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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bringing Up Baby: Papa to Mama Hajimemashita

Papa to Mama Hajimemashita
Also written as: パパとママはじめました。
Author: Ichikawa Shou
Originally serialized in: Shoujo Comic; tankoubon published by Shogakukan.

Class rep Mochida thinks life is pretty easy, even if she has to put up with the lazy good-for-nothing Yuushi at school. But suddenly, it turns out Yuushi is her next door neighbor - and he has a surprise waiting on his doorstep. When Mochida finds herself taking care of baby with the most least likely person she knows, will it just be a babysitting affair or might it turn into something more? When the baby's mother returns, their new relationship will certainly be tested.

I have to thank my sister for this one, because she pretty much pushed me at it and ordered me to read, perhaps knowing I'm a sucker for one-volume shoujo manga like these. And let me tell you, this one is totally cute. Mochida is the kind of shoujo protagonist I love to read about, and her sudden romance with her quirky next-door neighbor Yuushi is absolutely wonderful. Add into the mix a baby left on Yuushi's doorstep with no one to look after the poor thing, and you have an instant shojo favorite, all wrapped up in one volume but still mighty tasty by itself.

Read the rest of my review beyond the jump!

There is nothing terrifically original about Ichikawa Shou's usage of abandoning a baby on the doorstep of a random stranger (at first), but Shou turns it entertaining enough when the people assigned to take care of the baby through fate alone ends up being Mochida, the class rep, and Yuushi, the class slacker. Two characters already antagonized by their own nature having to raise a baby together for who knows how long? Yep, it's a shoujo comic all right. 

Despite their clashing personalities, Mochida and Yuushi actually end up hitting it off surprisingly well as they raise the baby Soushi by themselves (naturally, both of their parents are conveniently away – we wouldn't want a little thing like adult interference to get in the way of budding romance, would we?).

Usually, babies in literature – graphic novels or otherwise – irritate the heck out of me. But not Soushi! It helps that he does not dominate the story or do the cutesy-wutesy things that authors make babies do to make them more endearing to the reader. Really, babies are pretty adorable by themselves; they don’t require authorial assistance on that end! And it helps that Yuushi is absolutely sweet and endearing when interacting with Soushi; it’s no wonder that Mochida starts to fall for him so quickly.

The main focus of Papa to Mama, however, is not the baby, but rather the ‘papa’ and ‘mama’, Yuushi and Mochida, who must struggle with the sudden burden of a child between them as well as the reality that someday, Soushi’s mother will come back for her child and the three of them will have to part ways. Yuushi and Mochida seem like a totally unlikely couple at first, but the more time they spend together, the more it becomes obvious how made for each other they are. 

Readers might be put off but how quickly Mochida comes into realization of her true feelings – but considering this isn’t exactly a twenty-plus volume tearjerker series, it’s not surprising that manga-ka Shou doesn’t waste time in getting to the “I think I love him” part of the relationship.

The best part about Mochida and Yuushi being together is the changes Yuushi unconsciously brings about Mochida, who before didn’t really care about how people saw her. Suddenly, she wants to look cute for this boy who she loves, and the idea of being cute doesn’t faze like it once did. Also, Yuushi makes her realize that she is cute, which is rather something for someone whose self-esteem isn’t exactly the highest. 

Mochida has always prided herself on her intelligence, but it is being around Yuushi that makes her realize that she’s beautiful as well, inside and out. There’s nothing wrong with femininity if it is empowering, and it does seem to empower Mochida to confess to Yuushi her feelings – not long before the expected arrival of Soushi’s mother comes into play. I won’t spoil that happens at that point, but it is actually rather amusing, and Soushi’s mother is not the kind of person you might expect her to be (in a good way!).

And because I said so, a little License Line plea if I please: this should be licensed! It’s cute, warm, and at one volume isn’t a huge investment compared to most shoujo series out there. The artwork is fresh and inviting and the characters hugely entertaining. It moves a little fast – I would have loved forty more pages – but considering all the above points, it’s hard to not feel a little love for Mochida and Yuushi’s sudden domestic debacle and the romance that springs up because of it. 

Mama to Papa is an easy, engaging read that will certainly look inviting to fans of titles like Aishiteruze Baby and Daa! Daa! Daa!, both titles where younger people suddenly have to take care of children and the story that comes out of it. Viz Media, you listening? Papa to Mama is a title you should take notice of! I personally am looking forward to reading more of Ichikawa Shou if they are as cute as this one.