Story/Art: Riichi Ueshiba
Translation: Rebecca Cottrill
Production: Risa Cho, Anthony Quintessenza
What They Say:
Mikoto Urabe is a new transfer student in Akira Tsubaki’s high school class. One day, Akira happens to find Mikoto passed out asleep on her desk after classes have ended. He wakes her and tells her it’s time to go home, and discovers that she has drooled on her desk. He spontaneously reaches out to touch and taste it… and then things start getting really strange.
In this surprising and sweet twist on a high school romance story, boy meets girl and they learn about each other’s inner life through their highly unusual bond, and Akira learns to respect Mikoto as she sets a careful pace in the development of their relationship.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
To say Mysterious Girlfriend X is a weird manga is maybe not going far enough with the description of it. That said, Mysterious Girlfriend X is a WEIRD manga. The anime aired back in 2012 and, for those that know, it is the infamous spit anime. From what I can tell, Vertical has chosen to translate it to drool rather than spit. I have no idea what the anime used, as I did not watch it. I, like many others I’m sure, were turned off that the idea that a manga about drool could be good.
Let me tell you: I was wrong. A manga about drool can be, and is, good.
Mysterious Girlfriend X turns what is something intangible into something that can very much be felt by a significant other. That is love. Love is something you feel only unto yourself. You perceive love from another and feel it for others. It’s…complicated. Mysterious Girlfriend X makes it a little less complicated in a way only manga and anime can: with high concept plot ideas.
Drool is the representation and conveyance of literal feelings from one to another. Ueshiba made them 17 to skirt a line between when people would almost certainly not have sex (middle school) and when they almost certainly would (college). The fetishism of the drool and the fact that they don’t even really hug—much less do anything else—until chapter 9 emphasizes the metaphor that the drool really is their connection to each other. It’s their hugs and kisses and hand holding and, yes, even sex. For 17-year-old kids in this manga, this is their current pinnacle.
And the act itself, or at least how they portray it, is so phallic. It’s impossible to ignore that they’re both thinking about something more, but are at an awkward stage where neither is willing to go further with it. And they both know, and silently acknowledge, this.
This is the most absurd way to tell what is actually a touching love story of two seemingly a little socially outcasted individuals falling for each other. It minces no words over its belief in the fate that is true love, but doesn’t stumble doing so. It’s brilliant use of a drool metaphor creates a messy glue to hold the whole series together. Sweet, drool-y glue.
I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. Actually, I didn’t expect to like this at all. It’s weird premise turned me off from the get go and I figured I’d never read or watch it ever. But when the Manga Overlords over at Vertical Comics picked up the manga, I relented and tried it out. If you ever had any doubts about this manga, at least check out the first chapter of it. It’s a little on the long side, but it’s absolutely sweet and the weird feeling from reading drool fetishists goes away surprisingly quickly.
The art is weirdly janky, but charmingly 90s. The character designs grew on me further and further into the volume, even though I didn’t care too much for them at the beginning. Ueshiba even says there was a year and a half gap between chapter 0 and chapter 1, which is why the designs are a little different.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A
Released By: Vertical Comics
Release Date: March 15th, 2016