Review: Faster Than A Kiss

The last chapter was released quite recently, so I thought I’d write something up for the one teacher-student romance manga I’ve actually been following with real enthusiasm and emotional investment. Yay!

Here’s a look at Faster Than A Kiss!

Faster than a KISS by Tanaka Meka

Summary: Orphaned Fumino and her younger brother Teppei have no where to go – their relatives can’t be bothered to take them in for an extended period, and she’s sick of uprooting them all the time. Out of desperation, Fumino decides to drop out of school in order to support her and her brother. Before she can, her English teacher Ojiro Kazuma offers to take them in…if she gets married to him!

I know the summary sounds totally bad. If I ever heard about this scenario in real life, I would be trash talking social services and the relatives, and denouncing the teacher as a weirdo.

However. That is NOT what this manga is about, thankfully.

Unlike a few of the more creepy teacher-student relationship manga I’ve read in the past (Hana wa Knife wo Mi ni Matou and Sakurairo no Tsumeato, all by Sakurada Hina), the relationship between Kazuma and Fumino isn’t at all romantic in nature until the halfway point in the manga. Although their growing bond is evident while Fumino’s trust in Kazuma strengthens, it remains more of a mentor-like relationship on Kazuma’s part until their romantic feelings develop.

That aspect of the manga sets it apart from a lot of other manga of this subgenre in that the secret they have to keep takes on a completely different significance. In most teacher-student relationship manga, the teacher and student have to keep their relationship a secret lest they be separated and the teacher lose their job.

While that’s certainly something to be concerned about, the significance of Kazuma and Fumino’s relationship has a different kind of depth the former doesn’t have. Not only is Kazuma Fumino’s future love interest, but he also plays the role of Teppei’s father figure – a role that hasn’t been filled since their parents died. Losing that presence in their life would have a lot of negative consequences for both Fumino and Teppei – if Kazuma were removed from their life, Fumino would have to fill a parent role that she’s still too young to completely embody.

I really like Fumino. While she does have this tough-girl persona at the beginning of the manga, it slowly diminishes as the manga proceeds; despite this, she still has this strength of character that makes her a really fun heroine. She’s also really selfless when it comes to Teppei, and it makes her even more likeable, rather than making her unrealistically perfect.

Kazuma was kind of a mysterious kind of character for me at first. He was likeable for sure, but his desire to have Fumino and Teppei cosplay for him when he gets home is a bit…weird. I know he’s not a creepy teacher, but that quirk isn’t really helping him.
I really thought that he was really a person of integrity, but at the end of the manga, his convictions didn’t stick, and I got really annoyed at him for a few chapters. Yes, he had his noble reasons, but the idealist in me that enjoys teacher-student relationship manga and cheers got really sad in the last ten chapters or so before he came to his senses. Thankfully, all the problems were resolved, though.
Basically, Kazuma is one of the most fun teachers in a teacher-student relationship manga I’ve seen. He’s still young, but he’s really mature and seriously considers Fumino’s future towards the end of the manga before fully committing to staying with her. A lot of other teachers in this subgenre DON’T do this, so I was really happy to see it happen here.

Teppei is hopelessly cute. He doesn’t really serve any other purpose though. What’s wrong with having a cute kid to look at? It’s not like we have some weird animal mascot here, so Teppei is sort of filling that role with his super-cute cosplay. Hehehe~

Shouma (Kazuma’s brother) is another interesting aspect of this manga. While Shouma does serve the token romantic rival role, his presence is only more interesting because he IS Kazuma’s brother. Had Fumino never fallen in love with Kazuma, I could easily see them being together. I really like that Shouma’s reaction to Fumino’s decision at the end of the manga is really…realistic, rather than happily resigned. Or becoming a Buddhist monk, like at the end of a certain Aihara Miki manga.

I was rather bored by Meg, I’m not going to lie. From the onset, she’s only in the manga to serve the role of semi-rival to Fumino (for a few chapters), and then after that’s resolved, she doesn’t really do anything significant. I think after that one brief part of the plot she played a role in, she could have faded into obscurity, and the manga would have been better for it.

Kurosawa (another guy who’s interested in Fumino) also didn’t do that much for me, in terms of characterization. Despite this, I think he serves a pretty important role in showing Fumino the typical teenage experiences Fumino is missing out on by keeping her relationship with Kazuma. I think this keeps the manga more grounded in reality, rather than letting the manga run away with a more idealistic approach.

Now, a few more points before I end this review.

There’s one interesting thing about this manga that sets it apart from not just this subgenre of shoujo, but almost all shoujo manga out there:

Fumino and Kazuma NEVER KISS. LIKE, EVER.
This is so INCREDIBLY unusual in shoujo manga. For those of you who are not regular shoujo readers, you have no idea how rare this is.
Despite this, I never even noticed this until my second read through. This is because the author always inserts a really epic HUG scene in every chapter, and it looks so amazing and shiny, it completely makes up for any lack of…liplock. Seriously. Normally, I’m totally bored if this is the case with any other manga, but Tanaka-sensei somehow makes it work really well.

As you guessed from my epic hug scene gushing above, the art is obviously good. The character art in general is very well-executed, and the guys are super fun to look at. The art style at the onset of the manga only improves as the series progresses, and Tanaka-sensei’s art style becomes more and more distinct.

In short: If you take it upon yourself to read any teacher-student relationship manga with fun and a tiny bit (well okay, more than a TINY bit) of fluffiness in it, MAKE IT THIS ONE. Faster Than A Kiss stands above the rest in its shoujo subgenre, and redeems it in so many ways because of its fun and likeable characters.

Score: 9.0/10