Aoki Karin has always wanted to be a bartender because of an American movie she watched when she was a child. On her 20th birthday, her friends take her out to a bar to celebrate. There she meets Shiino Takumi, who is much cooler and more handsome than the bartender from the film. Alas! Karin believes she has found the one... until she finds out that maybe she jumped into this a bit too fast.
Contains extras "Crazy Only For You" and "Striving Little Devil".
Gozen Reiji... is a romance shoujo read with the main story about a girl wanting to become a bartender for her own romantic aspirations spanning three short chapters along with two unrelated oneshots. The overall enjoyment you derive from this title will depend heavily on how avid a shoujo-romance manga fan you are, so while I found myself largely bored and underwhelmed with the pace and direction of the main story, others may appreciate the delicacy of the characters and their development and maybe even enjoy the (somewhat) novel Cayote Ugly-esque premise of becoming an apprentice bartender and romantic trysts and entanglements which pursue.
mangaka's art style is clearly geared towards a shoujo audience, large girly eyes and features, good looking bishies and cute surroundings. It lacks sharpness and feels a little dated with the hairstyles, backgrounds and overall style, but it's certainly not unappealing. Facial expressions weren't groundbreaking, ditto with the fashion depicted or the actions of the various characters, which were appropriate for the plot but mediocre at best. I wouldn't pick up this volume for the impeccable art standards.
Story and Characters: The main story is simple, slow paced and not too unrealistic. Karin has this fascination with all this bar-tending and after a birthday visit to an upscale bar with a (cute of course!) bartender who floors her a little with his visual flair, she can't help but apply to work there alongside him. (Groundbreaking stuff this! Where do mangakas dream up such novel situations?) While it avoids being too maudlin or sappy which is a relief because that can really ruin a good shoujo read, the dialogues and execution aren't laced with too much humour or sharp wit. It's easy to get bored with the endless inner monologues which repeat the same facts over and over and start browsing panels just waiting to get the action packed bit.
The two oneshots are a completely different ball game here. The first one revolves around a college aged couple and how the heroine is a little dissatisfied with the lack of conflict in their relationship (yes ladies, there are such thankless females out there!) so she decides to test her boyfriend's patience a bit. It had potential, but the wimpy character development and frustrating lack of employing fun situations to further the plot leave the reader a tad disappointed.
The second oneshot has some serious teeth to the story. A particularly popular and unabashed playerette working at an office lets her corporate mask slip for just a moment at a vulnerable point and has to pay when a naughty colleague decides to exploit her slip up and declare her his steady girlfriend. But this means she will need to give up her constant queue of suitors! How vexing! Why would the hero put her in such a situation... it must be because he already likes her right? Well then, she'll just expose this little crush of his and make him admit defeat in the process!
THIS is what really sets this story apart from the regular shoujo lot. The heroine is a very self aware and competent gal, willing to put her ego aside, put in the effort and remain constantly on her toes to one up her temporary Romeo. While it's a oneshot and pacing and character development can only be so much, it's still an enjoyable and fun read, if only due to the determined female lead's perseverance to never give up!
Romace, Doki Doki and Smut: Meh. Nothing too moving or memorable. The romance of the story and oneshots, while sweet and chaste will not really leave you breathless or gasping at the sexiness of it all. The intimacy and affectionate aspect of the story has a bit an "Aww shucks" feel to it in some places, but nothing super captivating which makes for low re-readability.
Overall B-: While an OK read, I wouldn't recommend this volume to die hard shoujo romantics, with the exception of the second one shot "Striving Little Devil" for its novelty and witty character development.