The characters in this book may look familiar to readers of Shizuki Fujisawa‘s other series to get an English release (Hatsu*Haru), but otherwise you’d never know that these books came from the same pen. Where Hatsu*Haru was a heartfelt high school romance, The Transcendent One-Sided Love of Yoshida the Catch is much more of a comedy, following the pining of gorgeous salaryman Yoshida as he yearns for the one woman who has zero idea that he’s got a thing for her…and who has all the self-awareness of your average brick and the social skills to match. In fact, a brick being hurled through glass may actually be better equipped to handle social norms than she is.
Naturally, that’s where the humor comes in – Shimakaze is a comically laid-back manga creator and he’s a hyper-competent assistant when he’s not in the office at his day job, constantly cleaning up her many messes. Those run the gamut between “minor inconvenience” (spilling ink on her own head or Yoshida’s) to “outright irresponsible disaster,” like when she drunkenly agrees to write a hundred-page one-shot alongside her eighty pages of regular serialized manga in one month. In another series, Shimakaze would be a major detriment, not just because of her inability to do her work in a way that doesn’t inconvenience or put at risk the health of everyone depending on her, but also because she’s so unbearably stuck in her own head. At times it comes across as a mere lack of social awareness, but at others it feels intensely selfish, like she simply doesn’t care about anyone around her. Having hypercompetent Yoshida around tempers her as a character, although she can still be a major irritant on occasion. Mostly it boils down to a question of whether we can buy that Yoshida loves her or not, because she does come across as hard to like from a reader perspective.
Another interesting element of the story is that while Shimakaze’s assistants are obviously grateful to Yoshida, we don’t get much sense that she herself is. That certainly fits with her personality – most of this volume is a combination of her making unreasonable demands that she has no idea aren’t a great thing to do while he does damage control…and they walk in on each other in the bathroom. It’s not classy humor, but it also doesn’t need to be. The juxtaposition of the two characters does most of the work for the book, and we could easily paint it as Yoshida being attracted to Shimakaze’s free artist spirit while he’s stuck doing exactly what he’s expected to. She’s the irresponsible self he can’t express, even when he’s there cleaning up her messes, and maybe that’s what he likes about being around her. Since Yoshida doesn’t talk much, it can be hard to tell if that’s the case, which leads us to what is probably the most interesting piece of the book: the way that it’s told.
Despite Yoshida being the title character, he doesn’t have much of a voice in the story. We see the central relationship solely from the outside, with different assistants doing the narration. That means that we have to take their word for the fact that Yoshida is in love or that the object of his affection is oblivious to it. Therefore, we could very well come to the end and find out that this entire thing has been manufactured by interested observers, and while I doubt that’s where it’ll go, the possibility is kind of tantalizing, especially when we look at the two primary point-of-view characters: a naïve young high schooler who is thrilled to discover that one of his cousins is a professional manga creator (and then he meets her), and the lone female assistant. We have to assume that the latter’s been watching Yoshida and perhaps trying to figure out why on earth he keeps coming to help Shimakaze, and she’s the one who really takes the new kid under her wing, explaining things to him – including the purported relationship between Shimakaze and Yoshida. In their minds, he’s Mr. Tsundere, but is that really the truth?
The Transcendent One-Sided Love of Yoshida the Catch may not have the heart of Hatsu*Haru (at least, not yet), but it’s every bit as readable with the added bonus of feeling very much like watching someone attempt to walk upright on ice in terrible shoes – you know what might happen, but not what will. The humor isn’t high-brow and does at times rely on its adult characters acting anything but adult, but that works for this particular story. The use of Shimakaze’s profession is also very well done; it doesn’t feel like just another manga about making manga, instead using it as a way to show how not-professional Shimakaze is while also slyly poking at the industry with comments about how to get girls to read shounen series (kissing, apparently) and how kids these days do all of their work digitally and have no idea how to use analog manga tools. It’s fun for the most part, and doesn’t require a ton of brainpower to read for those days when you just need something to take your mind off of everything going on in the real world.