Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight
午前0時、キスしに来てよ (Gozen 0-ji, Kiss shi ni Kite yo)
Shoujo – Comedy, drama, romance
5 Volumes (ongoing)
Hinana appears to be a honor student only interested in studying, but she’s actually a romantic at heart with a soft spot for fairy tales. Keeping up the act may be difficult when her school used as a setting in a movie starring Kaede, a popular idol. But Hinana is shocked to learn that she may not be the only one with an interest they keep hidden from everyone…
Cinderella stories can be found all over the globe. and they date back to the first century BC or earlier. Depending on how you classify variants, hundreds to even thousands of these types of tales exist. By most standards, Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight isn’t technically a Cinderella derivative (Hinana isn’t being cruelly treated by a stepmother or any female for that matter), but for this “all-new Cinderella story with outrageous twists and turns”, the theme song may be less
You see, Hinana is trying to keep her inner fangirl under control when she wanders near a 24-year-old celebrity and sees him ogling high school girls’ butts. At the very minimum, it’s discomforting, especially in light of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement in the US. Kaede has a butt fetish, even buying figures of anime characters’ bottoms and glasses shaped liked rears. If there is ever a female Butt Detective, Kaede would probably be the first in line to buy it.
Hinana ends up making an impression on Kaede — mostly because first she accidentally gives him a panty flash. They bump into each other again, and the two end up enjoying each other’s company as they can be their real selves. Hinana confesses to loving romantic movies, and celebrity Kaede doesn’t have to be in his “on camera” mode. The two end up dating, but of course this must be kept a secret since Japan hates the thought of idols having a personal life.
My first impression of Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight was that this seemed a bit odd choice by Kodansha Comics to give it a print release. Mikimoto is a relatively new author to the Western manga market, but has been fairly well-known in scanlation circles with this series, Love’s Reach, and Kyou no Kira-kun (Today’s Kira-kun). Out of her three major works, Kyou no Kira-kun seems like it would have been the safest choice for a print release thanks to the main characters being high school students instead of an adult male x high school female romance. I’m guessing Kodansha thinks the oversized print release will make it profitable enough thanks to the “every girl’s fantasy” angle — that, or they already know something the rest of us don’t, like an anime adaptation is in the works. The third volume includes a lengthy epilogue to Love’s Reach, and I guess characters from Kyou no Kira-kun make some appearances. It’s a downside when you release the latest of an author’s work in stores before her earlier ones.
So far, the story is running on three fronts:
- Hinana and Kaede’s hiding their relationship while it grows
- Kaede’s break from his formal idol group
- Hinana’s childhood friend having feels for Hinana while Kaede’s ex-girlfriend returns
For the first, the references to fairy tales — particularly Cinderella — are very strong. Like in many classical versions, this is a fast romance. Kaede doesn’t have reservations about dating a 16-year-old (again, a problem for many potential readers), but to make up for it, he expresses an honest desire to be with Hinana. Kaede is rather blunt about what — or who — he likes. Although he’s older than the average love interest in shoujo manga, it’s almost surprising considering the abundance of tsundere leads.
This does play into the fantasy, self-insertion aspect of the series, as almost everyone has dreamed of a powerful, rich, and/or famous person sweeping you off your feet. Of course, Kaede’s fetish keeps the dream from being too perfect for Hinana, but there’s also the not-too-subtle hints that they are both trying to fill a vague hole in their lives. I’m not sensing tragic backstories so far but rather a little crack in their hearts they often deny. It’s hard to tell, though, as both the leads are still a bit of an enigma. I mean, Hinana introduces herself to the readers by saying she dreams of “hot guys”, and yet has a picture book adaptation of a 70s-style Cinderella anime stuck inside her book. Does she really love romance stories, or is she more into looks? Let’s just say Kaede is not the only one who is revealed to have an appreciation for the bodies of the opposite gender.
As for Kaede, Funny Bone is now a four-man group thanks to his departure, and Mikimoto is keeping much of this event under wraps. So far, two members have really made their formal entrance, and neither appear happy that Kaede left them and is now climbing to even greater heights. Kaede says he doesn’t hate his former group members, but it’s also easy to understand why Mitsuki and the others could feel frustrated. I imagine Kaede just wanted to spread his wings. Still, though, how does he go from “I ran into the girl I sort-of met while working” to “I want to be with a girl eight years younger despite the potential problems legally and with my career”? Mikimoto has stated the Funny Bone arc is coming up, but right now, it’s one of the elephants in the room.
Amost every story of a normal person getting swept up in the lifestyles of the rich and famous deal with the pressures of high society, but so far, the conflict is less about Hinana in the world of celebrities and more about Kaede in the world of fellow celebrities — namely, his ex-bandmates. Hinana at one point witnesses her boyfriend doing a kissing scene, but she focuses on the excitement of his work rather than the fact he is kissing someone else. I’m sure Hinana will face more obstacles as a normal girl dating a famous person, but so far, Mikimoto’s approach gives a solid boost to the story outside of just Kaede’s manager trying to run interference Hinana-related news stories.
The last main plotline mainly exists to help check off the traditional shoujo romance tropes. Hinana’s guy friend Akira is the definition of friendzoned as he ends up discovering Hinana and Kaede’s relationship. Akira is a nice guy (although it’s not like Kaede is a bad guy), but I hope that it doesn’t turn out that his only purpose in the story is to be rejected by Hinana and to drive her further into Kaede’s arms. He and Hinana also have another mutual friend, but she seems to be more in the background at this point. Meanwhile, Hinana also has her own competitor for Kaede’s affections in the form of Shū, another celebrity with an unusual hobby. Shū is likely to draw fan’s ire, so we’ll see if she will turn out to be anything but the evil ex.
I imagine though that perhaps the biggest push for this getting licensed and released in print form was the visuals. Each volume opens with several full-color images, and this is a good way to get people excited about what’s inside. However, it’s probably the comedic drawings that will create a long-lasting impact.
Mikimoto loves to draw her characters with a retro and/or exaggerated appearance, and they appear in this SD format very frequently. This helps reduce some of the more problematic parts of the story. When the characters look goofy, readers aren’t supposed to take it seriously. When the characters look normal, readers pay more attention and know something significant or exciting is happening. For me, personally, it’s a little too much, but Mikimoto’s style does stand out. Her art does have a lot in common with Strobe Edge‘s Sakisaka, but the Doremon-like faces add an extra, charming element. As for characters themselves, the author seems to love fluffy hair. I do like how Hinana’s hairstyle changes for more than just events like festivals though. As for the layout, since this isn’t an action or even a dialogue-heavy one, the panels are quite large. In the print version, it feels really huge. It seems almost unfair that some busy series are in standard manga size (or even slightly smaller) while a series like this gets an oversized release. That’s not Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight‘s fault, of course, but honestly, this could be a good option for manga fans with vision problems. But combined with the chibi figures et al, this series can sometimes feel like a strange read.
Honorifics are used. Any needed translation notes are included at the end of the volumes. Not much to say, but a couple of minor things to note. Some people may not like the blend of English-Japanese like “Panties-chan” and “Witch-san”. Hinana sees an ad for Kaede’s new movie which is based on a book. The text says “film adaption”. “Adaption” is a word, but it’s far less common than “adaptation”. It’s possible “adaption” was chosen simply because it’s shorter, but just an interesting note.
Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight is kind of an odd duck. The basic idea is a traditional romantic fantasy, but Mikimoto adds her own spin with everyone’s quirks and just as quirky visuals. However, the age gap is always an issue with these types of stories, particularly when the male lead’s preferences are so in-your-face. At the same, he is truly trying to do right by his girlfriend. This series is familiar while also unfamiliar, realistic yet unrealistic, romance-heavy yet comedic-heavy. So if you are looking for a series with this kind of duality, then Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight might just fit the bill… or, in this case, the glass slipper.
Kodansha Comics is releasing Mikimoto’s Love’s Reach digitally.