Shoujo is not the most respected genre in the manga world. On one hand, the plots, though often dramatic, are also simple. They usually involve a pretty but stupid high school girl and a handsome, smart, rich, and arrogant high school boy. This odd couple is usually thrown into some sort of situation that, while technically plausible, is very unlikely.
They include eye-rolling plot lines such as marrying for parents’ debt, working off a debt in the mansion, something else to do with a large sum of money and shitty parents, their parents got married so they are now step-siblings, etc. Whatever problems shoujo may have, though, there are more than a few gems in the genre, and even some that go against those pretty people. One of these fabled gems is Pochamani by Kaname Hirama.
Tsumugi “Mugi” Hashimoto is a cheerful, chubby high school girl who likes handicrafts and hanging with her friends. Yukiya Tagami is (as his classmates dub him) “a sad waste of a pretty boy”. Though he is handsome, good at archery (of course), and naturally cool, he has one characteristic that often alienates him from others—he is a chubby maniac. “Pochama” is someone who likes soft and squishy things or someone who likes chubby people and Tagami is king of them all. After falling in love with Mugi’s smile and her adorable chubbiness, Tagami calls her out to confess. Confused, as Mugi had never spoken to him before (he is a year younger), and scared when he tries to suddenly hug her, Mugi pushes him and runs away. Eventually they do fall in love, but Mugi still struggles with her self-esteem and fears that Tagami is only in love with her due to her weight. It is quite different from the usual shoujo fare.
What I like about this manga is not only that the heroine looks different than other shojo girls, but also that Mugi doesn’t fall all over herself like a newborn fawn every time she speaks with Tagami. Mugi is a calm, kind, and gentle person with close friends. She doesn’t fall in love with Tagami because he is handsome, but because he is sincere and a good person at heart. What I find the most refreshing is that though she may doubt herself and struggle with her own self-image, in the end she still manages to smile.
Although Tagamiis a handsome boy with athletic skills, in his case this does not equal popularity. What makes it even better he is that he is completely unconcerned by his own unpopularity. He is shown to have only one actual friend, and though he is “bathed in the lustful stares of the female student body”, his firm attraction to fleshy females keeps a lot of thin girls away. He is a little perverted, though not in the scary rapey way like in many other manga.
I love them both as characters, but they are not my favorites. My favorite is Mugi’s best friend, Mami Nomura, who does martial arts. When Tagami was acting inappropriately towards Mugi before they were actually dating, Mami roundhouse kicked him in the head in order to protect her best friend. Mami is the only girl who wonders why people see Tagami as cool, but that may be because she only likes ugly guys. Mugi seems to attract people who have very specific tastes in their potential love interests.
The basic plot of the manga is the romantic relationship between Mugi and Tagami. It also deals with Mugi’s struggle to maintain her weight, and her insecurities due to dating someone considered very attractive. It’s a bit more shoujo here, as it is still a somewhat simple plot and is unnecessarily dramatic at times. I really like this manga—there are lots of funny situations (like Tagami not understanding the problem with public affection), misunderstandings, and Mami beating up Tagami. It’s an enjoyable read and I highly recommend it.