Sunday, July 20, 2014

Manga Review: Poor Poor Lips volume 4

I originally meant to review this volume in the form of JManga's release. But then JManga folded and my paper copy of this book was in a different part of the country from where I was, then I picked it up in my hometown and brought it when I moved to Seattle and, uh, just didn't get back to it until now. So here, finally, is my review of it!

You may remember that previously on Poor Poor Lips, our impoverished protagonist Nako got a job at a jewelry store belonging to a woman from a filthy rich family named Ren, who is a lesbian who developed feelings for her. Ren lost her store and other assets to her homophobic mom Nei, moved in with Nako, and grew from realizing how sheltered she was. Ren found out Nako was perpetually scraping by because her uncle made her think she was indebted to him. Ren got Nei to use her clout to stop him, at the cost of agreeing to an arranged marriage. After realizing she is head-over-heels in love with Ren, Nako got a job as a maid at Ren's family's mansion so she could stay by Ren's side. It is obvious to everyone they know that they are in love, but they still don't get that it's reciprocal. And raise curtain on volume 4, this series' final volume.

Nako sees Nei watching some movies of Ren as a child, and learns that her motive for trying to stick Ren in a marriage to a dude is a little more sympathetic than it previously seemed, although this series knows that her plan is horrible regardless. 

Nei tries to speed her plan for Ren along by introducing her to the heir of another rich family, Kenmochi. While not really attracted to Kenmochi, Ren finds herself not actively repulsed by Kenmochi the way she has been by her other suitors, which is an awkward way of foreshadowing that Kenmochi is a pre-op trans man. He wants to find a wife from among the ladies considered suitable for him and figures he can do a Princess Knight scenario by making Ren fall for him when he dons a long wig and dresses the way he occasionally has to to please his transphobic grandpa who thinks he's delusional. Thankfully, the storyline with grandpa is resolved satisfactorily, as is the Final Boss to Ren and Nako's love that is Nei. Just as basically every character who isn't Ren has been learning what being gay is since volume 1 (including Kenmochi), now Ren and Nako (and Kenmochi's grandpa) learn what being transsexual is, in this series' characteristically goofy manner.

Further misunderstandings happen, and Nako turns in her resignation because she is afraid of the Princess Knight plan working and doesn't want to see it. Ren, wanting to make Nako happy in some capacity one last time, tells her she will give her anything she wants. This leads to what everyone who likes this series has been waiting for.

Ren still needs to deal with the engagement, though, and I won't spoil how it resolves, but things turn out happily and the epilogue is wonderful.

If you rooted for Ren and Nako, you will find it immensely satisfying to see them get the hard-won happiness they deserve. I didn't expect Ren's fiancé's being a transsexual man to be a major plot point in this volume, but I thought it was handled mostly well. Ren sensing Kenmochi's pre-op-ness before Kenmochi is outed is problematic for the emphasis it puts on Kenmochi's body versus his gender early on, although that changes later. I know I'm not the best judge and could be wrong about the getting-it-wrong-to-getting-it-right ratio for how Kenmochi is written, though. As with the previous volume, this volume is angstier than the first two (tangent: spellcheck tried to make "angstier" into "gangster"), but it works because it isn't overwhelming and this series' author Goto Hayako still uses humor liberally. This is still a 4-koma, however unusually plotty it might be for its genre. 

As it has been from the beginning, this series is a sweet romance that is unusually blunt about lgbtq identity, starring a likable pair of leads. I am glad I tried it despite volume 1's cover, and you will probably enjoy it also if you're looking for a good romance starring adults.

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