Cutie and the Beast, by Yuhi Azumi, is a shojo romance manga about a young fan-girl who falls in love with a beefy professional wrestler. Unfortunately, this manga doesn’t seem too interested in really dealing with any of the ethical issues surrounding said relationship.
Momoka is a fan of professional wrestling and a special fan of one wrestler in particular: Kuga. Momoka can’t get enough of Kuga’s rippling muscles and loves watching him play the heel who always crushes his opponents. She follows him on twitter and eagerly awaits his replies to her comments each day, delighted to have even the smallest of interaction with Kuga. She finally gets up the courage to write him a fan letter and even goes to a live event, where she gets to meet Kuga in person. To her shock, it seems like Kuga is just as excited to meet her and he kisses her out of the blue! Momoka is left reeling and wondering if Kuga could actually be interested in her and, if he is, whether he’ll still be interested when he finds out that she’s still in high school!
I’m not going to mince words here, I found Cutie and the Beast to be a huge disappointment. This is partially my fault, I didn’t realize that this was a story that featured an age gap and I purchased it thinking I was going to be getting a romance story between two full-fledged adults. I actually thought that this was a josei title initially. I really should have looked into this manga more beforehand.
Momoka is 18 and still in high school and Kuga is a 29-year-old working adult. That’s an 11 year age difference and it should’ve been clear to Kuga, and to everyone else, that a relationship between the two of them was completely inappropriate! When Momoka tells him her age, Kuga is surprised and does question whether he should continue to pursue her, but for some stupid reason is reluctant to give up on seeing Momoka again. He asks his friend for advice and said friend has the only sensible reaction to this revelation out of anyone in the manga.
Sadly, the reasons he gives Kuga as to why he should stop seeing Momoka all revolve around how Kuga’s career would be effected if it was ever discovered that he was having a relationship with a high-schooler. No one ever brings up how unfair it would be to Momoka for Kuga to date her when there would be such big power imbalance in their relationship. An imbalance that would be doubly pronounced due to the fact that she’s also his fan! Seriously, this girl was so overwhelmed by meeting him that she burst into tears when he talked to her the first couple of times. What in the world is Kuga thinking?!
Now, I’ll admit that I’ve been willing to overlook similarly large age gaps in other titles. Heck, Takane & Hana has an arguably more problematic age difference and I will own to loving the hell out of that series. So why, you may ask, wasn’t I able to look past it this time?
In short, a strong story or compelling characters can compensate for a lot, but Cutie and the Beast has a weak story and boring characters, so I had no motivation to be forgiving of any of this manga’s troubling elements. Momoka and Kuga’s interactions take place mostly online or through letters and they barely spend any time together in person during this volume. They have no chemistry when we do see them interact and their connection was so shallow and meaningless that it seemed ridiculous that Kuga would feel torn about ending things with Momoka. Dude, you’ve had, like, three conversations with this girl and she cried uncontrollably during two of them. What is your deal?
I will say that I was glad that Momoka told Kuga the truth about being a high schooler right away and I did think that the art in this series was very cute. I also enjoyed all of the pictures of shirtless, burly men. But those’re the only things about this manga that I found appealing. It’s too bad, as this might have been a sweet and wholesome series if it weren’t for the ridiculous age gap drama. I guess, maybe, wrestling fans who also love romance stories might enjoy this series, but even then I don’t know if it’s interesting enough to bother with. I’d recommend giving this one a pass.
Final Score 5.5 out of 10
For more information on this series, visit Seven Seas Entertainment’s website.
What did you think of this series? Think I’m being a tad too harsh or not harsh enough? Let me know in the comments.