Otome Mania!! first released back in 2017 and is written and drawn by Yurino Tsukigase. Her track record with otome-related material is solid; it can be traced back to 2012, with her three volume manga adaptation of the well-known otome game Ozmafia!!.
I stumbled upon Otome Mania!! when searching for material about otome games beyond just the games themselves — and it’s exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. I’ll say up front: buy the first volume right now on Amazon if you’re the slightest bit interested in otome games in general, because Otome Mania!! serves two purposes splendidly. First, it gives us some wonderful otome-related fanservice. And secondly, it gives us a manga-fied insight into the process of otome game creation.
For anyone who needs further convincing, let’s take a closer look at that first volume.
Otome staples x game creation
Volume 1 of Otome Mania!! has two pages of coloured illustrations of the cast as soon as you flip open the volume, with one side being just a glossy repeat of its cover art whilst the other is an exclusive image. It makes for a very pleasant first look into the volume, and from there, the enjoyment of the manga never dips.
We’re swiftly introduced to Otome Mania!!’s heroine, Haruna Yuzumi, game planner and newest member of the game studio, Trick Star. She’s been in the job for only a week, but is driven and passionate about working for the studio because they produce her favourite types of game: otomes. And not only that, they created her current favourite, Darling x Produce.
We first see her at a drama CD recording for Darling x Produce, along with her strict superior and creative director, Ryuichi Tachibana. This opening sequence does quick work to showcase how educational Tsukigase intended the piece to be, highlighting how the sound director, sound engineer, and creative director all guide the voice actor, commenting on their line delivery, suggesting pronunciation improvements, and controlling staff management.
Alongside this is Haruna’s attempts to control her quiet fangirling, which she struggles with both outwardly and inwardly when Ryuichi gives an example of how a certain line would be better projected in a more “teasing” tone.
It results in Haruna’s imagination taking off into the stratosphere, as she places him as a guy in uniform courting her. She lets her imagination get the best of her in these moments — and even goes so far as to place a certain colleague of hers in otome-style settings due to his personality. These sequences are real highlights of the first volume’s comedy.
Ryuichi’s harsh criticism quickly sets the tone of their relationship dynamic; he brings Haruna under his wing, and she actively wants his tutelage and praise.
After the initial recording session, we see a rival of Trick Star announcing a new title called PRINCESS LIMITED. It’s highly anticipated among the otome community, and even Haruna can’t resist getting starry-eyed at the billboards filled with ikemen. The new game’s motif is one of royalty, with all its love interests being princes, and the marketing referring to its players as “princesses”.
Haruna doesn’t have long to stay starstruck, though, as she’s led to the Trick Star office — which just happens to be filled with handsome men. Who needs PRINCESS LIMITED?
Kouichi Todoroki is the lead programmer of the studio and resident oji-san, and he goes extremely underappreciated in this first volume. We barely see anything of him here, and I hope this won’t continue to be the case, because we love to see an oji-san character in an otome.
Elsewhere, Yuzuru Sagano is the resident dorky programmer who works under Todoroki; Tsubasa Shiraishi is both a shota and the studio’s lead writer; Takumi Nanasato is the resident shy guy and scenario writer; Kazuya Nanasato is Takumi’s brother and the megane type; and finally, graphic artist Alex insists on describing himself as “Oil King”. We also later meet the studio’s producer and boss, Izuru Miyahara, who is a softly spoken leader who contrasts with Ryuichi’s energy.
Ikemen in the workplace
For the most part, Haruna’s storyline in Otome Mania!! likely mirrors the reader’s own experience, since the majority of this first volume is about the fundamentals of development.
When asked if she has her own idea for an otome game — Haruna was hired as a planner, after all — she jumps at the chance, and Izuru happily allows her the opportunity to develop her concept into a mobile game, so long as she is overseen by Ryuichi, and that he accepts her idea. On top of this, she will be expected to work on her usual (and not so usual!) duties as the company’s game planner.
But first, her idea — and it’s a great one, in fact! Haruna wants to create an educational otome where the love interests’ affection increases if players can correctly deduce the phrases whispered to them in different languages. We love to see a dummy head mic be alluded to even if it’s just in page form.
From this setup, we get to see many aspects of game development, such as project planning, creating specification sheets, and more recording sessions with popular ikemen voice actors.
This volume of Otome Mania!! does well in showcasing and pacing the development of a mobile game over a six-month period. It briefly explores the difficulties of outsourcing and managing a small budget, and this adds minor moments of conflict and tension when Hinako struggles to hit all the deadlines in a calm and graceful manner. Bless her!
It also shows how a game develops from its initial draft form to adding additional features as the product hits certain schedules — in this case, we see Haruna’s game adding more love interests, and the way in which this affects costs and the recruitment of voice actors. The team’s scenario writer beefs up the content of the basic game, the game gradually implements its core mechanics and the project expands in scope as development continues. And, of course, supervisors and management have to determine deadlines based on the progress presented to them! It was all interested to see tackled.
However, there are a few questionable tasks given to Haruna in this volume of Otome Mania!!, bearing in mind her position as a game planner. I assume these are mostly down to needing some humorous moments, as they mostly stem from her passion blinding her, or her being completely out of her depth.
She ends up completing tasks in completely the wrong way, summoning the wrath of Ryuichi on multiple occasions. For example, she attempts to respond to every single reply on their social media account when releasing a statement about the Darling x Produce drama CD — something that absolutely is not part of her job role!
But all that is forgiven when we consider the overall exciting narrative. Throughout the game’s development, each member of the team gets their own time to shine when mentoring Haruna, and suggesting improvements on the product to help her vision successfully come to fruition. The first example of this comes with graphic artist and “Oil King” Alex, who helpfully offers to add illustrations to her project plan draft.
He’s sweet, multilingual, and shares the same amount of passion for playing video games as Haruna does. They work late overnight together, and when Haruna becomes tired due to the continuous long hours they’re pulling, he drapes his own jacket over her as she sleeps, and he praises her for her endless enthusiasm and efforts.
The following morning, he whispers something in French to her when her draft is finally accepted. Translating this results a bit of a head-scratching moment due to how quickly his affection for her has developed over such a short time, but it’s still endearingly sweet — and in keeping with Haruna’s game concept. Tsukigase knows what we like to see!
Takumi, meanwhile, expands Haruna’s otome world through creating scenarios, additional dialogue, and bio information to its characters, helping make Haruna’s concepts all the more believable. His little story segment was the best part of the volume for its depth — it hits a surprising number of emotional notes despite how brief his appearance is in the grand scheme of things.
He has quite a bit of development and even a small narrative arc that explores how he learns to overcome his fear of woman when working with Haruna. We see him excel at taking the reins of a sudden opportunity to lead a project on his own, and motivate himself to get more experience in order to become a supervising editor.
Things we hope to see more of in volume 2 of Otome Mania!!
Unfortunately I can’t say that the same amount of attention nor time was given to the other team members. They get little to no time in the spotlight despite each having a role to play in the game’s overall progression. Both Yuzuru and Kouichi end up sharing the responsibility of helping Haruna, making it feel like this chapter came and went far too quickly.
The same can be said of Tsubasa, who prompted Takumi to take charge of the writing on the game, thereby giving himself a convenient early exit. And we see absolutely nothing from Takumi’s brother Kazuya, who is forgotten about almost as soon as he’s introduced.
In all these cases, I hope to see a few more scenes with these guys in the second volume. This first volume quickly wraps up as Haruna’s game finally launches after a few more finishing touches are made, such as debugging, testing and the beta release.
Haruna finally gets the ultimate prize of a head pat and some kind words from Ryuichi after all her perseverance and enduring his constant strict teachings — seeing his warmer side finally appear was a real highlight. Here’s hoping she gets much more validation and praise in subsequent volumes as she improves her knowledge of game design and her skills for the job.
But after everything that happens in this volume, my major excitement for the second volume is seeing more from the final teaser of PRINCESS LIMITED (or PRI-LI, as it becomes known) stepping up to cause trouble in the final couple of pages. A challenger appears!
Otome Mania!! is a slice-of-life manga set in a workspace/adult setting with a light-hearted, comforting and motivating story to it. Haruna is a typical main character intended to represent the general otome player, since she’s extremely passionate about the subject, and brings on board valid input due to her experience with the genre — she’s also a voice of the player base that we can relate to. No-one can possibly say that her idea isn’t legit — and if it actually exists somewhere in this world, that would be brilliant news to send me on my way! (I’ll keep an eye out – Ed.)
She’s also highly motivated and very likeable despite the few hiccups she has in her new job, but she’s keen to learn and wants to improve — and this is all the more encouraging when the other characters react so fondly to her hard work and determination. There’s plenty of humorous dialogue between the guys when reacting to Haruna’s fangirling, and a good balance of realistic drama and silly comedy.
If I had just had one complaint, it’s with one blatant instance of a panel being copied and pasted which was quite distracting and easy to notice on a casual readthrough. Aside from this, though, Otome Mania!!’s art style is typically but gorgeously shoujo-esque.
For anyone who is an otome gamer, Otome Mania!! should absolutely be in your collection of ikemen goods.
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