When reading about romance, readers expect to see romance; that much is obvious. When reading about comedy, readers expect to see comedy; that much is obvious. When these two genres combine into a single story, people expect it to be endearing, especially when the romance is between two younger people of society. With as much pressure as one is to withstand with this type of combination, it's a wonder why any writer would want to combat a monster such as this. Onidere is one of these monsters. Onidere is a manga that tries its best at combining a typical plotline with blueprint characters involved in romance, comedy, and a little drama to spice it up toward the end.
Tadashi and Saya are the two players who take on the role of the endearing young couple within the Onidere universe. Saya is a well-known leader of a yakuza-type gang along with her henchmen, Momotsuki, Mitsuki, and Yuna, and hopes to attain her reputation as a fearful leader with devil-like powers. Tadashi is a boy who doesn't like the spotlight, and would rather spend time in the knitting club than to get involved with violent situations. Onidere opens with a twist of fate: Saya and Tadashi are dating, and Saya doesn't want anyone to know about it. So much so that she's willing to commit a murder/suicide scenario to withhold her reputation. With this in mind, Tadashi hopes to keep his distance from her, while trying to develop his relationship with her at the same time. One could say that a challenge such as this with his life at stake is too much for a middle school boy to take. Usually, one would be right, but this is Onidere.
One thing that can be said about this manga is that it's dedicated to its characters. Each and every character who is introduced at any point in the manga are rewarded with their own backstory, along with a continued presence throughout the series. The only issue with this is that, starting out, all of these characters seem incomplete. With the plot trying to develop through the first ten to fifteen chapters, the minor characters' only purpose within the story is to serve as obstacles for Tadashi and Saya's relationship. This being said, it doesn't show much attention to their individual personalities, and the charm of the series is lackluster without everything out for show. However, when Tadashi and Saya's relationship is revealed to those close to the two, the story begins to flourish. The characters' whims and inability (or refusal) to grow into natural characters are what make Onidere one of the most enjoyable manga I've ever happened to discover. Normally, repetition is looked down upon and serves as the downfall for what a story could be without it. However, with how preposterous Onidere's plotline is, repetition actually serves to improve the characters' overall likability. Onidere is one of those rare stories where all the characters are likable, to an extent.
So, with characters like these, the plot would prove to be just as successful, correct? While the characters are charming, as was stated earlier, the plot is preposterous. Multiple times throughout the story, feats are achieved by "normal human beings" that would prove to be impossible. Specifically with Saya, but is shown with others, feats of "demon-like strength" are exhibited as if only natural to a girl's growth. There are also plenty of signs about Saya and Tadashi's hidden relationship that are obvious to point out. Students could easily conclude such a relationship between the two seeing as though they're always the only ones missing from their individual classrooms everyday, as the couple eat their lunch everyday on the school's rooftop. Saya also gets red in the face whenever she's placed right next to Tadashi, but this could also just be a modern Asian woman's inability to cope with physical contact. Aside from speculation, some of the plots that arise in Onidere are also hard to comprehend and are resolved with elements that are just as confusing. With this manga being a comedy, it doesn't take itself too seriously. One could say it doesn't know how to be serious. The ending could probably justify this claim.
Onidere's art is truly the epitome of the phrase "an acquired taste." The art within the manga, like the characters, is unfocused to start off. The character designs are more like rough sketches and the backgrounds are faded. Continuing on, one could say that the art of the manga could start to grow on them, but I tend to believe that, with the manga's popularity at the time, the mangaka grew more confident with their story and became more focused on drawing good quality lines. The characters become more concrete, and objects and locations used for gags become more clear and memorable to the reader. The only real flaw with the style of animation is that it isn't sexy enough to really pull in any looming romantic looking for a sweet story. Onidere is portrayed more as a comedy than anything else.
While initially Onidere may seem passable, the manga begins to shine later on due to a sense of familiarity. The characters come into their own, the art starts to settle, and the plot remains unfocused all throughout. Onidere is a quality manga in terms of comedy, as the shaky plot conveniences could turn off some, but the payoff is enough to seduce any lover of nonsense. What comes back to hurt this manga is its attempt at full-blown drama, which only feels unnecessary after so many chapters of comical know-how. Onidere is a monster made with the intent to entertain the readers who choose to read it. While it may do that, the impact it has may differ upon an individual's preferences. This story is great at one thing and one thing only: dividing a crowd.