Natsumi Ando has had several of her works translated into English in the past but, up until now, they’ve all been shojo titles (manga aimed at teen girls), such as: Zodiac P.I. and Arisa. So, my interest was piqued when I heard that her newest series, Something’s Wrong with Us, was a manga that’s aimed at adult women, a demographic that’s sadly underserved in the current North American manga market. With promises of an intriguing mystery plot and an intense and steamy romance, I was eager to check this title out.
When she was a child, Nao’s mother worked as the head confectioner for a world-class, traditional sweets company known as Kogetsuan. Nao would often play with the son of the head of the company, Tsubaki Takatsuki, and he was her first and closest friend. That is, until the day that Tsubaki’s father was found murdered and Tsubaki implicated Nao’s mother when he told the police that he saw her leaving his father’s room that night. Nao’s mother collapsed during her trial and then passed away soon after, but not before leaving behind a letter for her daughter in which she insisted that she was innocent. Years later, Nao has followed in her mother’s footsteps and become a maker of traditional, Japanese sweets, but she remains haunted by her past. While competing for a job to cater a wedding, Nao runs into Tsubaki again, who has now taken over the management of Kogetsuan. Tsubaki doesn’t realize who she is and, even though her sweets aren’t selected for the job, he’s so impressed with her work that he proposes to her out of the blue, in the hopes that, in becoming his wife, she’d help him to revitalize his company. Nao can never forgive Tsubaki for what he did, but she wants to find out the truth behind the murder of Tsubaki’s father and clear her mother’s name. To that end, she agrees to enter into a marriage of convenience with him and moves into the home of her enemies, in order to finally find answers.
This proved to be a very exciting start to the series; we have a murder, intrigue and a marriage proposal, all in the first volume! Nao has only just begun her investigation, but already several possible suspects have appeared within the restrictive and cold Takatsuki family. Tsubaki’s mother is imperious and conniving and she seems like the sort of person who’s capable of killing someone in order to achieve her own goals, or possibly just out of spite. But there’s also Tsubaki’s elderly grandfather, the head of Kogetsuan and a master sweet maker in his own right. His health is poor and he rarely makes public appearances nowadays, leaving most of the day to day running of the business to Tsubaki. While he initially seems more congenial then Tsubaki’s other relatives, even supporting Tsubaki’s decision to call off his arranged marriage to the daughter of a wealthy family in favour of marrying Nao, it quickly becomes clear that he’s not exactly a dotting grandparent. He has very high expectations for Tsubaki, and I have no doubt that he’s capable of being quite brutal to those who disappoint him. Perhaps he could be our murder? It’s still too early to tell what, if anything, either of these characters could have had to do with the murder of Tsubaki’s father, but one thing is clear, the world of the Takatsuki family is one of strict tradition and unforgiving standards. Nao has, thus far, proven to be gutsy and level headed, but she might be out of her depth when it comes to navigating the toxic dynamics of the Takatsuki clan and the upper-class circles that they mingle in. I was on the edge of my seat from the moment she stepped into the Takatsuki house, and I can’t wait to see how Nao will eventually find the answers that she seeks.
In addition to the thrilling mystery plot, I really enjoyed learning about wagashi, the bean paste filled confections that Nao and Tsubaki make throughout the manga. These delicate sweets can be made in a variety of shapes, colours and designs and I felt that the manga did a great job of demonstrating Nao’s skill and artistry when it comes to crafting them and why Tsubaki would be so impressed with her. Nao runs into trouble when she’s making the wagashi samples to try and land the wedding job, as the theme she’s given is cherry blossoms and she isn’t able to work with red food colouring, since the colour gives her flash backs to the murder of Tsubaki’s father and the subsequent loss of her mother. But this handicap just leads her to create a unique and, ultimately, more meaningful design. Instead of being pink, Nao’s wagashi are green and represent the leaves that grow in after the cherry blossoms have fallen from the trees, symbolizing her hope that the couple will have a marriage filled with everyday happiness, long after the excitement of the beautiful wedding is over. It’s was a clever way of working around her weakness and I can see why Tsubaki would be struck by her creative and poetic approach.
We didn’t get much in the way of romance in this volume, both Nao and Tsubaki are currently using each other for their own ends and they have more of a business relationship than anything else, but I’m guessing that this will change in future volumes, as Nao becomes more entangled with the affairs of the Takatsuki family. So far, the griping mystery has been more than enough to hook my interest, and I’m looking forward to reading more of this series.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
For more information on this series, visit Kodansha Comics website: https://kodanshacomics.com/series/somethings-wrong-with-us/
What did you think of this manga? Do you have any theories as to the identity of the murderer? Let me know in the comments. You can also check out my review of one of Natsumi Ando’s other series: