One of the biggest nuisances when it comes to the romance genre in manga (and anime even more so in general) is the lack of actual progress relationship-wise. I've lost count of just how many series that just never get going anywhere due to slow pacing, dense protagonists and ridiculously convenient interruptions every time any real steps are about to be taken. Furthermore in the case that any real progress is made (like a confession or a kiss etc), suddenly the story is over. "They lived happily ever after, the end!" and nothing more.
How wonderful is it then when you happen to randomly come across a little manga merely four volumes long that manages to squeeze in so much goodness in such a short time span, because unlike what you’d normally find, in this series something actually HAPPENS essentially all the time.
Sore wa Totsuzen Unmei no Aite ga (roughly translated to "Suddenly, the marriage partner showed up") is a compilation of four separate short stories, each focusing on its own coupling. The common factor is that these couples are selected not by themselves, but rather via a genetic test performed by the government in order to help people find their absolute perfect matches when it comes to producing offspring, and the results are delivered to both partners once the younger of the two has had his/her 14th birthday.
Because of this, every story is already starting out with the characters as potential fiancés which cuts away a lot of the boring initial phase, but more importantly the actual stories themselves are SUPER cute! Instead of the ordinary cliché and generic male and female leads you’d normally see, each and every one of the characters in this manga are extremely likable and also feel very realistic. Every story has a ton of variation and theme, but they all succeed with their respective settings and purposes absolutely flawlessly. And the art style is beautiful as well to boot.
To make a quick rundown of the various stories in order, we have:
1) Yuuichi x Manami
Starting out with what is by far the shortest story of the bunch, we have a mostly lighthearted incest coupling between a quite ordinary, average boy and his younger sister who is more of a perfect girl envied by all. There isn’t really very much to say about this one; it serves more as a longer pilot chapter to the other stories but it’s still cute and funny in its simplicity.
2) Jun x Mai
A coupling between the school idol and the friend of her younger brother. This story was probably the most ecchi one out of the four, but it was done in a tasteful and realistic way that was very nice to see. It also showcased the process of the girl using her real life experiences over the course of the relationship development as basis for writing her own romantic novel, which brought with it some quite humorous and interesting consequences.
3) Nobuyuki x Miyuki
This… was not what I expected at all but it was AWESOME. Definitely the best one out of the stories in my opinion; it’s the story of two MMORPG gamers who get coupled together (thanks to the government that is) and their quite unusual romantic development both in the real world as well as in the in-game one. What surprised me the most about this one wasn’t just the romance aspect but rather how much detail was actually put into the in-game world, and I think on its own it had some real potential of being one of those shounen romance series taking place inside a game world (like Sword Art Online etc) if that had been the direction the author had somehow wanted to take it, but despite merely aiming for an extremely cute and original romantic comedy story, that aspect was sure as hell executed as good as it possibly could have been.
4) Takuya x Shiori
Lastly we have a coupling between two cousins who initially aren’t very interested in each other due to family circumstances, but then decide to take advantage of the situation by using their enforced coupling as a way for their respective parents to get on friendly terms as they’ve been fighting each other for a longer period of time. Of course this indirectly results on the cousins getting closer to one another whether they intend to or not which before long ended up showcasing some very charming sides of both of them, and it just felt all-round satisfactory.
And in all honesty, ‘satisfactory’ is probably the best word to summarize the entirety of this manga, because when it all comes down to it that is exactly what it does best. It’s not a masterpiece per se, but in its simplicity and for the concept it’s going for, it gives you everything you could ever ask for from a romance manga, hell it gives you a lot more than what you’d normally find in famous long-running titles in that regard.
I really don’t think it’s possible to be disappointed by this if you’re a fan of romantic comedy manga.