Despite a questionable title and premise Kodansha’s Sweat and Soap has turned out to be one of the sweetest romance manga to hit shelves this year. With some significant character development under its belt from Volume 2, the series steps into its third instalment which promises a new challenge for our couple…
As we return to the lives of Asako and Kotaro we find that Kotaro is about to embark on a four-day business trip with his assistant Korisu. Not only will this be the longest period the lovebirds will have been apart so far, but Asako is also anxious about Korisu making a move on Kotaro.
Although Asako has grown more comfortable with her and Kotaro’s workmates finding out about their relationship, our protagonist still hasn’t gone out of her way to share the news. As far as Korisu is concerned, Kotaro is single and Asako knows Korisu harbours feelings for him, thanks to their conversations in Volume 2.
While on the business trip. Korisu overhears Kotaro on the phone to Asako and finally realises the two are in a relationship. She’s heartbroken, given her feelings for her boss, but more than that, she feels betrayed. Kotaro always told her about the girls he was dating in the past and she thought they were close enough for him to have confided in her about Asako.
Over a meal toward the end of the trip, everything comes to a head and Korisu finally tells Kotaro her feelings. This is one of the most emotional scenes in Sweat and Soap so far and it’s conveyed tremendously well through mangaka Kintetsu Yamada’s artwork. This is something that needed to happen sooner or later so that everyone could move on but, most of all, it needed to happen for us to care about Korisu.
When she was introduced in Volume 2, it felt like Korisu only existed to meddle in the relationship between our main cast, to be a source of tension and someone for the reader to turn against. Now thanks to the mangaka giving her more of a focus, she’s become far more likeable and not just a plot device.
I also like that Korisu’s confession is not born from jealousy, desperation or an effort to ‘steal’ Kotaro for herself. Sure, she’s frustrated that Kotaro wouldn’t confide in her, but it’s not over-dramatised like a lot of these situations usually are in manga. Both how Korisu talks to Kotaro and his response, in turn, feels natural, which helps it resonate with the reader. If the mangaka can give us more stories like this, then Sweat and Soap is well on its way to becoming one of my favourite manga in recent years.
In a series like this, a rival character would normally end up taking a back seat after their confession or particular arc is concluded, but in this case, it seems Korisu will be sticking around. I welcome this since Sweat and Soap is shaping up to have a great expanded cast of characters and I hope they can all find happiness the way Kotaro and Asako have.
One thing I appreciate about Sweat and Soap is the balance between the drama and the sweeter slice-of-life elements. For example, while the business trip arc is fairly heavy for the first half of Volume 3, the second half focuses on Asako picking up a birthday present for Kotaro. I’m glad that we can enjoy some light-hearted and fun quality time with the cast in-between the more emotional arcs.
Volume 3 of Sweat and Soap comes to the West thanks to Kodansha Comics and continues to be translated by Matt Treyvaud. The translation reads well with no issues to note and there are a couple of pages of helpful translation notes in the back of the book. Kodansha currently has Volume 4 of the series scheduled for release in October.
Overall, Sweat and Soap Volume 3 focuses on Kotaro’s assistant Korisu and finally addresses the feelings she’s held since her introduction. This instalment finds the perfect balance between drama and the sweet romance we’ve come to know it as.