Not one that shone for me.
Years ago, when she was very small, Mayumi Dojima saw a beautiful star while on a family trip. Ever since then, she’s tried to find it again, but hasn’t been able to; after spending ten years searching, on the even of her fourteenth birday, she’s ready to bid her quest good-bye after one last study of the sky from her middle school’s roof. Instead, an encounter with a beautiful boy, she finds herself dragged off to the lair of the titular club, which is made up of a pack of pretty boys who evince bad attitudes but take an interest in Mayumi’s case – after all, a gorgeous star only ever seen by one person is a pretty tantalizing idea. And then the government agents start showing up.
Reading this book made for a somewhat bizarre experience in 2021, as it was only a few pages in before I got the sense that I was reading CLAMP School Detectives* as filtered through Ouran High Host Club. That impression remains strong throughout, and Nisioisin managed to retain the singularly worst aspect of the former, as, of all the things he could’ve decided he could not go without, having a junior high student with a six year old girlfriend was apparently one he could not bear to part with. And, because this was written in the past ten years, the spin he takes is, “Ha ha, this guy’s a pedo!”, which is not nearly as funny as anyone who has ever inserted that running joke into their work has ever thought it was.
To be fair, my patience had already ebbed quite a bit by the time we learn that one of the boys has a first grader as a fiancee (which, initially, the book says – it’s an arranged marriage! before snickering and going with “teehee it might be but lol he seems to like her a bunch he is such a pedo isn’t that very funny?”). Nisioisin’s prose is frenetic and lively, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t work for me, or at least doesn’t with this sort of material; I felt weary after a while of it. Mayumi makes for a delightfully black-hearted lead, and her decision in the epilogue was extremely satisfying, but the cast otherwise left me utterly cold. One’s endurance is very much going to be a matter of how much one likes overblown adventures involving middle schoolers with much too much money.
This is the first thing Vertical has released in years that I’ve picked up (I used to read a lot of the stuff they published, but then they basically stopped licensing stuff I was interested in), and its nice to see that they’re still pretty impeccable on quality of release. In particular, Winifred Bird has done a fantastic job with the translation.
It likely goes without saying that I will not be picking up the next volume of Pretty Boy Detective Club. I may, though, check out the anime adaptation that’s scheduled to start in April… although I think more out of curiosity to how Mayumi is adapted, as quite a lot of her characterization comes from the fact that she’s the person whose head the reader spends much of the book in. Nisioisin fans will probably find much to like here, although folks coming on over from the Monogatari series may find it a bit slight on the sort of meatier substance that series seems to have involved over time.
*Yes, I’m aware of how thoroughly this dates me – so much so, I might as well cop to having watched it on VHS.