Manga Review for Japanese Learners!
(Sweat and Soap)
by 山田 金鉄 (Kintetsu Yamada)
Author: 山田 金鉄 (Kintetsu Yamada)
Genre: adult, business, romance
Great for: Intermediate Japanese (JLPT N2+) and kanji (No furigana)
English Summary (from Kodansha)
Asako’s living her dream, working at the toiletry maker Lilia Drop. Little do her coworkers know, the reason she loves the company so much is that she’s ashamed of her body odor, and their soap is the only thing that does the trick. So when the company’s lead product developer, a perfuming genius, approaches her in the lobby and wonders what “that smell” is, she’s terrified … but could it be … that he likes it? And, even more surprising to Yae … does she like him?
I had initially avoided あせとせっけん simply because of the cover of the first volume. The main character being pinned against a wall by a guy looks very…bad. My initial thought was that if it wasn’t adult oriented then it at least had assault, which I was not comfortable with.
But friends of mine insisted that it was a really good manga so I decided to give it a try and found it…to be a really good manga! Not only that, but I think it’s a great manga for advanced readers and practicing business Japanese and Japanese used by adults.
Why You Should Read あせとせっけん (Sweat and Soap)
I should say that this manga not for children because of some adult images, but it’s not an adult manga. There’s not really any fan-service, any naked bodies in the manga are portrayed in a very respectful way that makes sense for the story. (No ecchi panty shots for the sake of ecchi panty shots.)
The protagonists Asako Yaeshima and Kotaro Tadori start dating early in the first volume and the whole story is mostly about them learning about each other and how to navigate this new relationship they have. Asako hasn’t had any experience being in a relationship before, and her anxieties about her new boyfriend are compounded by her lack of confidence and self-doubt due to her chronic sweating. And through Kotaro she starts to find value in herself.
Asako also has a tendency (at first) to puts Kotaro on a pedestal and always puts herself down. This is something he’s clearly not comfortable with and I love how he’s patient and kind with her, and tries to help her when she’s sad, and clearly communicates his thoughts and expectations.
I also love how they have a very adult relationship. It’s not “oh my goodness we held hands!” (well, there is a little…) but they actually have sex on the first date! Any embarrassing situations comes up at work because Asako wants to keep their relationship a secret until she’s ready (something Kotaro respects!)
あせとせっけん is about adults in an adult relationship, and I love it!
Why Japanese Learners Should Read あせとせっけん
As this manga is about adults in adult relationships, all conversations are between adults. Asako and Kotaro work in the same company and they were strangers before lovers, so most of their conversations in the first few volumes are in a mix of casual and polite です Japanese.
For example, Asako offers to cook Kotaro dinner. He’s excited and says 作ってくれるんですか！？ and then follows it with めっちゃ食べたい！！ This mix of です and casual is very natural. They’re polite to each other but don’t use です・ます in every sentence otherwise it can create a sense of distance.
As their relationship grows they eventually shift more and more to casual Japanese.
Then again, because they work at the same company there’s also a lot of business Japanese. You see e-mail correspondents and have conversations between people in different departments, which all use keigo.
For example, in the first chapter Kotaro does something incredibly rude (almost unforgivable) to Asako and sends her an email to apologise. This is a very typical email you might see at an office (although it’s missing お疲れ様です).
Another example is when Asako phones someone from a different department and asks them if they have time to check something. This is very common Japanese used over the phone with people outside your group.
This really is a fantastic manga if you want to expose yourself to more keigo and business Japanese in a natural way.
I am honestly surprised by how much I love あせとせっけん. The characters feel like real people who aren’t perfect but they try to do the best they can. It’s also a great look into real adult relationships in Japan.
For Japanese study I’d say this manga is great for lots of N2 and N1 advanced Japanese used by adults in a business setting.