Downplayed with Kuroe's actual mother Rinko, whose Genki Girl personality and demands for hugs leave Kuroe a bit flustered, but as Rinko largely doesn't interact with anyone other than Kuroe it tends to get nipped in the bud.
  • And Call Him "George"!: When she catches Arata in her hand as Harugon at the metal festival, a relieved Kuroe squeezes him so hard that he passes out.
  • Animal-Eared Headband: When Kuroe and Arata go on a date to Destinyland, Arata requests that the two of them buy "Mitchy" ears to wear. Kuroe refuses, saying that "THEY'RE FOR CUTE GIRLS ONLY!" Arata insists that she is cute.
  • Art Shift: Done frequently with Kuroe to signify her shifting moods. One notable example is from the first chapter when Arata invites her to Cafe Serizawa; when Kuroe agrees, she is suddenly drawn in a more detailed, less chibi-esque style that almost makes her look like an adult.
  • Bad Date: When Kuroe goes on a date with Arata to Destinyland, the elaborate steps she takes to keep from triggering her Involuntary Shapeshifting (mostly involving her avoiding physical contact with Arata) make things really awkward between the two of them. It's funny because most of the things Kuroe does are silly (and it's all done in the midst of cute and cartoony Captain Ersatz versions of Disney characters), but also sad because Arata is visibly hurt by her keeping him at a distance — and because Kuroe goes through a Heroic BSoD when a Partial Transformation happens anyway.
  • Beast and Beauty: Kuroe and Arata. It's downplayed most of the time, as Kuroe is rather pretty and non-beastly in her human form, not that she feels that way herself.
  • Be Yourself: Kuroe telling Arata to eat whatever he wants because she doesn't care about his looks seems to be what drives him to begin falling for her.
  • Boke and Tsukkomi Routine: In middle school, Raimu "Rairi" Kouno took advantage of her apelike face by filling the "Boke" role opposite her classmate Yuu Okada, who filled the "Tsukkomi" role. We don't hear any specific joke they made at this time, but a panel showing Okada giving a sheepishly grinning Rairi a Dope Slap makes it obvious what they were generally doing.
  • By Wall That Is Holey: A news reporter barely manages to avoid being crushed under Harugon's foot by standing right where a gap between her toes is.
  • Captain Ersatz: The Disneyland-esque "Destinyland" is full of them. The mascot is "Mitchy," basically Mickey Mouse as a rabbit. Two female patrons are shown dressed up as characters from "Frosted," a parody of Frozen (2013)note . And one of the rides Kuroe and Arata go on features flying elephants that look like Dumbo with royal crowns.
  • Censored for Comedy: At one point, Kuroe asks Arata how he would react if she turned into a "pulpy glob." This is accompanied by an imagined picture of a pixelated mass of something.
  • Central Theme: Concerning body image. Kuroe, Arata, and Rairi all hate their bodies to varying degrees and goes to lengths to either appear more acceptable and appealing or just isolate themselves to avoid showing their true "ugly" selves. These characters all have a commonality of finding people who can love them beyond their appearances and while they still have deep insecurities, people who genuinely like them telling them that they don't care what they look like is clearly something they desperately needed to hear for a long, long time.
  • Cherry Blossoms: A recurring motif meant to represent love, but in a more specific manner; Kuroe and her mother talk about how it's good that she avoided trampling the cherry blossoms, and this, in turn, represents how she didn't trample all over her own feelings.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Jumbo King, the Akaishi family's dog, can sniff out Kuroe well enough, but he's frequently seen absentmindedly running into things like shelves and trees whenever he's not being useful.
  • Don't Look at Me!:
    • The first time Kuroe Akaishi turns into Harugon, she takes a stroll down the Harumi River, all the while assuming she's having a cathartic dream. At one point she is about to use her Breath Weapon on the JSDF helicopters shooting at her when she sees her love interest Arata Minami staring in fear at her from the riverbank. She wonders why he's looking at her like that when she catches her reflection on the side of a skyscraper and realizes how ugly and scary-looking she is. She frantically submerges herself in the river while mentally begging him to stop looking at her.
    • In a more civilian way, this was Rairi's reaction after a burst watermain causes her makeup to be undone and reveal her gorilla face unintentionally.

  • Elephant in the Living Room: The first time Rairi's face gets doused in front of Kuroe, she frantically reapplies her makeup and subsequently tries to act like Kuroe didn't just see her gorilla face. It isn't until she and Kuroe have a heart-to-heart at the makeup store about why the latter wants to look cute that she decides to directly acknowledge the situation.

  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: The art style is full of sparkles and reflections. In fact, because Spica Aoki's art style is so glittery and shiny, her editor made her ditch the Harem Genre concept and draw a shoujo series instead.
  • Exotic Eye Designs: the series makes heavy use of this trope in place of Wingding Eyes; for example, when Kuroe either feels love or is transformed into Harugon, her pupils are shaped like hearts. Most symbols used by themselves to communicate a feeling will be a pupil shape instead of standing on their own.

  • Face Fault: This is Kuroe's reaction when Rairi reveals that Okada already had a girlfriend when he started stringing her along.

  • First-Name Basis: At the start, the only people who refer to friendless Kuroe Akaishi by her first name are her mother Rinko and her Honorary Uncle Koutarou Hibino. Eventually, her Spoiled Sweet classmate Manatsu Tomosato refers to her by her first name, though she also uses the formal honorific "-san" because she thinks Kuroe is the priestess of her beloved Harugon. Rairi also calls her "Kuro-taso" almost as soon as she gets to know her.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Minami's Formerly Fat past is subtly foreshadowed early on when he notes that he likes diet cola.
    • There are bits and pieces sprinkled through the story, such as the egg and picture of her parents in archeologists' clothing which Jumbo King keeps knocking down, which provide hints to there being a lot more behind Kuroe's Involuntary Transformation trait than just having a bizarre genetic disease.
    • Rairi's apelike face is foreshadowed by her coconut tree hairpin and her banana earrings.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: When Kuroe partially transforms at Destinyland, Arata assumes that she's cosplaying as "Johnny", a dinosaur-like character from Boy Stories. Kuroe decides to roll with it to cover up the fact that it's not actually a costume.

  • Genre Mashup: It's a fairly typical shojo romance story, except that the girl occasionally turns into a Kaiju and prompts the same kind of action seen in Kaiju movies.

  • The Glomp: Kuroe glomps Koutarou when he shows up, which is a far cry from her reserved behavior with everyone else.

  • Hand-Hiding Sleeves: Kuroe wears outfits with these in order to hide whenever one of her hands transforms.
  • Heart Symbol:
    • Kuroe has heart-shaped pupils, which remain even when she turns into Harugon. She also has a heart-shaped segment on one of her wings.
    • Manatsu's Mothra-like sleeping bag and costume have heart designs added to them.
  • Holding Hands: Arata does this with Kuroe in the first chapter in defiance of the Girl Posse expressing shock at her walking with him. This directly results in Kuroe turning into Harugon for the first time.
  • Humans Are Insects: Discussed in a Played for Laughs manner by Kuroe and Manatsu. Kuroe makes the case that Harugon probably views humans like her as little more than insects, hoping to get Manatsu to tamp down on her Mad Love. Manatsu gets a very different impression from this; she regularly dresses up in an outfit resembling Mothra whenever trying to get Harugon's attention, and she finds Kuroe's insect comparison encouraging.
  • Improvised Clothes: Whenever Kuroe loses her clothes after turning into Harugon and back, she often has to make do with wearing things like trash bags and parachutes.
  • I Never Told You My Name: When Kuroe Akaishi first runs into Manatsu Tomosato in a sleeping bag on a street outside her apartment, she's surprised that Manatsu knows her full name already. The two of them had never interacted before then, and everyone else at school calls Kuroe "Psycho-tan" instead. Turns out Manatsu found out her name from Arata Minami, Kuroe's crush and the only other person at school to use her real name. Kuroe had seen Manatsu and Arata talking earlier that day and assumed that they were dating, but Manatsu was actually trying to find out more about her real crush: Harugon, the Kaiju who first appeared suspiciously close to where Kuroe and Arata were walking after their "date". Manatsu learned Kuroe's name believing that the latter might know more about Harugon, which is certainly truer than she realizes.
  • Ink Blot Cartoon Style: When Kuroe and Arata go on a date to Destinyland, the theme park's mascot, Mitchy, is portrayed as a rabbit-like animal with a predominantly black body, white face/muzzle, Black Bead Eyes, White Gloves, and vaguely 1930s clothes — basically Mickey Mouse as a rabbit.
  • Intentional Heartbreaker: Yuu Okada, the guy Rairi liked in junior high, directly encouraged her to start liking him even though he already had a girlfriend.

  • Irony:
    • "Cafe Serizawa", the restaurant where Kuroe starts getting to know Arata and subsequently turns into Harugon the first time, is named after Daisuke Serizawa, the scientist whose Oxygen Destroyer disintegrated Godzilla in the 1954 film. So the Godzilla Serizawa helped destroy the monster, while the Caramelise Serizawa helped create the monster!
    • While Kuroe can turn into a massive monster, in her human form she's shorter than everyone else in her grade, with even the girls all being One Head Taller than her.
    • Kuroe sporadically turns into a Notzilla, while Rairi's real face and behavior make her a King Kong Copy. Now, King Kong vs. Godzilla is the Trope Codifier for Primate vs. Reptile in its depiction of the conflict between Godzilla and King Kong, the monsters that inspired Kuroe and Rairi. In Caramelise, however, the two girls become fast friends and confidants almost as soon as they meet.

  • Longing Look: Kuroe Akaishi gives these to Arata Minami frequently, usually when he's not looking. It becomes a major plot point when her Involuntary Shapeshifting into Harugon occurs at the Ultra Bakuon Fest; Arata doesn't yet know that Kuroe and Harugon are the same person, but he had noticed that Harugon frequently looked at him in a meaningful way and comes to the conclusion the monster is trying to tell him something — which inspires him to use himself as bait to draw Harugon away from the other people.
  • Love You and Everybody: Nagiko claims that any affection Arata shows Kuroe is an example of this. Later, though, Arata defies this trope, noting that while he does try to treat everyone kindly, he was unintentionally hurting Kuroe by not showing that he saw her as special. Also, Nagiko and her lackeys had not only seen Arata and Kuroe Holding Hands the previous day, a few hours earlier they had heard Arata confess that there was someone he liked while aiming a Longing Look at Kuroe; the girls were clearly in denial and invoking this as an excuse to mistreat Kuroe.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Manatsu is in love with Harugon while being friends with Kuroe, and has no idea that the two are the same.

  • Militaries Are Useless: In typical Kaiju story fashion, JSDF helicopters attack Kuroe in her monster form with machines guns to no effect. Not only does she find them ticklish at most, the gunfire manages to hurt Arata by causing a chunk of concrete to slam into his arm.

  • Mistaken for Romance:
    • This is what Kuroe feels when she first sees Manatsu talking with Arata. She's both relieved (because she thinks interacting with Arata will just trigger her transformation again) and saddened (because she still likes Arata). Luckily, it doesn't take very long for them to talk and clear things up.
    • Later, Arata sees Kuroe with her Honorary Uncle Koutarou, and mistakes their familial closeness for romance. The fact that Koutarou jokingly introduces himself as Kuroe's boyfriend doesn't help. This lasts for a while until the two of them fully clarify to him that they only see each other as family.
  • Morphic Resonance: Whenever Kuroe Akaishi transforms into Harugon, not only do her eyes stay the same, the horns she sprouts resemble two spiky tufts of hair she has as a human.
  • Myth Arc: The story is overall just the day-to-day drama and humor that comes from Kuroe suddenly finding herself in a relationship with Arata. However, in between these Shoujo antics are bits and pieces surrounding the mystery around the reason why Kuroe transforms into a massive dinosaur Kaiju.
  • New Year Same Class: Averted; Arata and Kuroe end up in different classes, Kuroe ends up in the same class as Manatsu, who was in a different class the previous year.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Mayumi Hamasaki, the J-Pop star that Rinko is obsessed with, is a fictionalized version of Ayumi Hamasaki.
  • Non-Indicative Name: "Jumbo King" is actually a rather small dog resembling a corgi.
  • No Swastikas: In the original release online, Rairi's bag had an image of a manji on the front, referencing the slang phrase "maji manji" popular among teenagers. This was changed to the text "Maji Manji" in stylized English for the official Japanese volume releases.
  • Notzilla: Harugon is basically Godzilla with horns and batlike wings.
  • Oblivious Adoption: It's heavily implied, based on the egg and picture of Rinko wearing an archeologists hat that Jumbo King keeps knocking over, that Rinko is not Kuroe's biological mother, with her instead being born from said egg after she was found by Rinko. It doesn't even cross Kuroe's mind that this might be the case, while Rinko is at the bare minimum implied to be hiding some things from the girl.
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • Kuroe usually keeps her emotions contained and undiscussed — so when she gives an angry Then Let Me Be Evil speech at Destinyland, Rinko is shocked to witness it.
    • Arata's little sister says that he is a "tardy-monster" usually, so she's surprised when he leaves a half-hour early to meet up with Kuroe. She then makes this observation: "Your girlfriend's power is incredible!"
    • Kuroe has such a Sweet Tooth that when she sports a dour expression while eating marshmallows during the Okutama field trip, Arata can tell she's got her mind on something else.

  • Portmanteau: "Harugon" is a mix between "Harumi [River]", where the monster was first seen, and "dragon".
  • Real Dreams Are Weirder: Kuroe wakes up one morning and talks to herself about a "crazy dream" where, after her date with Arata, she suddenly turned into a Kaiju and walked down the Harumi River before swimming away in a panic upon realizing he and everyone else was staring at her now ugly visage. Then she turns on the news and realizes it actually happened.

  • Secret Identity: Only Kuroe and her mother know that she is Harugon.
  • Secret Keeper:
    • When Kuroe Akaishi starts transforming into Harugon, only her mother Rinko knows that she and the monster are one and the same. Downplayed with Koutarou Hibino, who knows about the Involuntary Shapeshifting she has been subject to since childhood but not that she is Harugon.
    • Kuroe herself becomes one for Rairi and her gorilla face, as Rairi feels that Kuroe's similar background and insecurities mean she can be trusted with a secret like that. This comes to an end when Rairi accidentally outs her face to everybody, including her old Jerkass crush, during a school trip, causing it to no longer be a secret, especially once she gets enough confidence from her followers' proceeding support to show her true face on social media.
  • Secret Relationship: Kuroe tries to do this once she starts dating Arata, as the latter is a popular Chick Magnet and she is worried that his reputation will suffer if he's seen with a "loser" like her. But she ends up having to deliver his forgotten lunch to him in view of the whole school, which results in everyone quickly finding out anyway.
  • Sempai Kouhai: Koutarou Hibino worked under Rinko Akaishi when they were traveling biologists, and he calls her "sempai" in the present. Koutarou is also an Honorary Uncle to Rinko's daughter Kuroe, and is actually one of the few people Kuroe is on friendly terms with (the fact that he's one of the few people who knows about Kuroe's Involuntary Shapeshifting also helps).

  • Shout-Out:
    • Harugon's resemblance to Godzilla (particularly his design from Godzilla 2000) is very obvious, as is the resemblance of Manatsu's sleeping bag and outfit to Mothra and the "battle outfit" she gives Kuroe to King Ghidorah. More subtle is Cafe Serizawa, which references the inventor of the Oxygen Destroyer from the 1954 film.
    • One of the toys Manatsu had as a kid looks nearly identical to Gamera.
    • Kuroe's pencil as shown on the first page of chapter 3 has a pencil topper that looks like Ultraman, and later, Manatsu is shown to have a chauffeur and several other servants who sport mohawks and sunglasses that make them look like Ultraman as well.
      • The Akaishi family's pet dog is named "Jumbo King." That's the same name of the final kaiju from Ultraman Ace.
    • Manatsu tends to reference various Toku works all the time: she tries to compliment Kuroe by comparing her to Astromons, and later asks Kuroe to accompany her during a field trip to Ogouchi Dam in hopes of finding a giant stag beetle.

  • Spit Take: When Kuroe comes home with her new makeover from Rairi, Jumbo King is so shocked that he does this with his drool. It starts spewing out so much that it resembles a Vomit Indiscretion Shot.

  • Sure, Let's Go with That: During their date at Destinyland, Kuroe undergoes a Partial Transformation into her Kaiju form in front of Arata. Kuroe runs off and has a bit of a Heroic BSoD and a Then Let Me Be Evil moment after thinking that her secret had been exposed, but it turns out that Arata thought that she was cosplaying as a dinosaur-like Destinyland character. Kuroe decides to go along with his misconception.

  • Tail Slap: When Arata is about to open the door to the gym closet Kuroe was trapped in, Kuroe slaps it closed with her emerging tail before he can see her. She also slaps around lots of people when her tail emerges at Destinyland.

  • Twice Shy: In spite of being the more confident of the two about displaying their feelings, Arata is just as easily flustered as Kuroe when the two are caught up in intimate moments.
  • Two-Person Love Triangle: After seeing Harugon kiss Arata while knowing he's in a relationship with Kuroe, Manatsu, in all her Cloudcuckoolander wisdom, comes to the conclusion that he's being a two-timer. Unknown to her, however, is that even if Arata actually had feelings for Harugon as well, Kuroe and Harugon are the same being so there wouldn't be any two-timing regardless.
  • Ultraman Copy: Manatsu Tomosato is a Spoiled Sweet girl who uses her money to fund her obsession with Kaiju and other Tokusatsu media. One way this manifests is that she makes all her family's male servants sport buzz-cut mohawks and sunglasses that give them a strong resemblance to Ultraman.
  • Verbal Backspace: Kuroe goes on a date with Arata at Destinyland, and her mother Rinko disguises herself in the costume of a Mickey Mouse Captain Ersatz called "Mitchy" to spy on them. When Kuroe's emotions get the better of her and she starts going through a Partial Transformation into Harugon as a result, Rinko runs up to her and starts calling her "Kuro-tan", only to quickly catch herself and start talking in a more Mitchy-esque manner while pretending not to know who Kuroe is.
  • We Need a Distraction: When Rairi falls in the lake at Okutama and gets her makeup washed off, Kuroe resolves to undergo a Partial Transformation to provide enough of a distraction for Rairi to reapply her makeup. Unfortunately, Kuroe fully transforms into Harugon and makes things worse.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Near the end of Chapter 1, Rinko looks at an egg that's been taped back together while saying "mommy's worried about you" after Kuroe comes home surly, hinting at there being a lot more to Kuroe's Involuntary Transformation deal than the story directly says.
    • The Reveal of Rairi's real makeup-less gorilla face after she and Kuroe are splashed with water.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Arata thinks that Kuroe's eyes, with their pinkish-red color and heart-shaped pupils, are pretty. He also thinks that Harugon has pretty eyes because they look so much like Kuroe's — unaware that there's a reason for the similarity.

  • Word Salad Title: The "Kaiju Girl" part is a more straightforward example of Exactly What It Says on the Tin, as main character Kuroe Akaishi is a high school girl who intermittently turns into a Kaiju. The "Caramelise" is a bit more complicated; it references caramelization, the process of browning sugar to give it a distinct sweet taste, and in relation to the manga refers to how shy and antisocial Kuroe gradually becomes a sweeter person as she starts making friends.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Rairi's whole arc is about her intense fear of people finding out about her gorilla-like appearance under all her gyaru makeup and being alienated for possible deception. When she's forced to reveal herself to her classmates, they all instead pitch in to give her makeup to cover herself back up, grateful for her general friendliness and generosity.
  • You Can Talk?: A strange example with Rairi. After the two had first met, Kuroe had heard Rairi talk quite a bit with her makeup on. But when Rairi first gets her makeup washed off in front of Kuroe, she makes a bunch of monkey-like vocalizations while frantically looking for her makeup kit and only starts talking normally again after reapplying the makeup. She decides to take the makeup off at the cafe after deeming Kuroe worth revealing her secret to — and when she talks like this, Kuroe mentally notes her own surprise.

Alternative Title(s): Otome Kaiju Kyaramerize, Otome Kaiju Caramelise, Kaiju Girl Caramelize

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