Otaku USA Magazine
SP Baby [Review]

Tamaki has no degree, no qualifications, and no parents, but she does her best to find a good job so she can pay for her younger brother to go to college. One day, after a strange encounter with two men, she gets a job offer she never would have expected: to be a bodyguard for one of the men, Kagetora, the prime minister’s nephew.

This is a josei romance about an adult woman in the workplace. It’s a type of story the English-language manga landscape could do with more of—except that this is a terrible example of the form. Josei romance is often more grounded where shojo is expressionistic, offering a relatable emotional story through unlikely or even implausible circumstances. SP Baby offers the implausible circumstances without any relatability or emotional sophistication.

Beyond that, there is an abhorrent, creeping undertone to this story in that the “romance” is built on Kagetora’s repeated sexual harassment of Tamaki in her new workplace. Kagetora invites Tamaki to interview by sending her a suit with a skirt short enough to make her uncomfortable. When she refuses to wear it he tells her that she must, in order to show off her legs. He surprises her with a kiss when they are strangers, and again when they are employer and employee.

This isn’t subtle, or offset by her own responses to him. Once Tamaki becomes a fully trained bodyguard, she insists on calling Kagetora by his more formal title, explicitly telling him that his informal treatment of her makes her feel unappreciated as a professional. All she wants is to do a good job in protecting him, and every time he crosses lines she responds negatively. When she seems to begin to return his feelings it comes across more that her boundaries have been eroded than that she has a genuine attraction to him as a person. The story introduces a medical condition that appears to be an attempt to excuse his behavior toward her. It doesn’t work.

Throw in a dose of homophobia and catty girls who just want to land a rich husband, and there’s no way to recommend this manga. There were ways to fit this story into the best josei romance mold. Instead, it resonates most if you’ve ever seen a friend fall into a controlling relationship and desperately want to save her from it. Not exactly romantic.

publisher: Viz
story and art: Maki Enjoji
rating: 16+

This story appears in the February 2018 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.