Cactus’s Secret 1 by Nana Haruta: B-

Miku Yamada has a problem: the boy she likes, Kyohei Fujioka, is oblivious to her feelings. When she attempts to give him chocolates for Valentine’s Day, he cheerfully offers to help her practice confessing her love for someone else. He seems to be more affected by memories of a childhood friend than by her, but occasionally makes comments that cause her to believe she has a chance. How can she make him realize she likes him?

The back cover would have us believe that Miku is an unfortunate victim of Fujioka’s obstinate obtuseness, but readers will soon realize that this is not actually the case. Miku can’t seem to decide whether she truly wants Fujioka to know how she feels, which leads to vehement denials of her feelings and episodes where she treats him quite shabbily. How could Fujioka, who is admittedly rather dim, be expected to correctly interpret these actions?

As one might surmise, it’s very difficult to like Miku, even though her melodramatic behavior is not outside the realm of possibility for a lovelorn teen. Statements like, “I’m going to become an amazing girl so Fujioka will fall for me!” rankle, too, since I tend to prefer heroines with something on their minds other than boys. The end product is a very shallow story, more suitable for young teens than veteran shojo readers, though it does improve near the end of the volume when Miku’s message is finally clear enough for Fujioka to understand. Fujioka’s response is not only perfectly in character, but also age-appropriate, promising more interesting circumstances to come as the characters progress into their second year of high school.

Cactus’s Secret was serialized in Ribon magazine, and boy, does it show. All characters possess the distinctive eyes common to works from that publication, and screen tone is abundant. There’s even an author’s note where Haruta writes about being chastised for using insufficient tone! As a result, the artwork, while reasonably attractive, is essentially indistinguishable from anything else in Ribon. That said, I do think Fujioka’s character design is pretty cute.

On the subject of author’s notes, the flaws of Cactus’s Secret might be excused with Haruta’s revelation that the deadline for chapter four occurred on the same day as her high school graduation. On its own merits, this manga might not be anything special, but when one considers that it was created by a high school student, it starts to look downright impressive.

Cactus’s Secret was originally serialized in Ribon and is complete in four volumes. Only one volume has been released in English so far.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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  1. Danielle Leigh says

    I just finished High School Debut 9 and it mentions that Kawahara started creating manga at 18. *shakes head* I feel so old.

    It almost makes the plot of Otomen (with a character who is a teenage mangaka in secret believable…*almost*).

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