Josei – Comedy, romance, slice-of-life
2 Volumes (completed)
On her way to an interview, Tamaki sees a man being chased and steps in to help. But she misunderstands the situation, and although she ruins her skirt and her job interview, she accepts responsibility and doesn’t need an apology from the man she was trying to protect. But he reappears with a job offer: be his bodyguard! Tamaki doesn’t want to get mixed up in anything shady, but why is he so interested in her?
SP Baby is the type of manga that I think only got licensed because of name recognition. It’s certainly not because it’s a great series.
Tamaki thinks a man is being harassed, and she goes to deliver a kick to the pursuer. But he easily catches her leg, and then Tamaki realizes the two know each other. She thinks they were a couple in a fight, but she leaves before her would-be protectee can explain. The incident made her blow her interview, and she really wants a full-time job to both support her younger brother and gain the courage to confess to her crush, Natsu. But the man from earlier suddenly appears with a short suit, a smile, and a job offer: be a bodyguard for him! Tamaki quickly hightails it out of there, thinking the yakuza is involved somehow. To quickly sum it up, Tamaki confesses she can’t be a bodyguard because every time she tries to help someone, things go wrong. If she were to protect him, he might end up getting hurt. Kagetora, who turns out to be the prime minister’s nephew, and the guy he was trying to escape from is his bodyguard, Mikeyama. But Kagetora is confident he’ll be fine being with Tamaki.
And there we go.
So, as a two volume series, SP Baby is very limited in how much story it can tell. The manga has to skip ahead between chapters in order to get Tamaki to become an official bodyguard and have her get closer to Kagetora. Enjoji went on maternity leave during the series, and that might have inspired her to wrap it up much earlier than expected. Or maybe the ratings for the manga in the magazine were low and that led to an early exit.
So if you want a story about a cool, kick-butt lady or an emotional romance, you won’t find it in SP Baby. The manga is primarily a comedy, led mostly by Kagetora. He is the sort to do whatever he wants. While he’s technically Tamaki’s boss (well, not officially until she finishes her training), Kagetora doesn’t act like one. I don’t mean just in the sense of “call me by my name” and other casualties. He picks out uniforms for her with very short skirts, kisses her, and generally acts intimate with her — in other words, sexual harassment. He’s not cruel to her, which is better than the abusive types that often dominate romance manga. He’s more of the goofy pervert type you’d see in the main male lead’s best friend than the male lead himself. Even as Tamaki tries to get him to stop — after all, she likes her friend Natsu, who has looked after her and her brother after their parents’ death — Kagetora doesn’t get it, complete with sad puppy dog ears. The first chapter confirms that Kagetora knows Tamaki from somewhere, and later in the volume he tells her right to her face he doesn’t really want Tamaki as his bodyguard. He managed to meet her again, and he doesn’t want to let her go. However, that doesn’t mean he should continue expressing his interest in her when Tamaki is clearly uncomfortable.
Speaking of Tamaki, she’s the sort of heroine who is more brawn than brains and reacts before she thinks. Her younger brother, Taishi, often chastises her because of this because he doesn’t need her to overextend herself for him to go to college. She does believe a bit in the supernatural because of her bad luck. Her crush on Natsu is understandable since he’s helped the Hasegawa siblings so much, and so she is often frustrated that she’s with Kagetora instead of Natsu. However, events in the second volume means her feelings for him are quickly pushed aside as she instead worries about being a part of Kagetora’s world. I do like how Tamaki is strong but is still untrained. She really only knows how to kick, so it’s not like she immediately is hired and is breaking up evil plots or something.
While I mainly categorize this as a comedy, there are several attempts on Kagetora’s life. However, SP Baby doesn’t go down the mystery and/or action paths. These incidents are mostly used as a way for Tamaki to open up about her past and insecurities. Kagetora is mostly used to such situations, and there’s another reason why he isn’t more concerned about being injured. The ending features the most dire situation, but you wouldn’t know it from the characters’ reactions. A story like this would seem better suited to be a drama with light comedic elements, but this one is the inverse. Again, this probably would have been different had the series been longer.
I’ve already discussed a bit about the other characters to note. Taishi is smart and pragmatic, but despite some of his snide comments, he loves his sister. Mikeyama is strict with Tamaki from the start, but he seems to be a bit snarkier with his boss in the second volume. Natsu himself doesn’t have much of a role in the story, as Tamaki mentions him more than we actually see him.
Even though there are some people upset either with Kagetora (because of his uncle) or Tamaki (because she’s suddenly close to the young master), the manga doesn’t have an actual antagonist. One person you think might be turns out to be a fake, and I have to give props for the twist. But what I really like how Kagetora isn’t in some emotionally constipated, melodramatic situation with his family. I’ve forgotten how rare it is for a rich male lead to not have his parents/grandparents/siblings/guardians be villains in a story. Why can’t we have more of this?
The manga is rated for older teens, but it is relatively tame. There is some mature content like with Kagetora’s comments and a bath scene, but nothing here is explicit. I guarantee a lot of T rated manga is worse. Maybe all the criminal acts pushed it up. Otherwise, the art is probably the strongest feature of SP Baby. Tamaki’s anger — suppressed or expressed — provides a lot of the visual humor, but we also get a few impressive-looking action shots. A running gag is that Kagetora, Tamaki, and Mikeyama all have nicknames that are similar to popular cat names, so I’m surprised Enjoji didn’t include more animal characteristic gags, but oh well. The two leads will look very similar if you’ve read Enjoji’s other manga, and I hope someday she does a manga with characters more like Mikeyama or even Taishi. I do like Tamaki’s pinkish wavy hair, but we only see it on the cover of course. Regardless, the manga is bright and allows readers to appreciate the sweet moments between the leads.
No honorifics are used. Kagetora’s family name is misspelled on the back of the first volume. Kagetora’s bodyguard’s name is written as both “Mikéyama” and “Mikeyama”. A footnote is included to explain the cat names joke. Also interesting is that the English title dropped the “x” in the name.
SP Baby has a few bright spots, but the manga can’t capitalize off of them. Kagetora’s behavior might have been balanced out by a more mentally tough Tamaki had the series gone on longer. The series is readable but forgettable, and you’re better off just passing completely.
VIZ Media has also licensed Enjoji’s Happy Marriage?! and An Incurable Case of Love.