Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, so it seemed like the perfect time to do a review of a new, romance manga! As an added bonus, Mami Orikasa’s shojo series, Mint Chocolate, has a sweet title that’s just perfect for this season.
Nanami is nervous about meeting her new step-dad and step-brother after her mom remarries, but those emotions quickly morph into feelings of horror when she realizes that her new brother is her cool and popular classmate, Kyouhei, whom she’s been nursing a secret crush on for months! How is she going to survive living under the same roof as the handsome boy she wants to date? And does their new status as family mean that her feelings are doomed to go unreciprocated?
The living-together trope is a staple of shojo manga, as it allows the leads to be thrust into intimate situations and provides plenty of opportunities for titillating scenarios, such as having one of the potential lovers walk in on the other while they’re changing or in the bath. Mint Chocolate knows exactly what people are expecting to see and includes all of the predictable scenes of Nanami getting flustered and embarrassed about being left home alone with Kyouhei, or of Nanami getting blushy and angry when Kyouhei walks into her room while she’s in her underwear, and so on and so forth.
Honestly, I found most of the early chapters to be so tropey that they were kind of boring. Nanami and Kyouhei even hide the fact that they’re step-siblings and living together from their classmates, including Nanami’s friends, when there didn’t seem to be any reason for them to do so, besides the fact that that’s something characters typically do in these types of situations in manga. It’s also ridiculous that Nanami didn’t meet the guy her mom was planning to marry, or his son, until after the wedding was over. If nothing else, did neither of these kids want to attend their own parent’s wedding?!
I did think that Nanami and Kyouhei had a pretty cute dynamic, though. Kyouhei is usually aloof, but loves to tease Nanami and they’re constantly bickering and dancing around the obvious fact that they like each other. Actually, they essentially confess that they’re into each other pretty early on in the story but, despite this, they make precious little progress on the romantic front during this volume. I guess being step-siblings would make dating each other pretty awkward, but neither of them actually seem all that hung up about that part of the situation and I wound up getting pretty frustrated with how the two of them kept going around in circles.
Things started to get a bit more interesting in the later chapters, however, as the story starts to explore Nanami and Kyouhei’s pasts and their family situations prior to the remarriage of their respective parents. Nanami seems upbeat and uncomplicated but she’s been constantly putting on a brave face so as not to cause trouble or stress for her mom, who had been raising her as a single parent since she was little. Meanwhile, Kyouhei has major abandonment issues because his mom walked out on him and his father 5 years ago and he’s afraid of being hurt again. So, yeah. Turns out, there was actually a pretty good explanation for why Kyouhei was reluctant to make a move on Nanami – I mean, besides the whole step-siblings things, which, admittedly, does make things more complicated – and I actually felt a little dense for not realizing the true source of Kyouhei’s hesitation before it was revealed. It’s pretty obvious in hindsight.
Mint Chocolate is a cute, but average, shojo romance that relies too heavily on tired clichés. The later chapters do show some potential, however, as the two main characters are beginning to receive more development and are turning out to be more complex then it initially seemed. This series might be worth giving a try if you’re desperate for a shojo fix but be prepared for it to be a bit formulaic, at least at the start.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10
What did you think of this manga? What’s you’re favourite example of the living-together trope in manga? Let me know in the comments! Mine is Fruits Basket.
For more information on this series, visit Yen Press’ website.
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