"May I be in love with you" is a very cute and seriously fun shoujo-romance-school life read revolving around our protagonist, the scary looking (think Eustace from Courage, the Cowardly Dog when he put on his Ooga Booga Booga mask!) but secretly mild mannered and misunderstood Chigira who just wants to have a fun high school existence filled with friends, karaoke and maybe a first love. Instead his delinquent looks invite challenges from other delinquents further solidifying his unwittingly acquired reputation and scare away any poor sods who make the mistake of looking in his general direction. What's a boy to do?! Especially when a
particularly gentle and sweet girl from his class has been kind to him once and he wants to explore the extent of that kindness more, but she maintains the same distance from him as his classmates since his demon eyes give her the Heebie Jeebies! And what's with this tsundere female Casanova who has assumed the status of his Love Guru despite her better judgement?
Shiiba Nana initially released a oneshot exploring this premise which may have gained favour, hence the short 12 chapter serialisation. The pacing and characters are all very enjoyable and the short length of each chapter will keep you hankering for the next one. So far, I haven't encountered any frustratingly overused shoujo tropes in this story. In fact, I am pleasantly surprised at the maturity and hilarity of each character's responses and reactions and their steadfastness in approaching their goals and aspirations, even if said aspirations are limited to confessing their long standing love to a classmate, making a desirable first, second or third impression or stalking the one they like!
Art: Shiiba Nana never disappoints with her artfully tousled haired bishies or her kawaii but feisty heroines. Expression range from subtle and coy to outraged and murderous which will invoke a mini guffaw in the most cynical of readers. Actions are also hilarious and unique enough at times along with cleverly matching dialogue to lend an air of sincerity and help you relate to the characters. The artwork definitely creates a memorable experience and is one the major reasons to pick up this title.
Story and Characters: Three primary characters have been introduced till the first 6 chapters, two of which have been extremely well developed. They are honest, clumsy, sneaky and vulnerable in equal measures which makes for refreshing storytelling. Just when you're about to conclude that a character's going to do something predictable at a particular moment, they surprise you and lend the otherwise lighthearted story some depth.
I'm not sure if the relationship dynamics which evolve were deliberate from the mangaka's side from the get go, or maybe it's because this is one of the few instances where a shoujo story has a male lead; but many of the situations, whether a love triangle or post confession heartbreak feel deeply personal without appearing hackneyed. Comforting a despondent friend doesn't necessarily lead to a heated embrace. The upbeat and type A heroine doesn't always get her way when she puts herself out there but she pulls through like a fighter... how can you not adore these characters and cheer for them despite the unoriginal plot of boy-loves-girl-but-girl-fears-boy.
Enjoyment: Immense. It's a page turner, this one. Humorous and warm, the hi jinxes of the unfortunate hero will keep you engrossed and invested, coming back for more. High re-readability. This is a fun and touching read more than a "Kyaaa" girly romance, but it won't disappoint any audience, be it the devoted romance enthusiast or a curious first time shoujo reader.
Overall A-: The character's could have definitely been more fleshed out and secondary characters and their agendas explored further, but this read will keep you entertained, is short and sweet, devoid of unnecessary angst and puts a smile on your face despite the apparent ugliness of the main character with the unexpected little heartwarming things all the characters do and say. It's like taking a peek into your classmate's journal, only your classmate's the school hulk, aggressive and taciturn and you never imagined he could write, let alone maintain a diary filled with such a colourful gamut of characters and experiences!