Title: Kokoro Button
Author: USAMI Maki
Flower Comics, 2009
As I am sure I have mentioned before in every other USAMI Maki title I have talked about here, this author is one of my favorites. I don’t know why, but there is something I find adorable about her artwork and stories. I like the rounded faces and funny expressions she gives her characters. The heroine in this story is especially cute, with her awkward body language and funny way of blurting out things. The boy is cute too. How could I not like this one? My goal is to have every series USAMI Maki has released. I was unable to buy any new manga for a while, so I missed this book when it first came out. I am happy to finally get a copy of it to talk about here at last! This is the start of a new series, so this entire volume consists of the same story. Oh, but one thing about the cover… Dear Shogakukan: please stop with the translucent color haze on all your books! Please! Did this cover really need that salmon pink shade all over it? Enough already! ;_; I think this cover would have looked better if the artwork was left alone.
KASUGA Nina is a cute girl who has just started high school. She is an average student but is cheerful and has a lot of friends. She also has a crush on a boy she met during the opening ceremony/new student-orientation. His name is KOGA Eito, and he helped Nina out by taking her to the infirmary when she was sick. He helped her again when her friends wanted to reserve a meeting room to watch DVDs and chat, but were snubbed by some girls in an advanced class who had already reserved the room. Koga helped her get a form to fill out to reserve the room at a different time for her friends. Ever since these events, Nina has really liked Koga-kun. He is tall and handsome, and is in the advanced placement classes.
Nina is a funny character. She can be timid, but her curiosity will often override her shyness and she will blurt out things that others may not have the nerve to ask about. For example, she blurts out the question “Do you have a girlfriend?” to Koga and almost immediately regrets saying such a bold thing. Koga, for his part, finds Nina to be vastly amusing. She is cute, and he is impressed by her straightforward personality. He doesn’t have a girlfriend, however, he is also not interested in dating anyone. This would normally spell doom for a girl, but Nina is not put off by this statement. He has been pretty nice to her. In fact, he even helps her again when she is being bullied by the obligatory pack of jealous rival girls from the advanced placement class. Once again, Koga defends Nina, and Nina is certain that she really likes him.
In desperation, she comes up with an amazing idea — why don’t they date, but just as a sort of temporary trial relationship. If it goes well, then maybe they could date for real? Koga is once again amazed by Nina’s straight talk and determination, so he agrees to her idea. However, he warns her that she really doesn’t know him very well. Does she really want to date him? She does, so from there begins the trial relationship of Nina and Koga. Will they be able to make it last?
Chapter 1 of this series feels more like chapter 2. It begins at a school camping trip/training/orientation trip thing, with the trial relationship already in place. Nina is fretting about how to advance their relationship and get to know him better. Her first goal is to get his mobile phone number, her second goal is to get a kiss. Will she succeed at either mission?
Following chapters flash back to show how the relationship started, and then forward again to events after the training trip is over. What Koga said is true — Nina doesn’t know him well yet. She has always seen him rescuing her and being kind and “princely.” But he has a mischievous teasing side that she is slowly starting to understand. He can also be unexpectedly cold. How does he really feel about Nina? He does nice things, and is certainly good at acting like a gentleman, but is that the real Koga? Or is he just playing with her like a toy? He may have a bit of a sadistic personality…
So far, this is a sweet, non-smutty series. Nina is funny and likable. She isn’t stupid or always victim. Koga does help her out sometimes, but I think Nina would have probably been ok somehow even if he didn’t. She is cute and sort of average and sloppy. I like how she can’t resist blurting or asking things she really wants to know. As for Koga, he can be a little mean, but he isn’t outright cruel or abusive. He is just a little playful, and after being around Nina, he begins to change for the better.
I really look forward to volume 2 to see where this funny couple will end up!