Title: Girlfriend, Girlfriend Vol. 1
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Girlfriend, Girlfriend is another abrasive wave on the shore of harem romance manga. Its straightforward plot commences with the two main characters, the earnest Naoya Mukai and level-headed Saki Saki, already in a relationship. But in an odd twist, Naoya is asked out by another girl, Nagisa Minase. Being the overly candid and almost paradoxically faithful person he is, Naoya would like to try openly dating both girls.
Both harem and romance manga tend to drag out the pre-relationship arc, giving a window into the characters for readers to empathize with. Girlfriend, Girlfriend Vol. 1 shoves all of these genre pretenses aside in an attempt to scrutinize the details of a harem relationship. Naturally, this results in four-character combination dynamics, which is more than a usual romance manga.
Naoya and Saki are an interesting combination of modern male romance leads and the classic tsundere love interest. Naoya’s honesty frequently breaks through Saki’s frigid charade and reveals her lovestruck nature. This model of relationship has become common in drama-based romance, but it takes a comedic role here. While basic, it provides much-needed depth to a tired trope.
Naoya and Nagisa, on the other hand, stomp on the gas of the manga’s jocular leanings. Much of Girlfriend, Girlfriend’s humor comes from feeling out of order, such as Nagisa’s initial confession, followed by introducing herself. These two embody the surreal aspects of Girlfriend, Girlfriend by bouncing off each other uncontrollably in their intensity.
Their interactions usually end up with an idea that needs approval by Saki. This makes the jokes multi-layered when Saki has to act as the straight man in the ensuing chapter. Saki also acts as the voice of the reader over the course of multiple chapters, expressing the obvious concerns that come from such inane ideas.
It is appropriate that the plot is the most prominent when all three characters are together. The unique relationship intensifies the normal anxiety of dating. Saki is wondering if she is too physically inadequate compared to Nagisa, and Nagisa feeling like she has to be useful as the second girlfriend.
Surprisingly, Saki’s ire for the situation lies with Naoya rather than Nagisa. Saki can find it in herself to dote and even love Nagisa, constantly recognizing the positive aspects she brings to the relationship and even professing that she sometimes wishes to date Nagisa instead. This attraction prevents the manga from falling to the dated tropes of rivalries between the harem, which would otherwise bring down the comedic mood.
Girlfriend, Girlfriend Vol. 1 presents itself as a comedy first and lacks much in the way of drama. Tense moments are solved swiftly by the mostly logical Saki, which prevents any stressful circumstances from building up. This is strange, considering the initially problematic premise in which is the manga’s foundation. Because of this, Girlfriend, Girlfriend misses the mark for readers looking for compelling insights for characters under stress. And unfortunately, the lack of a concise plot results in the jokes being short and often repetitive.
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