Synopsis: Pentabu blogs about his experiences with his girlfriend, who happens to be a hardcore yaoi fangirl.
Before tackling some of the more meaty series in the Yen Press light novel catalogue, now seems like a good time as any to cover the quirkiest one. While the prose in light novels typically fall within range of reasonably verbose to proxies of television scripts, My Girlfriend’s a Geek (Fujoshi Kanojo) takes has no qualms about cementing its place in the latter part of the spectrum. The English publication goes as far as filling out its hundred-something by enlarging and bolding font at seemingly random intervals, making for an awkward read at first. But after a while, the shifts create a reading style that naturally establishes a sense of comedic timing, pulled off somewhat effectively at times.
I don’t want to sound elitist or pretentious, but I hate to admit that I was really put off by the book’s presentation, especially after having experienced the joy of reading the likes of Spice and Wolf and Book Girl first. Making the shift to Girlfriend was a bit of a process, but I gradually warmed up to the book’s premise when I read more about Pentabu and Y-ko and their somewhat dysfunctional relationship.
Either way, what kept me reading to the end was characters themselves, who, despite having very little physical description (or even accompanying illustration, which is very odd for a light novel), were very much alive and had excellent chemistry. Part of it comes from their actual relationship as a normal guy and geeky girl, whose daily conversations are portrayed in Pentabu’s blog in a similar form as a comedy routine.
The punchlines for some of the exchanges between Pentabu and his girlfriend Y-ko often involve references to anime and otaku culture, which are pointed out in various author’s/translator’s notes, which salvaged what would otherwise be received as an unfunny joke. Some of the references become a running gag later in the story, such as Y-ko’s pet name for Pentabu, Sebas, which is short for Sebastion, a character from Black Butler. He has very little in common with Sebas, but Y-ko’s fujoshi goggles leads her to treat him as a real-life character surrogate, much to Pentabu’s dismay.
The bulk of the novel’s humourous charm comes not from
Sebas Pentabu and Y-ko’s interaction, but rather their interactions with others. In this first volume (2 in total), Pentabu and Y-ko are mixed in with Pentabu’s friends, Y-ko’s family, as well as Y-ko’s other fujoshi friends. Each instance of character interaction evokes different comments from Pentabu based on the secondary characters’ reactions to Y-ko’s otaku outbursts, which range from typical shock from Pentabu’s friends, helpless indifference from Y-ko’s family, to fangirl squees from Y-ko’s friends. Pentabu’s commentary is snarky, and at times, made even moreso due to the publication’s liberal usage of varying font sizes and effects. Nothing says desparation like a plea to buy out a friend’s silence, spelled out in bold caps.
HE IS THAT EMBARASSED, AND WE LOVE IT.
Despite all of the gripes that the narrator has about his girlfriend, he comes around to admit that he genuinely enjoys being around her, and that her peculiarities come with some very attractive quirks. He brings up the concept of moe, and raises a very valid point that by dating someone who is genre-aware about moe, that person is very likely to exhibit characteristics of moe to gain affection. Y-ko shows this in spades at times, and towards the latter half of the book, the geekiness of Y-ko that is already loveable becomes absolutely sexy when she starts to pull off some things that normal girls wouldn’t think to be a turn-on, such as cosplaying as a maid and greeting Pentabu with a spirited “welcome back, master!” every time he comes home.
Their resulting physical relationship is very healthy, and the envy of most who read it, but their emotional relationship is worth mentioning as well. Not only does Pentabu accept Y-ko’s quirks at the end, he admits that he has always loved her, even when he didn’t know she was a fujoshi.
I applaud the author for being able to build up those concepts even without the aid of actual narrative prose or an actual storyline. My Girlfriend’s a Geek reads very much like a slice of life show, which is something to consider when deciding whether or not to try this book out.
My only major gripe with this work is that despite the usage of varying font styles, it results in a waste of page space, and the actual value of the book is skewed as a result. For approximately ten dollars, one can expect a certain amount of reading material fitting for the price, especially a trade paperback. Due to space restrictions, it feels like I’m only reading half a book. Perhaps it would have been wiser for Yen Press to simply put both volumes of the series into one book, and sell it for a slightly higher price than one volume alone, but significantly less than that of two volumes together. I can’t see too many people justify their purchase of this book, which is a shame, because they’d be missing out on a charming experience.
If you have money to spend, or somehow manage to find this book at a bargain price (not too difficult online, considering its relative obscurity compared to series such as Spice and Wolf and Haruhi Suzumiya), My Girlfriend’s a Geek is a worthy purchase. The characters are so easy to fall in love with. Straight otaku boys will want a girlfriend like y-ko. Straight otaku girls will want a boyfriend like Pentabu. It’s only a matter of time before people start realizing that Geek is hot, and this book is a great example of it.
(My Girlfriend’s a Geek is published in North America by Yen Press. Both volumes are currently available.)