Shoujo – Comedy, drama, romance
4 Volumes (complete)
Sayuki loves romance and nail art, but her sharp gaze and blunt demeanor scare off others. Her luck finally appears to change thanks to an encounter at the beach, but he doesn’t give his name. Saiyuki thinks her mystery guy is from her school and swears to find him. But she’s in for a shock!
Chocolate Cosmos might have been a fun, lighter romance of its type, but it winds up a disappointment.
Note: the issue with lines in some of the preview images is only found in the sample chapters on VIZ’s website. The full version — at least the Kindle edition — does not have this poor quality.
Before I talk about the story, let’s talk about the final volume. Don’t worry, I’m not going into spoiler territory. The first three volumes of Chocolate Cosmos are all 170 pages or slightly higher. The last volume doesn’t even reach the 130 mark. That’s not completely out of the range for a manga volume, but it’s low, especially for the final entry — even worse for a non-4-koma release. And that small pagecount plays into the story. I don’t know if Haruta got bored with the plot or if the reader response in Ribon was bad, but quite frankly, based upon the uninspired ending, I’m leaning toward the former. And it’s too bad since at first impression, she had a really solid story with some funny characters.
… Although the fact that Sayuki’s crush turns out to be a teacher at her school might have been an issue considering the magazine’s target audience.
Yep, it’s revealed at the very end of the first chapter that somehow Sayuki pays so little attention in home ec class that she can’t recognize her teacher outside of school. (Well, I guess what do you expect from someone who freely admits to readers she’s only going to high school to find love.) It’s fun to go back to the first chapter and see that her friends are talking to him off-screen, but Sayuki is busy staring out the window. So the teacher, known to the class as Mr. Hagiwara, is actually featured in the story before she meets him on the beach. Nice way to set up the story so that the twist doesn’t completely come out of nowhere.
But let’s rewind a bit.
A lot of manga protagonists or supporting characters are known for their expressionless faces. Sayuki probably would prefer to be one of those, as she tends to look like she’s glaring at people when she doesn’t mean to. Not horror-movie level scariness but rather “she’s looks like she’s ready to kick my butt!!” level scariness. In actuality, she likes fashion and wants to have a dream-like romantic encounter — something more dramatic and special than getting picked up by a random guy. Long story short, she ends up crushing on Hagiwara during summer vacation. At first, she realizes her feelings won’t go anywhere because of his age and position, but Sayuki keeps finding herself drawn to him.
But as she does so, her other friends know this could be bad news for Yushi, Sayuki’s childhood friend. Yushi has somehow earned a Master’s degree in Tsundere-ness yet failed to pass the undergrad-level class How to Get Closer to a Girl. He’ll have his fans because, like Sayuki, he kind of has that delinquent aura around him, complete with the lack of brains. Well, he has his best friend (?), Kaji, to help him out in certain cases, but his assistance is limited because a) Yushi is stubborn, proud, and an idiot and b) Kaji is a narcissist. Not a rude ore-sama narcissist, but he loves himself and his looks.
Meanwhile, Sayuki’s friends are the fun-loving Mina and the quiet Shiori. Mina’s also looking for love, but she’s highly energetic, flirtatious, and welcoming of random advances than the romantic idealist Sayuki. She’s up for anything entertaining, like making false narrations for Sayuki. On the other hand, Shiori is more interested in reading than dating, is always reading books — ones with very coincidental titles like How to Glare Right and We’re in Class. Like any good comedy, the series features a hilarious mix of quirky characters: weird enough that you can understand why others would find them annoying, but we the audience finds them endearing because they put a smile on your face.
So as you might expect, much of the story involves two issues: Sayuki’s feelings for her teacher and Yushi’s feelings toward her. The love triangle takes a somewhat bizarre — but hilarious — turn when everyone gets dragged into a “baseball appreciation club” because of a manga. They didn’t band together to play in actual matches because, as you can imagine, this motley crew isn’t the most sporty of teens. Even Hagiwara — who, again, is a home economics instructor — only joins because he became a fan of a baseball manga.
Speaking of Hagiwara, unlike some other teachers in such romance manga, Hagiwara isn’t aloof or puts on a facade; he actually likes his job and his students. But he’s more like a fun older brother to a lot of students. Hagiwara is barely out of college, and we can see his casualness with him complimenting Sayuki on her nail art and letting her put polish on his nails. Because of his age and position, though, we don’t often see his more playful, trickster side, although it’s there from the beginning. Like instead of going, “Um, it’s me, your teacher!” when Sayuki presses for his name, he gives names like “Johnny Depp” and casually kisses his newly-done nails. Chocolate Cosmos is mostly from Sayuki’s perspective, just like in most shoujo manga, but even scenes from his view make him much of an enigma. Combined with the rushed ending, it’s hard to get a read on him. Meanwhile, Yushi will also have a fanbase because he’s such an idiot. He unwittingly hurts his chances about as much as he helps.
Another reason I think that this series was axed for one reason or another is the abandonment of Sayuki’s key physical feature: her eyes. Her narration says, “People think I’m glaring when I’m spaced out, but I was born with it.” She later has that same angry look when she accidentally looks at the sun and even when she realizes that going to the beach could be a chance for romance. So she has a glare fairly often… at the beginning of the story. By the end, we don’t see much of gyaru-looking Sayuki. You could argue that as she sorts out her feelings, her expressions(s) softened, but her glare helped Sayuki from becoming a generic shoujo manga heroine in love. Haruta didn’t need to make Sayuki’s eyes a constant, neverending gag throughout the entirety of Chocolate Cosmos — Sayuki does smile when she’s hit by cupid’s arrow and when complimented on her skills — but Haruta could have kept her eyes as a feature just enough so that she’s different from other similar protagonists.
Otherwise, the art is traditional modern shoujo, full of sparkles, attractive men, and pretty art. The manga is tame despite the age gap, as the manga ends once Sayuki gets a boyfriend. This would have probably been a romance for general audiences if it weren’t for the fact that one of the love interests is a teacher.
Chocolate Cosmos was one of the titles in a translation battle hosted by now-defunct site JManga, but I don’t think it even actually was available on JManga, at least not past the first volume. I don’t know how the winner’s translation differs from VIZ Media’s version, or perhaps it was produced for JManga and never released. It’s rare for a non-rescued titled to be released under the VIZ Select digital imprint, so that’s a possibility. The full licensed release doesn’t name a translator, so I have no idea if it’s the same person who won or not.
No honorifics are used. This most notably affects Hagiwara, as some students address him as “Hagi-kun” because of his age. This is changed to just “Hagi” in English, which isn’t too disrespectful since plenty of teachers (particularly in upper grades) will have a nickname that won’t use Mr./Ms. In Japanese, -kun makes it clear that students see him more as a peer than a teacher.
A few of Shiori’s book titles are left untranslated likely because the titles were too hard to read. Speaking of hard to read, I found the font is a little small. But maybe it’s not so much the size as it is the use of both upper and lowercase letters in the font, which is similar to Californian or Cartoon Script. I’ve said before I prefer all caps. I actually like the font used for Sayuki’s narration better than the one used for the dialogue. The quality of the lettering does seem below-average at times, mostly in the asides.
Also, why is Home Project capitalized? It’s like if I were to write, “I’m working on my Independent Study Project right now!” — it just looks weird. But her actual report uses different fonts instead of just using the normal dialogue fonts, so that’s a plus.
Chocolate Cosmos had some fun aspects, but by the end (which comes all too soon), it’s a let down. The characters should have been kept around for longer, as they were all amusing in some way.
VIZ Media has also released Cactus’s Secret by Haruta.
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Man, I hadn’t thought about JManga in a while. I didn’t use it a ton, but it did have some interesting stuff on it.
If companies had invested better in JManga, I bet they’d be a dominating force today. I mean, can you imagine some of the current MANGA Plus/Shonen Jump stuff along with the Crunchyroll manga titles and more in one place for one low price? That would have been so awesome!
I read this a long time ago but I do remember that I hated the ending bc of 2nd male lead syndrome.
It definitely had a fairly abrupt ending. Felt like she got bored of this series.