Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet Vol. 1 Review – Relatable Struggle and Subtle Romance

    Title: Tsubaki-Chou Lonely Planet Vol. 1
    Author: Mika Yamamori
    Release Date: October 4, 2022
    Publisher: Yen Press

The shojo manga genre can often be tough to digest for those new to the idea of overly attractive men who are also kind of toxic. However, I think Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet Vol. 1 from author Mika Yamamori presents an interesting take on the young girl forced to interact with a brooding cute boy. Further, there are some rather adult situations put upon our lead heroine that forces her to grow up fast for the sake of helping her family.

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Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet introduces us to Fumi Oono, a young girl with her heart set on saving money to make ends meet. Sadly, her dreams are crushed when her father comes home and admits that he owes a loan shark and a ton of money, and they are effectively homeless. In an attempt to help her dad, she picks up a job as a live-in house cleaner while her dad works on a boat.

What’s so great about Fumi is her optimism even when faced with tough situations. She’s not air-headed or ditzy but instead understands what needs to be done to help her family. She rises to the occasion and still makes herself available to assist others, even if she is the one that needs help sometimes. This often gets her into trouble, but it’s this personality trait that makes her so endearing. She doesn’t allow others to see her struggle, but she does miss the life she left behind, even if it wasn’t lavish.

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Her new job as a homemaker leads her to live with novelist Akatsuki Kibikino, who isn’t happy about her only being 16. However, he figures out why she is so set on making things work between them and decides to take it a little easier on her. Their relationship is well-paced, with no awkward moments of falling into each other’s arms on accident or almost kissing each other. Their relationship turns to almost friendship, which makes me excited to learn what happens next.

The illustrations mainly focus on the faces, with very little detail given to the backgrounds. There are plenty of shojo sparks and heart-racing moments that keep your eyes glued to the panels in hopes of discovering some secret feelings between the characters. I really liked how soft and calm Akatsuki appeared, even though he’s a jerk sometimes. Further, another male lead comes in as the childhood friend type but is only there to take advantage of Fumi’s almost naive character traits. He hasn’t made a huge impact on the narrative, but I’m sure he’s planning something.

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Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet Vol. 1 delivers a unique shojo narrative that doesn’t dwell on the idea of rags-to-riches or the damsel in distress plot lines. Instead, we have a narrative that is more grounded in reality with relatable situations that anyone can experience. It can be extremely relatable, and Fumi really delivers as a lead. The romance is paced to a slow burn to keep the reader invested, but there are plenty of charming moments to look forward to.

4.5/5

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.