Idol Activities: Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare, Chapter 7

  Because Kimi Nakare went a couple of months without a new chapter, I kind of lost track of it. Turns out a new one came out in February! Apologies for the lateness, but I’m hoping to see this series get back into the swing of things.

As an aside, because the title of this manga has “xxxru” in it, I seem to get quite a few hits from people searching for Russian adult videos. My apologies to you visitors as well; you’re not going to see any of that here.

Summary

Hayato’s serious about his confession to Nobuko—he even says he’ll quit being an idol if it’s to be with her! The class reacts in shock, while Nobuko runs away again to the nurse’s office. However, the nurse understands right away that love is at the heart of the matter, and the reason Nobuko hesitates is because she has feelings for him as well.

As previously announced, WARP has their final handshake event, and their most loyal fans show up. Surprisingly, despite the revelation that Jirou has a girlfriend (now fiancee), he hasn’t received any backlash. This is attributed to the fact that Jirou’s fans are mostly older, more mature women.

As for Shingo, he meets a girl holding a memorial photo of her older sister, the hospitalized girl who inspired him to keep working as an idol. Shingo finds out that the older sister had told the story of their encounter many times, but assumed that Shingo, busy celebrity that he is, wouldn’t have remembered. In the end, Shingo asks the other members of WARP if they can keep the group together after all.

The Paparazzi Rant

At one point in this chapter, a newly introduced character goes on a tirade about the evils of tabloids and how they turn fans against the idols. “It’s not the fault of the idols for having relationships, it’s the fault of the tabloids for reporting this information in the first place!” The reason this stands out is that it feels to me like this character is a mouthpiece for the author, but I can’t say one or way or another. Moreover, I’m not sure how much I should delve into breaking down this statement. On the one hand, it sounds a lot like “it’s okay if the idols do whatever, as long as the fans don’t know,” which seems ignorant. On the other hand, my ideal picture of idol fandom is akin to pro wrestling, where the fans know that the stars are putting on an act. Taken this way, it’s more a criticism of tabloids trying to arm the pitchforks of the fans, that the tabloids are less about journalism and more about exploitation.

Shingo’s Girl

I mentioned in the last review that each chapter always feels like it’s going to be the last, and this one was no exception. We only learned about that hospitalized girl a chapter ago in a flashback, and now she’s dead! That definitely felt like a climactic moment, but to have it come into play in the very next story makes Kimi Nakare feel like it’s barreling towards its conclusion yet again.

Still, I was moved by the interaction between Shingo and the younger sister. Okachimachi’s art does an excellent job of showing Shingo’s conflicted emotions.

“Nobuko-chan, Suteki Desuwa”

Another heart-tugging moment comes at the beginning, after Hayato’s open confession. Natsumi, seeing Nobuko’s paralyzed state in the face of that big ol’ “I love you!”, tries to help Nobuko calm down, despite being in love with Hayato as well. I get a strong Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura vibe from Natsumi, and it makes me feel for her every time she tries to nudge the two of them closer together. Fortunately for her, Hayato and Nobuko aren’t nearly as dense as Shaoran and Sakura, but that prioritization of her friends over herself makes me hope that she can find happiness in her own right.

Last Thoughts

By declaring his love in front of their classmates, I wonder if Hayato is setting up Nobuko to get bullied. I feel like Nobuko being less beautiful probably marked her as a “safe entity” in the eyes of any Hayato fans in school, a defense that has been further bolstered by Nobuko’s onscreen comical behavior with Hayato as his goofy, obsessed pursuer. Now that it’s the open, however, is Nobuko in trouble? Is Kimi Nakare even that kind of manga? I’d like to find out.

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Third Time’s the Charm?: Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare, Chapter 6

kiminakare6-hayatoshingo Whenever I read a chapter of Kimi Nakare, it always feels like the next chapter might be the end of the story. Chapter 6 not only follows this, but the vibe is stronger than ever.

Summary

In spite of whatever hopes might be lingering, WARP’s days as an idol group are numbered. As a final farewell to their fans, their manager has arranged one last massive meet ‘n’ great with the fans.

Not long after, Hayato and fellow WARP member Shingo are having a bath time discussion about their futures. While Hayato believes himself to be ill-suited to the idol path, especially because his initial motivation was just so he could meet Nobuko, Shingo responds that Hayato’s attitude (and idiotic qualities) are what make him a natural idol.

In a flashback to Shingo’s high school days, we see a conflicted Shingo unsure of whether the idol path is for him, not least of which is because his hospitalized father is very much against it. Shingo ends up bumping into a girl at the hospital who turns out to be a fan of idols. Accidentally revealing that he’s an idol from the same agency as her favorite, Shingo listens to her story of how idols helped her to keep living in spite of her illness, which strengthens Shingo’s determination to continue his idol career no matter the odds.

The next day, Hayato is discussing the upcoming meet ‘n’ great with Nobuko and Natsumi. When Nobuko promises that she’ll defend him from all of the fangirls, Hayato confesses his feelings for her once more—this time in front of the whole class!

Urgency

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As I briefly mentioned in the introduction, Kimi Nakare often feels like it’s moving at a breakneck pace in terms of typical romance manga developments. It’s one thing to have a confession in Chapter 1, but it’s another to have three confessions in six chapters. Not only that, but each of them raise the stakes more and more, because now it’s not even a secret among close friends anymore. While I could see the class not taking it seriously, especially because Nobuko has made a running gag out of her on-screen obsession with Hayato, I think they’re going to realize what’s going on sooner or later.

The sense of urgency isn’t limited to just the main romance, either. Just the fact that a scandal has already dissolved Hayato’s idol group and put him on a slightly different path is the kind of development that would usually occur late into a manga’s life. In some ways, it feels like early Kimi ni Todoke, where every time you think the story would move one way, it would swerve in the other direction, and usually for the better. Can Kimi Nakare keep up this pace? It’s something I welcome, and while I hope the series does well, I also hope that it wouldn’t fall into the trap of becoming increasingly meandering if it reaches major success.

The Side Cast is Growing on Me

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In my review of Chapter 5, I mentioned that the side characters aren’t nearly as interesting as Hayato and Nobuko. While I still stand by that statement, I think the other characters are starting to come into their own. I actually previously had trouble keeping track of all the guys in WARP, but now I have a firmer grasp of Shingo as a character. We’ve yet to see more characters on Nobuko’s side of the story, so I’m curious as to what might be in store there.

The Irony of the Natural Idol

After reading Shingo’s comments to Hayato about he’s a natural-born idol, it made me think about how idols are presented to the world, and in turn how idols are presented in Kimi Nakare. Idols, male or female, often project an image of both innocence and sensuality, and this quality is central to the story of this manga. There’s the scandal with WARP member Jirou and his having a girlfriend, but there’s also the idea that the idol business has a dark side. In the real world, idols are often controlled day-in and day-out by their agencies, and it’s what leads to the criticism that idols are just a way to make money off of gullible fans. For me, I think that it can be healthy as long as there’s a tacit understanding that it’s a shared fantasy, something akin to pro wrestling.

If Hayato is a natural idol, it means that he achieves that innocent sensuality without effort, through both appearance and attitude, and it’s exactly that kind of demeanor that you’d expect to get subsumed by the idol engine. To be in the right spot, he has to be just strong enough to never stop being himself, but also just “dumb” enough to stay naive. It’s a precarious position that is preserved in part by his love for Nobuko. That, of course, is also the other irony, that what makes him a natural idol is also what is liable to get him kicked out of the business.

One might also say that his masturbation scene in Chapter 4 represents that combination of innocence and sensuality perfectly. Here is this handsome yet goofy guy who just can’t hold back his very real passion for the girl of his dreams. Her being not beautiful by conventional standards only adds to that rather special moment of characterization.

Last Thoughts

Idols are all well and good, but I want to see more of Nobuko!

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Minus World: Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare, Chapter 5

kiminakare5-jirou

It’s the aftermath of a love scandal in Kimi Nakare Chapter 5. How will Hayato and the rest of his band mates deal with it?

Summary

Jirou, one of Hayato’s fellow members in the idol group WARP, was discovered with a girl. In this chapter, we learn that it isn’t just any girl, but the love of Jirou’s life. Resolving to choose love over his career, Jirou decides to quit WARP and marry his longtime girlfriend.

Hayato in the meantime finds that his school has now become a target for paparazzi, specifically so that they can catch him in the act. Ironically, Nobuko’s “ugly but passionate admirer” gimmick works out in their favor, as she’s able to chase off a gossip mongerer.

However, despite Hayato’s protests and even his own threat of quitting the band to chase love himself, it turns out not to be necessary. WARP is disbanding.

Young vs. Old Idols

The topic that I found most fascinating in this chapter is the distinction between younger and older idols. At one point, Hayato points out that there are idols that have gotten married without any backlash, and their manager responds that only established idols can do that. As a group, you have to reach a point where you basically become a fan’s first love, so even as those fans grow and perhaps get married themselves, the idol will always have a special place in a woman’s heart (and the woman in the idol’s). In other words, a relatively new group like WARP hasn’t built up the cache.

Most of the time, the thought over idols is that love is forbidden because they must forever be locked away as long as they indeed hold the status of “idol.” However, this implies that idols are a kind of evolving phenomenon that can choose to either stay as they are or grow with their audience. At the same time, the path to the “married idol” is fraught with danger, and appears to be only the domain of the true veteran.

It’s still kind of weird that Japan’s most famous idol manager ended up marrying one of his idols, but I digress. I’m also perhaps being unfair; if Celine Dion could find happiness with her manager, why not?

Not Enough Hayato and Nobuko?

kiminakare5-clingynobuko

While I previously mentioned being curious over the side characters, and Hayato’s scene with Nobuko protecting him from a prying photographer is rather charming, I do feel like I didn’t get enough of the two of them this chapter. I think that speaks a lot to how appealing they are as main characters, but perhaps I’m not giving the rest of the cast a fair shake. Jirou being a sweet guy is a welcome surprise, as is his decision to choose his girlfriend over his job. Not to say that it would be the right decision in every case, but I was convinced that it was what he personally should have done.

It also made me aware that there are two different love conundrums at work in this series: the career-based one, and the psychological one. Even this brief interaction lets the two sides play out beautifully.

Last Thoughts

I wonder if the loss of WARP might spur Hayato to begin a full-fledged career as a comedian, so that he can stand by Nobuko’s side. Wouldn’t that be nice?

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A Man’s Got… Needs: Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare, Chapter 4

kiminakare4-climax

While there are a lot of unique and unusual aspects to Kimi Nakare, this chapter brings something I thought I’d never see: a charming scene of a bishounen masturbating in a non-pornographic title.

Summary

Returning to the end of Chapter 2, we see Hayato confronting Nobuko and asking her about her feelings. Nobuko (still dressed in a monkey suit) says it can’t happen, and Hayato reflects on how cute her blushing face is… while in the bathroom. After finding “relief” and profusely apologizing to Nobuko in his mind, he goes to continue his work.

Told by his manager that his image as both an idol an an innocent guy means dating is out of the picture for him, Hayato goes on-set to do a comedy skit with Nobuko, but finds that their humorous roughhousing is giving him a stiffy. Also, despite his best attempts to hide his attraction to Nobuko, the others quickly figure it out, and one of his fellow WARP members reminds him how important not being in a relationship is for idols.

However, the next morning they discover that one of the other members of WARP was caught leaving a girl’s apartment, and that it’s going to be a PR nightmare. Now, Hayato knows exactly the danger he’s in should he pursue something with Nobuko.

Hayato’s O-Face is Something Special

While Tonari no Young Jump is no stranger to fanservice or even sexually charged situations in its series, I think what makes this all the more unusual is the combination of Hayato’s appearance and the subject of the series itself. Kimi Nakare thus far has been sweet and innocent enough that seeing a panel literally devoted to him orgasming is a pretty big shocker. While plenty of good-looking guys show up in shoujo and josei titles and do far more, the fact that Hayato has on his mind a character who’s traditionally unattractive transforms the moment into something more memorable and perhaps even impossible to forget.

Still Romantic, Though

kiminakare4-hardon

In a sense, however, the fact that it’s masturbation and not full-on sex actually makes it both more intense and somehow also sweeter. He is actually so in love with Nobuko both physically and mentally that she can turn him on even while wearing a dumb monkey costume. The manga does such a great job of showing how Hayato perceives her, and moments like the aforementioned orgasm and the hard-on he gets while performing just add to the idea that this attraction to Nobuko is not only genuine but derived from a special place that normal folks who’ve never experienced such passion can even relate to. That’s impressive, both in terms of how this sort of thing has been portrayed in a manga format, and for Hayato as a character.

Last Thoughts

Did I spend this entire chapter review talking about a guy in manga masturbating? I sure did! Then again, I once reviewed an entire series where the theme was jacking off.

Kimi Nakare is still a great romance manga.

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The Triangle Forms: Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare, Chapter 3

kiminakare3-natsumi

I realized that I’ve been giving the wrong name for the main guy. It’s Hayato, not Shuuto, and I somehow missed that despite it being written clearly in the very beginning of Chapter 1. Sorry about that.

I’ve since gone back and changed the previous chapter review. I hope this hasn’t impacted your enjoyment of this series or my reviews!

Also, a better translation of this title might be Thou Shalt Not xxx. It’s the same structure used in Yosano Akiko’s “Thou Shalt Not Die” power in Bungou Stray Dogs. Maybe I’ll call it that from now on, maybe not. What do you think?

Summary

In Chapter 1 we got to see the world from Hayato’s point of view, and Chapter 2 was a Nobuko’s-eye view. This time, it’s primarily from their other close friend that we’ve seen in previous chapters, Natsumi.

Chapter 3 mainly takes place in the past, when Hayato and Natsumi were classmates in elementary school. They’re putting on a play about a prince (Hayato) and multiple princesses, but Natsumi gets picked on by the other girls for being poor and not very “princess-like.” Hayato, being the naturally good guy, defends Natsumi, including being wiling to not participate in the play. Natsumi develops a crush on Hayato, and is inspired to start acting thanks to him, but learns the painful truth from day 1 that his heart belongs to Nobuko.

kiminakare3-natsumihayato

Back in the present of the main narrative, it’s revealed that this chapter takes place between Chapters 1 and 2, after Hayato first confessed to Nobuko. Natsumi quietly asks if Hayato’s feelings could possibly be love, given how young he was at the time. However, Natsumi senses her younger self telling her something important: Natsumi was only a kid when she first noticed Hayato, and she knows those emotions are genuine.

A Slowly Expanding Cast

I wondered last month to what extent Kimi Nakare would begin to fill in its side characters, and the process has already begun. What I perhaps didn’t expect (though in hindsight maybe I should have) is that there would be a love triangle. I guess it’s maybe technically not a triangle depending on how you define it (Hayato only has eyes for Nobuko), though it’s also looking not to be as much about the exclusive world between Hayato and Nobuko as I first thought. I am a little apprehensive because I know how heavy and meandering love triangle manga can get, but I have faith in the creator Ohachimachi Hato’s ability to weave an interesting tale with endearing characters.

Who Will You Kiss? Me or That Girl?

Nevertheless, the chain of emotions is established, but one interesting wrinkle to this tried-and-true formula is that Natsumi is clearly the more attractive of the two girls. Whether she’s supposed to be relatively plain in the mold of the typical shoujo protagonist, or she’s supposed to be extremely beautiful isn’t entirely clear (were the girls who picked on her jealous or just snotty brats?), but she has all the features typically desired in a girl in manga. Natsumi is quiet, has a good heart, and just comes across as “better girlfriend” material. And yet, she’s the one on the backfoot, because Hayato is just enraptured with Nobuko.

kiminakare3-nobuko

It’s not unusual for the third girl in the love triangle to be at a disadvantage because of personality or because there’s some kind of charisma that the main girl possesses, but it’s also usually not to this extent. There might be some similarities to Kimi ni Todoke, but Natsumi is no Kurumizawa Ume, and Nobuko is two steps beyond the eccentricities of Kuronouma Sawako. Just the fact that Nobuko’s only appearance in this chapter is in the form of a comical rendering just pushes home the idea that Natsumi is competing with a force perhaps unlike any other in romance manga.

Last Thoughts

This is definitely not the Chapter 3 I was expecting. While I worry about love triangles a bit, I’m also looking forward to where the manga goes from here.

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Her Perspective: Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare, Chapter 2

kiminakare2-nobuko   I recently appeared on the Veef Show podcast, where I talked briefly about chapter reviewing Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare. However, I realized, upon trying to say the name of the series, that I didn’t know how I’m supposed to pronounce “xxxru.” It’s not like XXXHolic or Hunter x Hunter where the x is silent, because it’s supposed to be a variable verb. “You shall not ______.” In any case, for future reference, I’ll probably refer to it as its official shortened name, Kimi Nakare, when speaking from now on.

Summary

kiminakare2-kabedon

Chapter 2 of Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare picks up right where Chapter 1 left off. Nobuko is a young celebrity comedian, known more for her ability to get a laugh than her homely looks. Hayato, a childhood friend and classmate, is a popular idol who’s in love with Nobuko. Upon hearing Hayato’s confession, Nobuko tells him that it can’t happen and runs away, clearly flustered. As Nobuko goes home early we’re introduced to Nobuko’s mother, who’s a famous actress known for her beauty.

On a variety show where both she and Hayato appear, Hayato talks about how Nobuko is cute, but because Nobuko is not considered beautiful the host reacts incredulously. Nobuko takes advantage of this and takes on the role of the “ugly pursuer,” who comically keeps chasing after Hayato, which becomes a popular gag over multiple shows. Nobuko claims that it’s because Hayato has to remember the fact that he’s an idol (and idols can’t date), but it’s clearly a way for her to ignore her feelings. Eventually, though, Hayato finally gets to be alone with her, and asks Nobuko about how she feels, and her face says it all.

Nobuko’s View of Herself

One of the most pleasant surprises of this chapter happens right at the beginning, with the story being primarily told from Nobuko’s side. The first chapter concentrated on Hayato, and I had to wonder if this trend would continue, but it’s clear now that they’re basically sharing top billing in this manga.

kiminakare2-nobukomom

Nobuko’s mother, and the fact that Nobuko herself has not inherited her looks, appears to be one of the main reasons that Nobuko lacks such confidence in her appearance. While her mother adores her and is shown dressing a young Nobuko up in a flashback, Nobuko is being judged not only by the fact that she looks more like her father but through comparison with her mom. Alone, Nobuko remarks that “Something must be wrong with Hayato’s eyes,” which is basically a self-deprecating statement.

In this respect, I can’t help but feel for her. Having grown up in the world of entertainment where looks can be paramount, Nobuko is made hyper aware of how she does not fit traditional images of beauty. What should have been an unrequited love due to the contrast between her appearance and handsome Hayato’s is made reality by Hayato and it scares her. The sense I get from Nobuko is that she feels that this isn’t supposed to be happening, that it’s a fantasy that she wasn’t meant to be a part of.

Comedy as a Tool

The fact that Nobuko purposely takes on the role of the unattractive admirer, a kind of Steve Urkel to Hayato’s Laura Winslow, showcases not only Nobuko’s talent for comedy, but also how Nobuko is using humor to lighten the load that her heart has inflicted upon her. At home, Nobuko says to herself, “If I can’t pull away to deal with the situation, then I’ll push,” meaning that by trivializing the idea of a relationship between the two of them, by turning it into fodder for comedy, she can cope with it. This gives great insight into how Nobuko thinks, and how flexible and adaptive she can be.The way that Hayato once again cuts through Nobuko’s defenses, then, is why I think the last scene of this chapter is so good. Nobuko, who’s dressed like a monkey to continue her on-screen obsession with Hayato, ends up alone with him in her dressing room. Hayato uses the classic “kabe don” of shoujo manga fame, and Nobuko’s facade cracks, as shown previously. The fact that all of this happens while Nobuko’s still wearing that monkey suit makes the scene somehow more poignant. The monkey suit is supposed to make the idea of a romance between them nonsense, but Hayto isn’t having any of that.

Serious and Silly Artwork

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I love how so many of the moments in this manga can be both serious and silly at the same time. Okamichachi’s style captures this seeming contradiction very well, because she has a shoujo (and I think BL?)-influenced style that still leaves plenty of room for exaggerated expressions and a willingness to not have her characters look perfect. While this is less the case for Hayato, who’s supposed to be naturally handsome, seeing him with a relatively serious expression as Nobuko makes kissy faces only enhances the sense that the two are entering this weird space where their feelings for each other are enhanced yet also diminished by being on-screen. Hayato’s reactions show that the situations portrayed in front of the camera, even if they are weird, still land in the realm of what he really wants, and he can’t help but blush himself as a result.

Last Thoughts

Right now, the cast is fairly small, and there aren’t any romances happening between the few side characters that exist. I have to wonder if this will change, as that’s pretty much the fate of all romance manga.

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Love, Comedy, and True Beauty: Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare, Chapter 1

Of all the fujoshi-themed manga I’ve encountered (and I’ve read a lot), Okachimachi Hato’s Fujoshissu! is one of my absolute favorites. So, having recently found out that Okachimachi is starting up a new manga, I was immediately thrilled. While my search for fujoshi protagonists is why I first discovered her work, it’s Okachimachi’s expressive art style and subtle, considerate explorations of her characters that turned me into a fan.

Her new work, Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare (“You Shall Not xxx”) shows signs of being just as strong from the very first chapter, which is why I’ve decided to start writing monthly chapter reviews for it. This is only the third time I’ve ever done the “episodic review” thing (both previous instances were Genshiken anime and manga), so I hope you enjoy it.

Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare is the story of a budding teenage romance between Hayato, a male idol, and Nobuko, a female celebrity comedian. When the manga begins, we see that Hayato first discovers Nobuko at a very young age while watching television. Nobuko is the daughter of a famous comedian as well, and to Hayato, it’s love at first sight. He thinks she’s the cutest girl ever, and it inspires him to get into the entertainment industry as a child model.

Years later, the two are now classmates, and while Hayato is adored by legions of female fans for his handsome appearance and cool demeanor, his real aspiration is comedy. Hayato asks Nobuko for help, and after some important lessons (namely that Hayato can’t be serious about comedy if he’s afraid of being laughed at), Hayato finally succeeds in getting some laughs. Grateful to Nobuko, Hayato finally confesses his feelings to her and even gives her a kiss, but while Nobuko is shown to secretly feel the same way as Hayato, she backs away and tells him that he can’t do that.

There is so much to talk about in this first chapter, but I think what stands out most is Nobuko’s appearance. While Tonari no Young Jump, the website on which Kimi Nakare is published, can ostensibly be called “shounen” or “seinen,” it’s clear that Okachimachi comes from a very different background in terms of art style and approach to manga. Kimi Nakare is very much in a shoujo vein, but very rarely do shoujo manga feature a main female character as plain-looking as Nobuko. Generally speaking, they tend to be not the most beautiful but still thin and pretty in a conventional sense. In contrast, Nobuko is larger, has a rather masculine face with big bushy eyebrows, and is just noticeably less attractive than Hayato.

Even the story draws attention to the fact that Nobuko is not supposed to be good-looking. When a young Hayato is telling his parents that Nobuko is the cutest girl he’s ever seen, they react with puzzlement. “Cute? I would call her interesting…but cute?” Hayato “shouldn’t” be attracted to her to such an extent, but he is.

What’s amazing about this contrast is that it doesn’t feel simply like wish fulfillment that a handsome idol like Hayato would fall in love with Nobuko. Putting aside his love of comedy and the fact that she’s mentioned as being incredibly talented at getting laughs, Nobuko is strong, supportive, cheerful, and isn’t afraid to take someone down a peg. As the chapter progresses, it becomes evident that these qualities are what continuously draws Hayato to her. Okachimachi never draws Nobuko in a way implied to be Hayato’s “perspective” with the requisite that she then appears to be more beautiful than she is, but by just seeing them together, I could understand just how attractive Nobuko’s personality could be.

Suffice it to say, I already love this manga. I believe that Nobuko’s negative reaction to Hayato’s kiss and confession comes from the fact that he’s an idol and therefore isn’t allowed to date. Whether that means they have a clandestine romance or they have to constantly resist their own feelings, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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