Eensy Weensy Monster 1 by Masami Tsuda: B

From the back cover:
Nanoha Satsuki, an average, plain-Jane high school student, comfortably spends her time in the shadow of her two beautiful, popular friends. But new guy Hazuki Tokiwa, with his snobbish, arrogant demeanor, has a way of getting under Nanoha’s skin, and releasing her inner monster!

Is this the beginning of an ugly relationship, or does Hazuki have his own hidden qualities?

I feel a little guilty that I’ve started another Masami Tsuda series rather than actually finish Kare Kano, but this one is so short and cute and I really will finish the other one this year, I swear!

Nanoha Satsuki is normally a calm, friendly girl. Even the attention paid to her childhood friends—princely Nobara, dubbed the “Lady Oscar” of the school, and genius Renge—doesn’t get her down. For some reason, though, a superficial boy named Hazuki and his snobby ways really get her goat. Nanoha attributes these mysterious feelings of anger to a “little parasite” and does her best to keep a lid on them, but one day she’s had enough and lays into Hazuki for being arrogant and narrow-minded.

Should it be a surprise to anyone that these two will eventually end up together? No, but how they get there is actually pretty interesting. After the outburst, Nanoha lives in fear of some kind of retribution, but her words have actually shocked Hazuki out of his reverie. Bratty vanity, as it turns out, is his little monster to overcome. He realizes he has no real friends or goals and comes to appreciate her hard-working qualities. In time, Nanoha is able to relax when he’s around, and by the end of the first volume—after the passage of several months—they’ve become friends.

Tsuda is very good at depicting the opening stages of a couple’s relationship—the first two volumes of Kare Kano are still my favorite part—and puts those skills to good use here. One technique she’s fond of is putting the girl’s perspective of events on the right-side page, and the boy’s on the left, and it works nicely here. For all of the moments when Nanoha catches Hazuki looking at her and thinks he’s plotting something dastardly or contemplating her lack of academic prowess, we see that he’s usually thinking things like, “If I want to be a better person, I should learn from someone like her.”

The overall tone is lighthearted, but one does come to like the leads a good deal by the end. Nanoha’s friends are quirky, too, and I’d like to know more about them, but if the couple gets together in the first two volumes and then we spend loads of time on their friends, I guess this would just turn into a clone of Tsuda’s more famous series.

As a final note, I must mention how much I love what Tsuda does with Hazuki’s fangirls. Immediately after being told off by Nanoha, Hazuki goes to them for sympathy. Instead, they all laugh in his face. “She sees right through you! I mean, we all like you, but we wouldn’t go out with you or anything.” Later, when Hazuki and Nanoha have gotten friendly, a few girls decide that they ought to bully her, but they’re rotten at it. At one point a cluster of girls follows Nanoha after school with the intention of threatening her, only to instinctively end up rallying to her defense when it looks like she’s been accosted by a creepy dude. Then they all find a new prince to swoon over. The end.

In the end, Eensy Weensy Monster is a totally cute and sweet shoujo romance. It probably won’t convert anyone to either the demographic or the genre, but it will provide an afternoon’s pleasant amusement to existing fans of both.

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