Josei – Romance, drama, smut, supernatural
7 Volumes (complete)
Kaya just wants to be an effective secretary. When her new boss, Director Tohma, tries to dismiss her because she’s not pretty enough, Kaya sets out to prove him wrong. But she ends up discovering his secret: Kyohei is a vampire! And all his womanizing is actually his feeding time…
Midnight Secretary is an enjoyable series in the josei category even if you’re like me and sick of vampire stories.
This series is almost like a cross between Happy Marriage?! and Black Bird. It has the business setting of the former and the smut and supernatural politics of the latter. But Midnight Secretary is significantly shorter than either of those titles, and the romance develops at a different pace. While Kaya and Kyohei begin a physical relationship early in the series, they don’t officially become a couple until the later half. Unlike the other two manga series I mentioned, the love here happens after sex instead of sex happening after they fall in love. Likewise Kyohei’s position as an executive and a vampire prevents a lot of the shoujo/josei staples like going out on dates or celebrating holidays. They are private lovers, and the romance feels more like a Harlequin series rather than a Japanese manga. This absolutely does not mean Midnight Secretary is substandard; it just has a different (Western instead of Eastern) feel.
This manga is strictly Kaya and Kouhei’s story. A few characters are reoccurring, but they generally phase out in place of the next person who stirs up drama. One character is given a side story in the final volume, but nobody really emerges as a main character. Keeping the focus on Kaya and Kyohei gives the author more time to dive into their heads and develop them as characters. The downside is the story lacks some world-building. Vampires supposedly have much influence in many industries, but how did they get such power? They don’t seem to live longer than humans. One special power is revealed late in the series, but it still doesn’t explain why vampires see themselves as so superior to humans. Regardless, the romance develops at a solid pace. Rather than new obstacles constantly being introduced, the main couple works together to slowly break down the one main wall that separates them. It’s nice not having love triangle fodder keep rotating in or older brother/cousins brought in just to stir up trouble.
However, I feel like last volume is the weakest. One unlikely character discovers Kyohei’s secret, but that person accepts in the following chapter and then pretty much disappears. A new development is brought into the picture, but the series ends with a “we’ll handle it” even though the issue brings up many new mysteries and will bring future problems. Another character is given a side story that is basically a light version of Midnight Secretary. I wish the space was given to Kaya and Kyohei instead.
While so many clichés and tropes are in the forefront (vampires, secretary x boss, womanizer, etc.), there is one ray of light that steers this series into a fresh direction: Kaya. She is young (only 22) but is a very hard worker and mature beyond her years. While the heroines of Happy Marriage?! and Black Birds were emotional (i.e. crybabies and quick-tempered), Kaya handles her emotions much more maturely. Her fits of anger are held until she’s alone. When insulted, she responds with a professional smile. Although she has the traditional woman-in-love worries, Kaya does not become a clingy, jealous woman. She wants Kyohei’s love but doesn’t demand it. While I wouldn’t say this is an ideal relationship (but, let’s face it, a lot of manga relationships should just stay as fiction), she is a relatable protagonist.
Unlike Kaya, Kyohei is more of the traditional alpha male type. He thinks of himself as above humans. Unlike many other male leads, he is never really knocked down a peg. He eventually fall in love with Kaya, but Kyohei doesn’t really gain any affection for people in general. He puts his trust in certain individuals, but he is never really gains appreciation about humans as a species. I think this lack of an awakening kept me from fully embracing Kyohei’s development toward Kaya.
The art style is rather unique. Unlike many artists who tend to have simplistic designs, the author makes frequent use of thicker lines and dark inking. Lots of darktones are used. This adds to the mystery and supernatural elements. The art actually looks like a blend from the 70s/80s (thick eyelashes, defined noses) and the modern style (SD faces, clean artwork). The men’s eyes are quite small, especially compared to Kaya’s babyface. Instead, the reader has to watch carefully for the men’s expressions, and the author uses a lot of shadows and screentones to help display their emotions. Her babyface self looks quite different from her secretarial self. Ohmi seems to have trouble with Kaya’s glasses. They don’t really move even when Kaya turns her face, so her head is angling in one direction while her glasses seem to still be facing forward. The lenses also seem to get larger in some panels. The sensual scenes are tastefully done without forcing a lot of unnecessary flash shots. Midnight Secretary really is a visually appealing series.
No honorifics are used. All company employees’ titles are translated. The executives are usually referred to as “Director XXX” or “President So-and-So”. The translation and adaptation are done by the same person/team. The company often works on Viz Media titles, so Midnight Secretary reads like many other of Viz Media’s titles. It’s an effective adaptation but nothing special. Since this manga is set in the business world, there really isn’t anything that required Japanese terms or intensive knowledge of Japanese culture.
It’s a good read, but it’s not my favorite mature shoujo or josei title. However, readers looking for a mature romance — both mature in content and mature in a character sense — will want to pick up this series. We can always use more romances not set in high school.
I think I’m sick of the word “secretary”. Seriously, I swear it was on every page.
After reading Spell of Desire, I keep seeing Takasu as Kaname.