Kaiju Girl Caramelise, Vol. 1 is the first collection of Spica Aoki’s eponymous Shoujo manga.
Kuroe Akaishi suffers from a rare (probably unique) medical condition so embarrassing that she hides it from her schoolmates. The condition is exacerbated by strong emotion, so she tries to avoid drama. She’s aloof and detached … or at least as detached as she can be given that her schoolmates mock and torment her.
Thanks to years of teasing, Kuroe has learned not to take friendly gestures at face value. When the handsomest boy in the school, Arata Minami, takes an interest in her, her initial instinct is to flee. Why would the class idol want anything to do with a withdrawn, unpopular girl when all of the school’s beauties are throwing themselves at him?
Although Kuroe could not possibly know this (because she never talks to anyone if she can avoid it), Arata was not always the irresistible hunk he is today. Turning from chubby boy into hunk took hard work and discipline. Some such achievers might have taken the opportunity to torment others in turn, but Arata is not that sort of person. He is, in fact, just as considerate as he appears to be.
When it becomes clear that Arata is no cruel trickster, that his interest in Kuroe is both sincere and affectionate, that only makes matters worse. After all, Kuroe knows how to handle being despised and rejected. Friendship is a new experience. As is Kuroe’s first crush. This turns out to be something of a problem, as Kuroe has no idea how to deal with this new relationship. Not only that. Remember that strong emotions trigger her medical condition.
Arata is handsome, kind, generous and genuinely smitten with Kuroe … but can he still love Kuroe when he learns that in moments of stress, Kuroe turns into a hundred-meter-tall kaiju?
I can see worried faces out there. The answer is “yes,” at least as far as volume one is concerned, because rather like Clark Kent’s co-workers, Arata doesn’t connect the short teen in oversized clothes with the building-sized monster striding through the local river. It’s not that Arata is dense. Kuroe never transforms in front of him and the contrast between tiny Kuroe and giant Kuroe is way more dramatic than the contrast between Clark Kent with glasses and Clark Kent without.
Speaking of Superman, there’s a second romance in this manga, one that reminds me of Lois Lane’s crush on Superman and rejection of Kent. Manatsu Tomosato, one of the few schoolgirls who isn’t a Mean Girl, is also smitten with Kuroe … but only when Kuroe is in kaiju form. Manatsu calls the kaiju “Karugon”. Manatsu does have some inkling that there is a connection between Kuroe and Karugon, which is reason enough for the girl to befriend Kuroe. A lifetime of watching kaiju movies leads her to the conclusion that Kuroe must be Karugon’s miko. So close.
I cannot guess where this shoujo will go from here (don’t tell me!). Perhaps it will be a contest: who’s slower on the uptake, Arata or Manatsu? Or perhaps it will turn into a polyamorous arrangement between Kuroe, Arata, and Manatsu. I’m enjoying this delightfully absurd romance and I full intend to see where the author takes her story.