Manga Review: Living Room Matsunaga san Vol. 1

Updated: Jun 7, 2018

Looking for a fun, modern, age-gap romance, from your shoujo manga? This one's for you!



Plot:


Meeko, a cheery high school student, moves into her uncles boarding house after her parents leave to care for her ailing grandmother. She's excited for the independence. The only hardships ahead of her include learning to cook balanced meals and using the washing machine on her own.


Luckily, the boarding house has five other tenants. The catch? They’re all young professionals.

Meeko can’t help feeling exhilarated by her cool new life surrounded by sleek furnishing and roommates whose lifestyles are so different from her own.


Often arriving home late from work, or not at all, the adults run on totally different schedules from a high school student. On rare occasions when everyone is together they include Meeko in the fun. Through them Meeko glimpses what her future could be like & can't deny she wants to grow up fast.



There is, however, one tenant who is always home. Matsunaga (27) is a freelance graphic designer, who has a habit of using the living room couch as his office.


Matsunaga takes Meeko under his wing. He can be pushy and stern with her, but through his guidance she learns to do all her own chores quickly. He also keeps an eye on her, making it impossible for her to hide the fact that she needs help. He behaves like a concerned older brother.


Oh, and his room is located right next to hers.


Unfortunately for Meeko, the more Matsunaga is kind to her, the more she can’t ignore the crush she's developed on him.




Review:


This is a strong first volume. The setting and character personalities are established quickly, so it was easy to become invested in the plot. I was excited to see what situations they would get into.


I enjoyed everything in this first volume. The story unfolds logically. Meeko’s circumstances for moving are realistic. The personalities of all the characters are believable. And the overall atmosphere is playful and modern. As the reader, I even felt a sense of wonder, like "Wow, it would be fun to live there."



Meeko's crush on Matsunaga develops quickly, but it’s justified. Rather than slap us with shallow insta-love right away, the mangaka takes the time to show us what Meeko see's in him.


Even when he's pushing her we realize Matsunaga means well. He's treating her like an adult, rather than like she’s a helpless child. At the same time he can be playful. Even immature, like when the housemates tease him.


The mangaka does not rely on cheap tricks to get the characters flirting. There is no blackmail plot. Matsunaga has no ulterior motive to helping her. He's just a nice, capable, guy who happens to be there.



The way Meeko handles her crush also feels authentic. Again there's no gimmicks used to create tension. She doesn't start plotting a way to win his affection, or make him jealous. Rather, Meeko struggles against her growing feelings. And the tension becomes about her keeping them secret, afraid that if she let them slip things will be ruined.


Meeko's character has some agency and proactivity. Like when helps Matsunaga with his newest design, cooks, and cherishes the gift he buys her. She wants to become a good housemate.


Everything is complicated by their proximity. The mangaka finds new ways to play off this central conflict. Raising the stakes for a potential romantic development between them. Will Meeko accidentally confess? Will Matsunaga’s friendly intentions cross a line?


The mangaka, Keiko Iwashita, manages to build this tension wonderfully out of ordinary life.



Side Characters:


The side characters all have distinct personalities and create a complimentary atmosphere to the romance plot. Especially Asako and Kentaro.


Asako is beautiful, kind, and very fashionable. Meeko looks up to her as the perfect example of how an adult woman should be. Kentaro is the resident ladies man who will make the uncomfortable jokes about Miko and Matsunaga flirting.


Meeko's Uncle doesn’t have much presence on the page, but the mangaka does give him a convincing reason for not living in the boarding house he owns. He is caring towards all the tenants, but I wonder what will happen if the romance plot progresses under his roof.


The other two tenants are Ryou, a collage student, and Akane, who might be the quirky female. They don't have much presence in volume one, but they get more page time in volume two.


Chapters end with funny commentary from the house cat, Sabako.



What this story has to offer you

  • Attractive Character Designs

  • Slice of Life

  • A Lively Boarding House

  • Age Gap

  • Modern Atmosphere

  • Romantic Tension

  • Playfulness

  • Trendy Decor & Clothing

  • Lovable Cast of Characters


Currently this manga has a digital only English release from Kodansha. You can find it here:

https://kodanshacomics.com/series/living-room-matsunaga-san/


I chose to purchase the Japanese volumes.



Thanks for reading!

Amanda


Pictures taken by me to support this review visually and promote the manga.

Header graphic made on canva.com

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Copyright ⓒ  2018-2020 Amanda Vaughan