You’ve never seen a meet-cute like the one in Sweat and Soap. Count on it. This romcom manga follows a young woman’s connection to a man who becomes attracted to her because of, to put it bluntly, her smell.
Asako Yaeshima is a timid office worker at Lilia Drop, a toiletries company that produces the only soap that’s ever been able to curb one of Asako’s biggest insecurities: her body odor. After being bullied all of her life for how much she sweats and the scent she gives off, she’s landed a job at the very company that saved her. Things take a steamy, if stinky, turn when Kotaro Natori, Lilia Drop’s lead product developer, gets a deep whiff of Asako and loves what he smells. A genius at developing new scents, he finds Asako inspirational, and, as the pair continue to meet for work, romance blossoms.
The story takes place primarily at a modern workplace; it’s refreshing that Asako isn’t a high school or college student, but an adult with a career. The manga touches on how it can be difficult to navigate relationships when both parties work at the same office, as Asako and Natori awkwardly slip into empty meeting rooms to share lunch and quick makeout sessions.
Perhaps most endearingly, Sweat and Soap isn’t afraid to explore the more intimate issues and concerns that come with new relationships. Asako’s bodily functions are a source of embarrassment to her, while Natori finds them intoxicating. When she and Natori are intimate, she becomes concerned about leaving a certain stain on the bedsheets. When she stays over with Natori and realizes she doesn’t have a bra with her, the ensuing shopping trip to make sure she has the essentials is adorable.
Sweat and Soap is filled with moments like these. Except, perhaps, for Natori’s penchant for sniffing Asako, their relationship is downright enviable. The story is unique and moves along at a good clip. It should be interesting to see how their dynamic continues to evolve in and out of the office.
publisher: Kodansha Comics
story and art: Kintetsu Yamada