Manga Review – Cactus’s Secret

Cactus' Secret Volume 1

Cactus’s Secret
サボテンの秘密 (Saboten no Himitsu)
HARUTA Nana
Shoujo – Comedy, romance
4 Volumes (complete)
VIZ Media

Summary:

Miku is all set to confess to her crush, Kyohei, but she crashes and burns before she can say anything! Friendly Kyohei can’t understand why Miku is acting so prickly all of a sudden. Will he ever understand why?

Review:

When I first bought Cactus’s Secret, I wasn’t impressed. I can’t remember if I read reviews before or after I bought it, but they all talked about how cute and good the series was. I was like, “Seriously?”, as I found the whole thing rather dull.

Well, rereading it now, the first thing that jumps out at me is this girl

Cactus' Secret Volume 1

is cool. This girl?

Cactus's Secret Sample 1

Not so much.

Considering they’re the same person, that’s the problem. How many heroines do you see on the cover with an electric scooter? She could be a joyrider, or the tank she’s wearing could make her some type of employee of Juicy Music, whether official or unofficial. That would be a neat setup, but more importantly, that would be some type of setup. The Miku in Cactus’s Secret is pretty much defined by her crush on Kyohei.

Let me back up a minute though. Cactus’s Secret kicks off with Miku about to confess, but oblivious Kyo unintentionally insults her appearance for the day. Miku swears she’s over him after this episode, and he can’t understand why she’s being mad and stubborn all of a sudden. (The title comes from him calling her a “cactus alien” — I still don’t understand why the manga isn’t titled The Cactus Alien’s Secret then.) Miku decides to move on, but that lasts until the end of the chapter. So she tries to get him to realize her feelings. Despite this being called Cactus’s Secret, Kyohei does learn about Miku’s feelings within the first volume. So while the title hints that Miku’s feelings remain a secret, they don’t.

Cactus's Secret Sample 3

… In fact, skip this paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers. Last chance to skip ahead. Okay, here goes: they get together in the third volume. So the remaining two volumes have them making plans, and then there’s more frustration as Miku starts to think about the future. These topics are often covered in romance manga, but it feels like they were crammed in here, as they really don’t spend much time just getting closer as a couple. It’s pretty bad when, as discussed in the sidebars, even the author and her assistants all felt like this development was coming too soon and some behavior seemed out-of-character. It sounds like Haruta got some positive fan letters wishing Miku congratulations, but I think any real analysis would agree that the story should have shown Kyohei falling for Miku and skipped the post-relationship crises.

Ok, safe to read again.

The series is technically four volumes long, but it’s more like three, three and a half. The third and fourth volumes have lengthy, unrelated one-shots, although the final also includes some super short check-ins with a couple of characters. On the bright side, there is a good amount of humor, even lampshading the fact one character had disappeared. (Which is rather normal in a short series like this.)

I mentioned this before, but Miku doesn’t have much of a personality outside of her feelings. What does she like? Dislike? Haruta doesn’t do a lot to answer these questions in the opening chapters. We know she get frustrated, has an overly active imagination, is a good student, and has a typical “irritating little brother”-type relationship with her brother. But it all goes back to Kyohei. We see her get mad… because of Kyohei. Her imagination runs wild… because of Kyohei. Miku tutors Kyohei, and she spends a lot of time making herself up (and hogging the bathroom) because of Kyohei. It’s only later do we find out things like she’s a pretty good athlete. (Or maybe it’s only because of Kyohei she ran fast…) Just something to give her some type of quirk or unique attribute besides being tsundere.

Cactus's Secret Sample 2

The best character is probably someone from Kyohei’s past, as she is just so outgoing and a bit of a joker. Kyohei himself isn’t bad either. He’s obtuse and tends to be inadvertently rude despite meaning well, but he’s not some angsty, domineering love interest. He used to be considered a delinquent, but now he’s just a friendly idiot.

The art is pretty cheery. It’s energetic and youthful, which matches the spirit of the manga. Despite Miku’s nickname, we don’t see a bunch of cactus chibi images…disappointing. I mean, look how adorable the logo is! Really, the whole manga doesn’t have a lot of SD characters or other over-exaggerated expressions. Middle school Miku and Kyohei don’t look completely different from their current selves, which is especially nice for Miku. I do like some of the layout and design choices; for example, when Kyohei tells her something important in the second volume, it’s given a two page textless spread with Miku thinking about what he said afterward. Otherwise, this is just cute to look at.

Translation:

Honorifics are used. Some translation notes are included. Both of these are a surprise considering honorifics aren’t typically VIZ Media’s style, especially in a typical school setting. There’s really not a lot of cultural aspects here, and the few Japanese terms and references are in the author’s notes and not the manga itself.

Final Comments:

Cactus’s Secret is limited to the elementary, middle school crowd thanks to its non-abusive love interest. Otherwise, considering there are developments even the creator and her assistants were iffy about… Yeah, even the target audience can do better.

VIZ Media has released Haruta’s Chocolate Cosmos digitally.

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5 Comments

  1. RisefromAshes

    I don’t disagree with you analysis. I had a huge Shojo Beat kick back in highschool, and apparently I’ve read this series. Largely forgettable since even with your summary I couldn’t remember any of the details you described!

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      I don’t blame you! The title is probably the most memorable thing about this series. Shojo Beat could have picked up a different, better title than this one.

      Reply
      1. RisefromAshes

        For real though! I feel like late 2000’s Shojo Beat titles were for sure hit or miss. This was one of the serious misses lol

        Reply
  2. dreager1

    I remember reading this many years ago. I gave it a 3 so I definitely wasn’t too impressed. I agree that the heroine looks really cool from the cover but then seems to go back into being a fairly generic character who can’t get over the guy. Sounds like it’s not terrible or anything but really could have used another volume or 2 to slow down the pacing a bit

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Haruta should write a manga about an electric scooter-riding worker from Juicy Music. I’d bet it’d be better than this! Like you said, not bad, but nothing special.

      Reply

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