Kintetsu Yamada’s seinen romance manga, Sweat and Soap, strikes me as a series that will be too pervy for some readers, but perhaps not pervy enough for others. Aimed at an older audience, this manga features plenty of steamy scenes and boasts a rather unorthodox premise, so get ready for some weirdness!
Asako has always seemed to sweat a lot more than other people do. She was mercilessly teased about it as a child and, as a result, now lives in constant anxiety over whether or not she smells bad, doing everything that she can think of to avoid working up a sweat. Even after achieving her dream of getting a job at a toiletry company that specializes in crafting high-quality and great-smelling soaps, she still habitually reapplies deodorant throughout the day, cleanses her body with wipes during bathroom breaks and even packs extra undershirts to change into if she feels like she has gotten too sweaty. So Asako is mortified when one of her co-workers suddenly approaches her and demands to smell her! This man turns out to be Kotaro, a product designer with a keen sense of smell, and he’s enamored with Asako’s body odor and wants to research it. For the purpose of designing a great new line of soaps, of course! Asako is extremely embarrassed, but she wants to help her beloved company in any way that she can, so she agrees to allow Kotaro to smell her on a daily basis. During these intimate moments, Asako finds herself feeling more and more drawn to Kotaro. Soon, she isn’t sure that she wants their odd relationship to end once Kotaro has finished gathering the data he needs. As it happens, Kotaro’s interest in Asako isn’t strictly work related, and he turns out to be very interested in helping her to work up a sweat!
Like I mentioned in the intro, this is kind of a weird one. That said, despite its unusual set-up, it isn’t long before Sweat and Soap transitions into a fairly conventional love story. Sure, Kotaro’s obsession with sniffing Asako might turn some people off, but, once they start going out, Kotaro and Asako develop a pretty supportive relationship and most of the problems that they face are surprisingly relatable. Asako struggles with overcoming her insecurities as her relationship with Kotaro evolves, and she and Kotaro need to work through some communication issues, but they manage this with minimal drama.
If anything, I was a little disappointed that this story wasn’t more wacky, but I did enjoy the cute domestic scenes between the two leads, like when they’d casually hang out on the weekends and Asako would cook them dinner. Just sweet little moments like that of them being a couple.
There are also several spicy, but brief, sex scenes sprinkled throughout the narrative that make this manga a bit more risqué than the average shounen or shojo romance, but without venturing into full out erotica territory. This is what I was getting at when I mentioned that some readers might feel unsatisfied with Sweat and Soap’s level of perviness.
My major complaint with this series is that the story makes a very clumsy and ill-conceived attempt to excuse Kotaro’s initial behavior (a.k.a. randomly smelling Asako without her permission, invading her personal space, badgering her into agreeing to let him smell her, etc.) by drawing a comparison between his actions and the sexual harassment Asako experiences on a train. The manga concludes that the creepo sniffing Asako on the train is in the wrong, but that Kotaro’s identical actions are fine because Asako likes him… even though she didn’t start liking him until after she had already agreed to their daily smelling arrangement. This part is pretty stupid and makes the work-place sexual harassment aspect of the story feel even worse, rather than better.
Sweat and Soap has a few issues, but is a decent read, once you get past the awkwardness of the intro chapter and into the part where the main characters are actually dating. That said, there isn’t a lot that makes this series stand out, apart from the copious amounts of smelling that’s being used as fore-play. If that sounds off-putting to you, then I’d recommend giving this manga a pass, but if this series sounds like it might be appealing to you, then I’d say give it a try.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10
For more information on this series, visit Kodansha Comic’s website: https://kodanshacomics.com/volume/sweat-and-soap-1/
What did you think of this manga? Where do you fall, is it too pervy or not pervy enough? Let me know in the comments!