So I finished Reading “Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie” Manga; Here are my Thoughts

I finished reading Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie manga, so what is it?

For those of you who might be living under a rock and missed the 2022 airing, Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie is a Japanese romantic comedy that was originally a manga series by Keigo Maki. Serialized on Kodansha’s Magazine Pocket website and app from February 2019 to February 2023. With its chapters collected in twenty tankōbon volumes as of January 2023.

It’s your typical romcom slice of life that follows the relationship between generic protag-kun Yuuki Izumi, a clumsy and unlucky high schooler. And Miyako Shikimori, his sweet and cute girlfriend who turns into a cool and badass heroine whenever he gets into (environmental) trouble. Which is often. The manga has been praised for its adorable and funny moments, and expressive art style. 

I will try my darn-dest to avoid spoilers, though really, there’s nothing to spoil here, to be brutally honest in the nicest way possible.

Can you tell I used Bing AI to assist with writing that first part? Its a really unique tool, but it lacks a profound voice, so I’ll use it sparingly for the nitty gritty details like in that first paragraph. Onto my own words!

What is it… really?

Really, Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie manga is an extremely fluffy story about an overly happy and accident-prone protagonist Izumi in pretty much his entire high school life, with his perfect pink haired girlfriend Shikimori. The plot isn’t earth-shattering or at all new. It takes us to back to high school, with the nicest people making the nicest friends. They work hard, to… err… overcome school… and be good friends to one another, I guess.

Listen, I’m starting to think I’m not a big fan of slice of life romcoms. Especially in the school setting, its just an overused setting that sets up the same events over and over. There will be a sports competition. Also a school festival. Did I mention entrance/placement exams?

There are many comedic moments with the supporting characters which I’ll get to later, but how is the romance? Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie manga is that innocent adolescent romance with gender roles are swapped between a couple that depend on each other for different types of support. Does it do anything interesting? Yes. Does it lead or develop into anything new or exciting? Not really. Allow me to explain.

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie manga Pros and Cons of the Cast of Characters

With the face of a shota (little boy) and a crybaby, Izumi is just the sweetest boy any girl would want to be with. Well… only the two most popular girls in school. He really hates him, you must be thinking, but before I roast, there are some unique aspects about his character that are unique to the story. Not every protagonist is as accident-prone or unlucky as Izumi. Nor does every protagonist get saved by their female love interest time and time again. It can be annoying how dependent he is on Shikimori’s protection, but he does say things to keep her head cool and stay motivated. But he’s a crybaby, in both positive and negative situations. That’s outright annoying. Even with self-doubt, he’s just way too positive and naïve.

Next is the heroine, Shikimori.

She’s just the absolute perfect girlfriend, as most girlfriends are in manga and anime. Cute when she doesn’t try to be, cool when she needs to be. She holds the reins in the relationship, and gets jealous even when his best friend talks to him. Probably a little too possessive, but this is also probably part of her charm. She really is an interesting character, and she does have some really detailed and artistic panels. But these panels are few per chapter and taper off towards the middle. 

What’s frustrating about her relationship with Izumi is that despite being the dominant one, she’s too afraid to make advances on him. And he’s way too dense to realize her s#xual frustrations and other needs.

The supporting characters are just a spunky, positive bunch that just want to strive to be the very best, in school and for each other. So basically most other supporting characters? Except they hardly have issues from what I read, maybe the shortest arc for a couple of them?

Shuu is Izumi’s best friend and even compared to a dog from time to time. Nekozaki is just as spunky and compared to a cat hence her name (neko – cat). Hachimitsu is honestly my favorite character, since she just provides great comedy relief and has the same face as Isabelle from Animal Crossing. Even seen playing what looks like the Nintendo Switch at one point or another. There’s also the popular but timid Kamiya, and the not popular and timid Saruogi. Lastly there’s Shikimori’s mom and brother who are exactly like her in that they’re nice but intimidating to look at. And of course Izumi’s mom and dad, who are just the most supportive people a manga could come out with.

What I was expecting vs what I got, my honest thoughts

What was I supposed to expect reading the Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie manga? I honestly haven’t read too many slice of life manga if I’m honest, but I was expecting more progression. You know… development between characters. Sure, rivalries turn to friendships and… no actually I think that’s about it. Izumi learns to not rely on Shikimori so much to protect him. I guess that’s neat, but in terms of their relationship, a second kiss feels like a pipedream. 

I was expecting some tension between protagonist and his friend. A breakup would occur or a fallout with the family. Maybe a character fails a class, or heck, doesn’t end up in the same class as everyone else (oh what horrors). Maybe Shikimori would push for more than a kiss instead of being embarrassed, or Izumi would realize his girlfriend’s feelings plain as day. A story where there’d be A sports competition and A cultural festival. 

So what did I get after 170+ chapters of the manga to its completion?

Repetition, repetition, and repetition.

Don’t get me wrong! I love the comedy; the reactions of the supporting characters and some of the dialogue are hilarious. But did I really need to see (if I remember correctly) 3+ years of Izumi and Shikimori’s high school days to their graduation? Sure seeing characters struggle to overcome a difficult exam. They train hard to run in the sports competition, or pull off a memorable school festival is fun to experience reading… once. I’m pretty sure I read about those events over 3 times for each year of school, unless that was semesters. A new character gets added to the group of friends, and they have a small conflict. Shikimori does something cool and gets an astonished reaction out of Izumi (which stops being funny after the first dozen times). Rinse and repeat.

Shikimori was cool in the beginning. No really, like the author Keigo Maki comes up with some unique situations where Shikimori saves Izumi’s life. And these moments were honestly interesting! But halfway through the story, I started to notice less of these moments and more of just characters trying to be positive and overcome school and figure out their futures. Its realistic, with tropes that aren’t realistic, aka seriously accident-prone Izumi and Shikimori being absolutely ok with this, and that breaks the immersion for me. Also, everyone is super nice and supportive, which is nice… but again, not realistic nor makes for a riveting climactic plot.

So what are my closing thoughts on the Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie manga?

What can I say beyond this reaction from Izumi’s father? I originally gave the manga praise in an earlier post before the anime aired (in which I dropped after a few anticlimactic episodes), but having finished reading the manga, I have to give it a very generous 7, it was originally a 6 but there are just a few moments that stuck with me, sweet and funny ones.

Its unfortunate. I like the characters (I really do), I like the comedy and its memeable panels as well as some of the artwork, but I just felt it was repetitive to the point of utter boredom with trivial conflict and a conclusion that felt natural and yet left me unsatisfied. I don’t recommend it to anyone looking for some serious character and plot development that goes beyond the realm of boring reality.

So who do I recommend it to? I’ve thrown a lot of hate at the manga, but its really not all that bad, it just depends on what you’re searching for in a story. Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie manga is excellent at being a light and fluffy read that is sure to put a smile on the readers’ face, as it did for me. The characters are fun and likeable, as you could see yourself being in their circle of happy friends. Shikimori and Izumi have a good relationship that does have some sweet and touching moments (despite the touching only going so far as holding hands), and you root for the characters to overcome their struggles. Its a light romantic comedy, and there’s absolutely nothing heavy here, which just might be what you’re looking for! 

Unfortunately it wasn’t for me. Shikimori describes it best:

If you’re just starting to get into romcoms or manga in general, then this could be a decent start, but for a seasoned reader looking for the next big name, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere. Thanks for reading!

Izumi’s Mom best girl.

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