Krystallina: Looking at the cover, you may guess correctly that Cheeky Brat is a bit older than the average newly licensed manga series. Miyuki started this series in 2013, and it’s still ongoing at over 20 volumes. So while some readers will likely have been looking forward to this series being licensed, the length, age, and the author being rather unknown in the West — not to mention the genre/demographic — may make Cheeky Brat fly under the radar.
And volume 1 doesn’t exactly do a bang-up job in trying to force its way onto the radar.
Yuki is the boys’ basketball team manager, a position she chose so she could be closer to the team’s captain. But any hope for those feelings to blossom into something more is crushed when Kido announces he has a girlfriend. Yuki, a rather serious and level-headed individual, tries to push away her disappointment, but a first year member of the team, Naruse, discovers Yuki’s crush. Naruse is a bit of a slacker, the kind of person who only cares about things that interest him. And who should interest him but Yuki, the strict, seemingly unemotional super manager with the nickname of “Boss”.
Volume 1 has six chapters, which is fairly impressive, and this means that by the time the book ends, Yuki and Naruse are just inches away from being an official couple. While Yuki tries to remain calm and rational, Naruse brings out the tsundere in her. While Miyuki could have written Naruse in a way where he could just be messing with Yuki for his own amusement (like a bored rich kid), he does fall for Yuki quickly. Because of his lackadaisical attitude, she doesn’t believe him, but Naruse won’t give up easily — much to Yuki’s annoyance.
Cheeky Brat has a classic Hana to Yume aura, so fans of manga like Fruits Basket, Kamisama Kiss, and Gakuen Alice will recognize a lot of the comedic beats and art style of this series. But since there are no fantasy elements here, Cheeky Brat has to rely on its romcom nature to carry the story. I did enjoy seeing Yuki flustered or basketball players getting teed off when Naruse wanders off two seconds after asking a question. Kido’s girlfriend isn’t just treated as some plot device to take him off the market, and despite graduation approaching, I hope she’ll remain around as a friend of Yuki’s since I want to see more of her.
However, I am not burning with desire to find out. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m Naruse’s level of “ask a question and then wander off” disinterest, but chances are if you’ve been a shoujo fan for a while, you already have something similar on your shelves. But not every series is a hit in the first volume, and since Cheeky Brat has managed to continue for quite a while, I’m willing to see if the manga can find its own groove.
Krystallina’s rating: 3 out of 5
Justin: Yuki Machida has a crush on the captain of the basketball team. With her falling for him she ends up joining the team as their manager, and while she becomes devoted to helping everyone out, she’s doing everything she can to prolong the captain’s stay, since one loss in the qualifiers and not only will the team be out, but the captain will be too since he’ll be moving on to graduating and exams. There then turns out to be a problem — the captain causally admits to everyone he has a girlfriend. This fact rocks the team, but Yuki to a higher degree. Strong-willed and known as the very strict team manager, she doesn’t want to admit she’s sad, but she is, even beginning to cry about it in the club room.
…And then Shou Narase, whom she meets for the first time when a girl pushes him into her and he went hands first on her breasts (and comments about her size), ends up seeing her in this state. And the last thing she ever wanted was to have this “cheeky brat” find her like this…or discover her crush!
Mitsubachi Miyuki’s Cheeky Brat (Not sure if I like the name or not) is a manga that started in 2013. It’s important to note that since aspects feel like it’s from 2013 rather than 2021. Well, aggressive male leads in shoujo are still common today, it’s just Naruse’s insistence on being with Yuki (either by badgering her, his comments, stealing her first kiss, or even pulling her aside) will certainly make or break your enjoyment of the manga. And then because of how often and when these moments happen, Yuki slowly starts to fall for him.
For Yuki, it soon becomes her accepting that her ulterior motive for joining the team is in shambles, and now she has to come to terms with that. Whether it’s with Naruse though…the manga’s doing a good job of hoping it doesn’t happen. The give-and-take here’s far too slanted on Naruse’s side, where it’s hard to see how Yuki can even avoid him. At this point it’s likely because the manga constantly shows Yuki’s weak points (no more captain to see, her past growing up in a rowdy household) whereas despite his terse manner there’s little of Naruse’s background to get why he acts like he does. It’s almost to the point where seeking another friend would be helpful for Yuki to get him away from her.
The basketball aspect is not the strongest, but the focus at least presents opportunities for more of these two to get to know each other, and the potential for other guys to cause drama for them. For example the captain, Kido: You thought he’d be a one-and-done in Yuki’s world? Wait for that bombshell to occur later in volume 1! The potential for conflicts is rife, though it certainly feels like based on what occurs later, what other issues can happen between these two? Well, this series has been going on since 2013, so I’m sure something will definitely happen.
The humor is one of the stronger parts of this manga (I’m sure yelling “I’ll spank you” while in a basketball game can’t be a good thing but when Yuki ends up saying this with the context of the situation, it works). There are also some clever lines said from Yuki throughout the first volume. I am curious in how Yuki and Naruse will continue to develop and what type of stories these two can have moving forward. But for a first volume, Cheeky Brat will be a work that you’ll either get with the program or you won’t, and for now I’m leaning towards it’s still got some work to do in that area.
Justin’s rating: 3 out of 5