We’ve all undoubtedly done something inspired by fiction we’ve read that, in retrospect, wasn’t the best idea. Whether it was experimenting with gravity or boiling and eating periwinkles, mischief inspired by a good book isn’t all that uncommon during the development process. Ichiro Yagi, a freshman in high school, credits his passion for shoujo manga with helping to shape his conceptions of love. In middle school, his buddy Tae slipped a volume among another manga she was lending him, which is how he first became interested in it. Years later, it has influenced the way he views love and how it should develop. The biggest problem he’s come to terms with is that, despite the distraction of dazzling side people like his friend Nagase, as Tae’s best friend, he’s undoubtedly the one she should end up with.
This is only superficially comparable to Momoko Kda’s No Longer Heroine, if that makes sense. The difference in Toaka’s plot can be seen in the title: Tae is a fujoshi, which manages to change everything. Both are shoujo rom-coms that take the concept of “childhood friend gets the pal they’re crushing on” and twist it. It gets in the way at first because she’s a little uneasy with her most recent reading passion, but mostly it’s because she’s far more invested in fictitious romance than she is in chasing one of her own. She’s so tense about it that she spends most of her time on her phone reading manga, and her sensitivities is set to eleven. When Ichiro tries his hand at confessing when they are hanging out reading together, she somehow gets the sense that he is “confessing” to being a fudanshi — a male fan of BL. Her fear is wed to her wish to share her passion for BL.
The plot is presented to us as follows: Ichiro chooses to accept Tae’s misperception of him because, hey, at least it means that he gets to hang out with her more, and maybe it’ll give him an opportunity to try confessing again. Tae is in love with BL, and Ichiro is in love with Tae. But along the way, it’s also giving him a lot of anxiety, first when he learns that Tae and other schoolgirls are secretly shipping his friend Nagase with their homeroom teacher, and then when he tries to use shoujo romance techniques like the immortal wall-slam to try and explain to her what’s really going on. As a result, Ichiro mainly gets in his own way in a comedy that works better than you might imagine by basically avoiding coming off as cruel, which could have happened.
Most often, this is the case since it’s obvious that everyone is still becoming comfortable with the whole romance thing. Everyone seems to have been little poisoned by romance novels and still believes that how things are described in books is an accurate representation of how they are in real life. Tae occasionally has a momentary awareness that perhaps shipping real people isn’t that fantastic, but the thought quickly vanishes as she becomes sidetracked by her fantasies once more. Although it seems like everyone is just having so much fun living in their own little worlds that it doesn’t really matter, when Aya, another closet fujoshi and Instagram artist Tae follows, enters the picture and introduces Ichiro as the third partner in the love triangle for the Nagase x Mr. Satomi storyline, we can see that this may need to be addressed at some point. Nagase is typically unaware of everything going on, which adds another element of amusement when he realizes that Aya has written a book with a character who looks eerily similar to him at the end of the volume. The same is true with the prospect of Mr. Satomi discovering what is happening.
The way this novel illustrates how everyone is apparently chatting and hanging out while still securely entrenched in their own brains is where it succeeds. Momona, a different female friend, appears to be the only one in the group who has even a passing understanding of Ichiro’s sentiments for Tae, but she also doesn’t seem to care and is essentially just along for the ride. Ichiro fluctuates a lot between truly enjoying doing activities with Tae that are related to BL and trying to act like a bad boy shoujo romance hero. In some ways, only Tae seems to be self-aware, probably because she still feels a little ashamed of her interest in BL. It’s not always laugh-out-loud funny, but the entire volume has a light touch in terms of plot and artwork. This is especially true of the double-entendre joke about Tae and Aya’s obsession with the virtual game Magic Mic, which has two possible meanings.
I Fell for a Fujoshi is only accessible on Azuki’s website and app as of this writing, but it joins a number of other exclusive titles in making the subscription worthwhile. While the whole “shipping real people” element does warrant keeping an eye on, things are off to a promising start in this novel. It manages to be a lot of fun without any of the gags (in this volume) outstaying their welcome.