Manga Roulette is an idea that we have been tinkering behind the scenes for a while now. The idea was to take a few of our wonderful writers and have them each pick out interesting first volumes. We had Luke who chose How to Treat a Lady Knight Right volume 1. Age of Boredom with Our Dining Table. Lastly myself with The Dorm of Love and Secrets volume 1. Then at random one of our volumes would be chosen, and this way we could all get out of our comfort zones and read something new or unexpected.
After a very technologically complicated way of choosing (really just a number generator), my pick would be the one to get chosen. I picked the Dorm of Love and Secrets, written and illustrated by Asada Nikki. After hearing Pages & Panels talk about it on her YouTube channel. It had an interesting premise, and the cover showed some potential, so I said why not? With all four of us have taken the leap with this manga. Let’s find out if The Dorm of Love and Secrets is worth reading?
In the simplest way possible, the beginning of the story can only be described as convenient. You have our main character, Asahi, in need of new lodging after the dorm, she is staying at burns down. Right after that, conveniently, Tsukigase comes in to offer her refuge in the high-class dorms. I get that this is a way to push the story forward and get it going, but it felt a little too on the nose for me.
After this, you have your typical trope moments with the main characters. You start to see them start liking each other and viewing their romance bloom. There’s also a bit of mystery and intrigue sprinkled throughout which was exciting, but we see no immediate payoff here. At the end, reflecting on the volume as a whole, while it is not the strongest story. However, it has its merits and serves as a good foundation for our characters.
There are three main characters in the spotlight. The first is Asahi, who is our focus. Asahi is a normal class student that now must live with the higher class students. I am conflicted about her character because for the first half, I was enjoying her frantic energy, but as the volume went on, some issues started to appear. She began to air on the side of annoying as she kept putting herself down in some parts. In others, she started to feel a bit creepy as it feels she develops a mini obsession with another character.
The other two are Yokaze and Tsukigase. The Yokaze is the aforementioned character that has captured Asahi’s attention. Yokaze is one of the high-class boys. He feels like a typical edgy character with a cool, collected exterior. There are some interesting aspects of his character that could pay off in the future. But for now, it’s just being set up. You can also tell he cares about Asahi as he starts to develop feelings for her.
The last character Tsukigase is the RA for the high-class dorms. He is the one that extends a helping hand for Asahi when she needs a place to stay. There is something that I don’t trust about his character. He feels like a puppet master that is pulling strings, but we still don’t know for what purpose.
I quite enjoyed the art style for this manga. Especially when it comes to Asahi, she has some great reaction faces. Whether she’s feeling flustered, or straight up panicking, her emotions come through exceptionally well. There are also some moments where Asahi has those trademark anime girl moments, and the background will be some effect, and those are also very nice. One last thing I wanted to bring up was this textured feel that was present throughout that added to the overall appeal of the volume. All this being said, this has to be my favourite aspect of this manga.
Antonio’s final thoughts
The initial premise managed to pique my interest quite a bit; however, after reading the first volume, it did not manage to keep it. While it is not necessarily a bad manga it just didn’t have anything of substance that left me wanting more. I thought the characters were, for the most part, enjoyable and the art is the standout feature for me, but I won’t be rushing to pick up the next volume. If a sale comes along then sure, it would be an easy pickup. The Dorm of Love and Secrets might be worth reading if you have no other manga that needs your attention. If I had a new Komi Can’t Communicate or Yuri is My Job, I wouldn’t put it over those. Overall, if you have the time to read it go ahead, but if you don’t that’s also fine.
Being a Shōnen nut, I’m not the most well-read when it comes to the Shojo genre, but I am a sucker for a good romance or comedy. The synopsis alone for The Dorm of Love and Secrets grabbed my attention. Our heroine’s dorm burned down, and now she’s left with no choice but to room with the high and mighty high achievers? I smell fish out of water comedy antics and dashing preppy crush potential! And that’s pretty much exactly what we get with this first volume. The quicker you can handwave a few logical problems in that premise, the faster you can get to enjoy the chapters. Seriously, was one student the only person affected by an entire dorm burning down?
Asahi naivety regarding the majority of her situation is initially annoying (especially when she lets that slimy Tsukigase walk all over her). But I found her willingness to accept and adapt to the situation quite endearing, and the way she wears her heart on her sleeve when it comes to romance makes her just cute as a button! The object of her affection, Yokaze, sure is an intriguing one. A tall, dark and handsome type, there’s an air of mystery to him right from his first appearance that Author Nikki Asada ensures to string that along for the entire volume. Still, she also does a good job of sprinkling in a little more of his character as Asahi slowly but surely chips away at his icy exterior with dogged persistence.
Our protagonist portrays the most emotion in a dorm of seemingly robotic high achievers. Soon these emotions start to rub off on our elusive mystery man. Yokaze cracks more smiles from that stone-faced visage once he gets to know her better.
The only character that’s frustratingly undecipherable is the sleazeball of a Student Council President, Tsukigase. He has that trademark non-threatening grin stapled onto his mug with every appearance. Like Yokaze, I suspect there’s more to Tsukigase than meets the eye. I’m worried Asahi is going to be finding that out herself all too soon.
While the art may not blow you away, I felt it did a satisfying job of conveying the beats through the chapters. Asada knows when to focus on the details when it time for blossoming romance, all glistening eyes, and blushing cheeks. And, also when to simplify for a comedic payoff, with Asahi’s chibi expressions anytime life deals her a lousy hand (which occurs quite frequently).
Luke’s final thoughts
While I doubt it’s anything game-changing for your Shojo shelf, I found The Dorm of Love and Secrets to be a thoroughly pleasant, light and breezy read. I’m undoubtedly enamoured with Asahi bumbling her way through the sticky situation she finds herself in. Colour me intrigued with what exactly is going on with Yokaze. Now if that lousy Tsukigase would just let this young romance blossom in peace already! No doubt he’ll worm his way back in volume 2, but hopefully, Asahi will show a little more of that backbone and not take any more of his nonsense. If not, maybe Yokaze still has that bamboo sword handy!
Age of Boredom
I found Asahi quite annoying at first due to being a little too nieve, just accepting the crap the world (and men) throw at her. Later in the book Asahi stands up for herself, finally getting a little more self-respect. Once she gained some confidence, I started to enjoy her much more as a character and become rather fond of her.
At first, Yokaze’s personality blows very hot and cold, which I found annoying. Like Asahi, he seems to grow over a few chapters, and I got the impression that he does care about others. Once he opens up (I hope he does), I think he will be just as lovable as Asahi. I think his pairing Asahi works well and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. I can’t get a handle on Tsukigase. He seems to make all the other characters dance to his tune. Is he trying to brighten up some lives or dash their hopes against the rocks? Either way, he seems to be enjoying himself. An intriguing character!
I found the artwork in The Dorm of Love and Secrets a real treat. Ashai is a real cutie who you want to guide through life. The art works so well when Ashai flips from normal to chibi. I find that a lot of artists overplay this technique and it loses its impact. Asada uses the chibi face sparingly, so every time it’s a comic home run!
Although the book uses some screentone backgrounds, I was pleasantly surprised at how many environments are fully rendered. I always knew where the characters were, and it was nice to see that Asada was not cutting corners to get her chapters to press in time. My only issue was that some screentone looks a little odd on my tablet. When viewed on my phone and laptop, the screentone was perfect!
Age of Boredom’s final thoughts
Although I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the book after the first chapter, the following chapters and character development changed my views for the positive. All the characters grew on me, and now I’m on the hook for volume 2!
Is the Dorm of Love and Secrets volume 1 worth reading?
It seems that I was the odd man out when it came down to this series. While I began to fall out of love with Asahi’s character as the volume progressed, it seems that both Luke and Age of Boredom thought the opposite. Not surprising in the least, as different people have different tastes when it comes to character preferences. Aside from that most of our views seem pretty similar as we all agree that the art style is one of the strongest draws for this particular series. The art style uses the chibi style so effectively that it really is quite a charm while you read.
Overall, while I’m not inclined to continue the series, it seems the slack will be picked up by my colleagues. Captivated by a mix of intrigue and cuteness, they will be continuing to bring their thoughts on the series. So have you read The Dorm of Love and Secrets? Let us know your thoughts on it!
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