And this is a curious little manga.
Boku ni Koisuru Mechanical (僕に恋するメカニカル, Mechanical Love) is a seinen manga by Watarai Keiji (渡会けいじ) that’s basically Terminator 2 x silly manga romance parody — a kind of love letter to things the mangaka is clearly very fond of. Watarai-sensei is actually one of my favorite artists, and when I saw this was a new series of his (at the time, years ago) I was pretty excited. I first learned about him with his manga O/A, which I’ll probably review later. O/A really hooked me for some quite bizarre, quite hilarious humor on top of really strong art that was both cute and cool. I felt a resonance with Watarai-sensei’s likes (perhaps because he’s such a westaboo — a huge fan of western culture), and have since become a fan of his. Mechanical started off strong for me with its first two chapters, seeming like an opportunity for the author to do whatever the Hell he wanted. Pretty cool. However, to be honest, I think that while this series has a lot of good things about it — both in concept and in execution — it’s missing some things that would make it truly great. Much as I like it, I can see why it was finished within 14 chapters at 3 volumes.
The premise is simple, but there’s quite a bit to it. We start the series by meeting this guy:
Shinjou Maita. He’s a fairly standard college-age otaku (in his case, a movie nerd): passionate about what he’s into, not very sociable, unliked, and rather cynical. The series begins with him getting kicked down after saying some rude things to a pair of girls mocking him (because he was in a zombie costume, recruiting for his school’s movie club), but then a beautiful girl appears to help him.
This very cliche scene does indeed seem to be the start of a love comedy. This girl, Hotohara Shiori, comes to Maita to join the movie research society. They get along pretty well, and on their walk home after school’s let out she reveals that she joined the club because of him!
Maita is ecstatic. He doesn’t question why someone would suddenly be interested in him. As a reader, you can assume the two of them made a promise under a sakura tree long, long ago or something. Well, whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter to our protagonist because he’s just happy someone has shown him affection.
He gets back to his apartment, but is shocked to see it broken in. He picks up a bat, bracing himself for a burglar.
Kind of a lot happens after this, a lot of which needs explaining, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to go over every one of the significant plot details. So, here’s the rundown:
- Maita is being targeted by robots from the future.
- The robots want to steal Maita’s sperm and then kill him.
- This is because [basically Skynet] took over the future with robots, and his future son is a superhuman that found other superhumans and can fight against the AI menace. They want him dead to get rid of the son, and his sperm to genetically engineer their own soldiers and wipe out humanity.
- The robots are using silly things like galge (“girl games”, dating sims) to figure out how to seduce Maita.
- This lady, Integra, came from the future along with a genius scientist named Camilla and a reprogrammed death robot called Stand Alone to protect Maita.
- It’s Terminator with cute robot girls instead of big robot men.
Understood? Alright, so, with this you should expect the series to mostly be about Maita getting into sexual situations with robot girls and then getting saved in the nick of time, but — “spoilers” — that only really happens one more time after chapter 1, and even during that time Maita already knows to not expect any sudden romance from random girls. Instead, this series is mostly a slice of life/romance where Maita lives with his robot guardian (who he nicknames Sutako) and slowly develops a relationship with Integra. The series is pretty down to earth with occasional spikes of zaniness for comedic effect. In my opinion, it has a kind of nostalgic atmosphere, as there is quite a bit of emphasis on the past and on Maita teaching Sutako things about the world and culture. There’s also some action it it, and I think it’s really cool action, but it’s certainly not the focus.
There isn’t much more I can say about the story and characters from hereon. Dr. Camilla is lackadaisical but keeps things under control, Integra is a straight-laced tsundere who’s kind of a goofball, and Sutako is a cute, quiet little robot who learns more things over time. To me the best aspect of the series is seeing Maita’s daily life with Sutako. These moments are funny, cute, and heartwarming. However, there’s a little problem with it, and as I explain that problem I’ll explain some other faults.
Boku ni Koisuru Mechanical has weird pacing. While the scenes between Sutako and Maita are nice, logically speaking they may not be earned. Very shortly after the manga starts, they have suddenly been living together for days. Their regular daily life is explored largely in a flashback chapter, which is a good chapter, but we didn’t really get much between them beforehand to make that chapter and their brother/sister (maybe father/daughter) sort of relationship feel as significant as it could. It sort of feels like the series is missing some transitional parts that could bind the good stuff in the manga together and make big moments bigger. Because it’s like this, character-based jokes also feel a little weaker because we haven’t gotten a lot of time to get to know the characters. Sutako is probably the best, most well-rounded character in the series such that it’s worth reading for her alone, but having read the author’s work previous to this, O/A, I know he’s capable of fleshing out characters better than this and can really get the reader endeared to a fairly wide cast.
I can’t say “in fairness, the series ended quickly so we just COULDN’T get a full grasp on the whole cast” because Sutako is quickly likable, her rival robot from the future is a strong character, there’s two other characters introduced later that are pretty great, and Dr. Camilla has potential as a funnier character. Maita, Integra, and another significant character are ones I’d call important, but they’re not as strong as the rest, which isn’t the best thing since we see them a lot. Maita could be a lot better, which is really clear to me from one of the final chapters which was really quite good and focused pretty much exclusively on him and his development. Prior to that, though, he was pretty much a typical protagonist that was serviceable and that’s about it.
I would still recommend this series, however. It’s not bad at all, honestly. It’s very funny and entertaining (featuring some weird and unique humor as well as sexual humor if you’re into that), it’s very well drawn (the art style is adorable, but also awesome when it needs to be), and aspects of it are truly excellent. It’s really a damn shame it couldn’t quite bring all of itself together to really make Watarai-sensei’s vision shine. In the last few chapters, perhaps because he knew it was ending, there are some really stellar things on display. For instance, the penultimate chapter is amazing and I really, really enjoyed pretty much everything about it. The chapter before that one? A very nice one for Integra and Maita. I have to wonder if, had it been allowed to go further, the series would have gotten better and better. I feel like it would’ve. The author VERY UNSUBTLY indicated as much in the last chapter. After explaining what the series would have been and hinting at more, he speaks through a character lamenting in the final panels that they wanted to do something cooler than this, but now it’s ruined, bitterly declaring this all “lame”.
In the end, I find this manga quite interesting. It’s a great thing to see an artist have such loose and free reign with what they want to do, but a little sad seeing how it died early, for whatever the reason. I may have problems with it, and that blunt ending might leave you feeling bad, but I nonetheless think you should give the series a shot. You might like it even more than I did! In any case, I’ve got my eye on Watarai-sensei’s latest work (Benten Rock You.) and am hoping it turns out better (update: it also ended in three volumes; bummer).
Thanks for reading. Hopefully see you next week.
Watarai Keiji’s Bookwalker author page: [link]