Manga Review – Missions of Love

Missions of Love Volume 1

Missions of Love
わたしに××しなさい! (Watashi ni XX Shinasai!)
TOYAMA Ema
Shoujo – Drama, romance
19 Volumes (complete)
Kodansha Comics

Summary:

Yukina’s sharp eyes scare most people, so her cousin is her only friend. But at least she has the online stories she writes! The one thing she can’t write about is love since she has no experience. When Yukina discovers her classmate’s secret, she blackmails him into playing her boyfriend!

Review:

What I tell myself every time I start this series: “I will keep an open mind. I will keep an open mind. I WILL keep an OPEN mind.”
What I actually think to myself: “OMG, I hate this series. I hate this series. If a meteorite is going to hit Earth, let it be now so that these pages will be set on fire and I never have to deal with this manga again.”

I know I don’t always have the most popular opinions. I think Fruits Basket is just okay because I find the protagonist a Mary Sue. But it is one of the greatest mysteries to me that this manga lasted for 19 volumes (plus a 1-volume sequel that is unlicensed).

I know some others have argued that, like so many long series, Missions of Love went downhill. Now, I’ll agree that the premise either had potential or even reached the level of being good. But to me, even waaaay back when I first started reading this, all the signs that this was going to be a disaster were there. So much so that this is the only time I’ve managed to get past…I forgot where I fell off, but maybe about volume 6?

Now, though I finally figured out what my complaints are about this series. It can be summed up in two points:

  1. While it doesn’t involve any fantasy aspects, it’s akin to Twilight.
  2. It’s the suprised Pikachu meme in manga form.

So Yukina is nicknamed the Absolute Zero Snow Woman. Her sharp gazes frighten everyone away and is only close to her quiet and snackaholic cousin, Akira. He also is the only one who knows Yukina secretly writes short fiction for readers online, often basing her stories on her observations of her classmates. Yupina, Yukina’s pen name, is popular enough to have had books published. But while she can write adventure stories, she believes she needs first-hand experience to write a romance.

So even though she sees a girl confessing to Shigure, the most popular boy in class and probably #1 in the entire school, that doesn’t help Yukina with her story. Plus, she finds the kindhearted and cheerful Shigure boring. But when Yukina finds a student notebook and realizes Shigure has been making a game out of girls confessing, she gives him an order or she’ll expose his secret. That order: fall in love with her! And that means she gives him “missions” like holding her close and call her by her name. Shigure, of course, doesn’t want to. However, the combination of Yukina having the upper hand plus jealousy of her cousin Akira means he can’t just run away. Meanwhile, Shigure’s longtime friend Mami notices how Yukina is suddenly around Shigure, whom she knows doesn’t let his true self show easily. That ties into his family, particularly his brother, Hisame.

Missions of Love Sample 1

As you can assume, Akira, Mami, and Hisame play large roles in the manga. They have their stories, but of course their initial and primary role is to stir up drama as love rivals for Yukina/Shigure. Even as some characters start to surrender, others step up the aggressiveness. While many manga can survive and thrive on the side characters, here, the focus is clearly on Yukina and Shigure: Yukina as the ultimate observer who is literally putting herself in her novel’s protagonist’s shoes, and Shigure as the faker who ends up getting serious.

But here’s the thing: the setup doesn’t make a lick of sense. Shigure is not necessarily likable at the beginning, but at least his thought process is understandable: flatter people, and you can get away with a lot of things and have others do your bidding. Yukina… talks out of both sides of her mouth. Obviously, the whole idea behind the manga is that things don’t go as planned, but I don’t know what Yukina would have done if Shigure had done what she asked without complaint.

Yukina: “Tell me you love me.”
Shigure: *at the level of a pro actor* “I love you.”
Yukina: “I am so inspired right now and am writing a future bestseller.”

Ta-da?

Of course, Yukina pushes Shigure to put a lot of effort into these missions. But she’s still ordering him to do the things she came up with so she can write about the things that she came up with that she didn’t think she could write about. Huh? Wouldn’t it have at least been more plausible that readers or her editor thought she was lacking deep emotion or something? And Yukina tells Shigure right away that she chose him because it wouldn’t affect her conscience. And then she’s surprised that a classmate who puts on fake smiles and is being blackmailed by her doesn’t actually like her? Surprised Pikachu face! Meanwhile, Shigure is all surprised Pikachu faced that the girl he’s been close with for years and needs to be patted on the head by him on occasion likes him romantically. And so on.

Also, let me sum up another part of the story. Let me also emphasize that all this is still within the first couple of volumes.

Akira: “I love you, Yukina.”
Yukina: “Silly. That’s not what love is. Let me tell you what it actually is. And then right after this, let me go blackmail a schoolmate around to do couple-y things because I don’t understand what love is and I need to know for a story I’m writing.”

*throws hands up in the air*

Anyway, Shigure at first is confused and aggravated by Yukina’s demands. He soon finds himself wanting more out of their relationship, although he doesn’t know that Yukina is writing a story based on their various rendezvous. And here’s where the Twilight comparisons come in: the manga is what a younger reader’s idea of risqué and edgy is. Older readers are going to be like, “Wow, there are so many ways this is wrong and so many more ways that this could go wrong.” This seems to be backed up by the fact that early on in the manga Toyama mentions that younger readers preferred Shigure while older fans liked Akira. With Shigure, you got the spicy, jealous boy who bites Yukina’s ear and later is leaving hickeys on her. There’s even a scene where, despite clothes being on and hands not involved, it clearly looks like a threesome.

Missions of Love Sample 2

For your information… this won an award for best children’s (kodomo) manga. Just to be clear, I do not recommend this for children. Kodansha Comics USA rates this for older teens, so there’s definitely a disparity here in how you would classify/rate this manga. As a comparison, Kitchen Princess won the same Kodansha Manga Award for Children’s Manga as Missions of Love and was serialized in the same magazine. That series was rated by Kodansha Comics as for ages 13+, but this is a huge difference in maturity levels. It’s definitely much larger than a three-year age gap. Kitchen Princess is basically Bambi. Here in Missions of Love, there are a lot of suggestive visuals and dialogue (panting, misleading comments, etc.). The two manga were never serialized in Nakayoshi at the same time (Missions of Love started eight months after Kitchen Princess), but an 8, 10-year-old catching the ending of Kitchen Princess were, about two years later, were watching a heroine demanding a boy kiss her on the neck while they’re alone in the boy’s locker room. You see where I am going about this series being edgy for tweens?

I mean, yes, of course older readers could enjoy the unsubtle sexiness. At the same time, though, I don’t know if it’s going to suit them. Manga like Black Bird, Peach Heaven, or the incomplete-in-English The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko focus on one part of Missions of Love and does it better in my opinion: Black Bird has the sensualness but drama that involves more than just love polygons, Peach Heaven is a secret author story with heavy comedy and (mostly verbal) smut, and The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko has a people watcher who is clueless about love. The latter includes a lot of what I wanted out of Missions of Love and was even teased about in this series. In the first volume, for instance, Yukina brilliantly pulls a IRL Uno Reverse card when he tries to trap her in front of the class into admitting she has his student notebook. That was fun and kind of gives Yukina the cool, collected protagonist vibe. But then soon afterwards, she agrees to a bet with Mami to not talk to Shigure for a week in order to get her to reveal Shigure’s secret about his fake side. For a heroine who has dedicated herself to watching people, you’d think Yukina would have learned that suddenly not talking to someone is rude, and placing dumb bets regarding people’s feelings and backgrounds is also not cool.

You could contribute some of these issues to the characters’ ages, but if Yukina is mature enough to have a bestselling book and pull Shigure behind a podium and climb on top of him to see if he can resist her (and I quote) “temptations”, she shouldn’t be that clueless. Shigure is also pretty clueless considering he hears Yukina and Akira address each other by the names of her characters, you’d think that would make him wonder why and try to figure it out.

There’s also the uneasy question in the back of my head that if Yukina had gotten a bunch of requests for a full bow-chicka-wow-wow scene, would she have demanded Shigure sleep with her?

Anyway, I think I spent enough time ranting and not enough time on the story.

Missions of Love Sample 3

So the titular missions… some of these are relatively tame (spend time together); others are reverse missions that are Shigure’s ideas since he’s decided he wants Yukina to fall in love with him. He knows Yukina has some barriers in regards to love, but at the same time, he assumes she has an interest in him (a non-book related interest, that is). So while he initially protests he’s not really serious about Yukina, he actually makes progress on the romance front faster than our heroine.

Which is, of course, upsetting to Mami, as she’s liked Shigure for years. She’s not happy that another girl has suddenly gotten close to him, and she keeps trying to get Yukina out of the picture and/or also get Shigure to stick to his promise of not getting serious about anything — or anyone. Akira realizes Mami’s feelings, but he refuses to partake in any of Mami’s plots to push Yukina and Shigure apart. And eventually, while Mami and Yukina do become friendly, Mami ends up closer to Akira. He seems a little slow on the uptake, but he’s rather observant. That’s despite that, to his cousin, he’s simultaneously too special and not special enough to do the aggressive-style missions. That frustrates Akira as he tries to be the type of love interest that can make Yukina’s heart pound. Meanwhile, Hisame pops up and causes issues for both girls. He likely will be hated by many readers. But I wish end-of-series Shigure had kept some of Hisame’s spitfire since he kind of became a dullard who only wanted Yukina’s love.

I probably would have found Missions of Love annoying if it had been a few volumes long, but 19 volumes of this? And even late in the series, our heroine is making some pretty dumb moves. While a lot has already changed for the characters, Yukina in particular has lost most of her edge, becoming more of a typical naïve shoujo protagonist. This combined with some poor decisions by the other middle schoolers and Shigure’s diminishing role make can make Missions of Love a frustrating read.

But if you just want all the flirting and the dreamy scenes of a school prince declaring to heal his beloved’s weakness, then yeah, all of what I said won’t matter. And Toyama sure can play up the romantic scenes for maximum squee-ness. Just about every type of shoujo manga moment is included in Missions of Love, sometimes as a result of Yukina’s orders or sometimes just because Shigure (or someone else) wants to. Whatever makes your heart pound, it’s included here. Which is probably a significant factor to this series’ success.

Missions of Love Sample 4

Toyama’s female characters tend to have very large, detailed eyes. This one is no exception. Akira is one of those characters that tends to have his eyes hidden by his hair. Lots of emphasis is placed on the ecchi scenes: characters panting, flushed faces, and slightly exposed clothing. These are often given full-page or two-page spreads. That’s likely a huge draw to the series, especially as Shigure starts falling for Yukina. While much is made about Yukina’s sharp eyes, readers most of the time will either see her excited (sexually or just because she has a new idea) or confused. Shigure’s fake smile doesn’t include any particular unique visuals; there’s usually a banner or Yukina thinking to herself that says he’s in his fake mode. The manga can be quite comical with the crazy missions or Mami acting childish/selfish. Yukina’s parents are also a source of delight with the slightly pump but cheerful mama and the quiet but affectionate papa. The manga can have a brisque layout in these less essential scenes, but they are drawn clearly due to Toyama’s experience.

Toyama also has a bonus strip in the side columns that make up one continuous comedy/fantasy spin-off involving snow versions of characters (and the original cast as well). We see bits of Yukina’s novel’s characters as well in both the main story and in the volume extras.

Translation:

Honorifics are used. Most volumes have translation notes. The Japanese term for big sister is written as both “Onee-san” and “Onē-san”. Mami’s use of addressing herself by name is usually kept in.

Final Comments:

For some readers, Missions of Love will be the ultimate form of escapism with handsome guys vying for the heroine’s attention and a bit of naughtiness. For me, though, the story is a mess of inconsistent motivations and characterizations that goes on way too long.

Kodansha Comics has released several of Toyama’s works physically and/or digitally including Vampire Dormitory and I am Here! Tokyopop released Pixie Pop.

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6 Comments

  1. alsmangablog

    Wow, all the characters in this series sound pretty terrible! I’m not surprised that you had trouble getting through it.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      The problem is that they’re all rather dumb. Like smart enough to know that punching hurts but then would be surprised to know that suddenly thrusting your hand forward in the shape of a fist when someone’s standing right in front *is* a punch. Yukina in particular could have been a cool heroine, but alas…

      Reply
  2. dreager1

    Yeah this sounds pretty terrible from the jump. Starting a romance with blackmail just can’t ever end well and then the rest of the story beats seem cliche and underwhelming. From everything above it’s hard to see how this was considered a kodomo. I guess I’m just more used to things like Beyblade and Pokemon as what I think of Kodomo.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Yeah, I mean, several Nakayoshi shoujo manga have won before (like Shugo Chara), but there’s a big difference in content between that, Beyblade/Pokemon like you said, and a series where a boy is leaving hickeys. Still, I think the fact it won any award is even more shocking, LOL!

      Reply
  3. LitaKino

    Haha I can send you that meteor you so desperately want. Jupiter has plenty of nice big rocks floating about 😂

    Oh your review was oh so amusing i would purely read this because I’m a trash can lol but 19 volumes seems veryyyy long for this plot and I agree black bird and peach heaven did it better for sure !!!!

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Great, let me put it right in the yard so you know right where to aim! Don’t want my good stuff to get hit! 😁
      Glad you enjoyed the review. Trash series can be a lot of fun, but in 19 volumes of this? Yeah no.

      Reply

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