Matoba, the creator behind As Miss Beelzebub Likes, returns to the West with the new series Studio Apartment, Good Lighting, Angel Included but does it offer a similarly cute and fluffy romance? Let’s find out with Volume 1 from Yen Press!
The story follows sixteen-year-old first-year high school student Shintaro Tokumitsu, who lives on his own in a nice studio apartment. Working part-time to make ends meet, one day Shintaro comes home from work exhausted and falls asleep with the window open. The next day when he closes it and checks his balcony he finds a young lady sleeping there! If that wasn’t suspicious enough, she is also sporting a lovely pair of wings, which is not at all normal for the average teenage girl…
The girl introduces herself as Towa. She’s an angel sent down from heaven to interact with and get to know humans better. Obviously, Shintaro doesn’t accept this at face value (despite the wings!) and considers Towa a weirdo runaway who needs to get out of his home as soon as possible. But after banishing her from his home, he later finds her wandering the streets with a man who has very obvious bad intentions so Shintaro breaks them up and runs home with Towa, before collapsing with a fever.
Towa takes care of Shintaro in his time of need and reluctantly he offers the girl a place to stay since, as weird as her story is, she’ll at least be safe living with him. So begins a friendship relationship between an angel and a human who desperately wants her to keep her wings and identity a secret!
Much like matoba’s previous series As Miss Beelzebub Likes, this series is a comedy series first and foremost with a romance blossoming underneath. But although they have a lot in common with each other in terms of presentation and storytelling, I appreciate the fact that the author moved the setting to modern-day Japan. There is a lot less standing in the way of these two getting together than the protagonists of matoba’s other series, too, which hopefully means the romance will move forward a little faster.
As far as this first volume goes, it’s filled with the hijinks you’d expect from a premise like this. Shintaro and Towa go shopping for the things Towa will need to live in the apartment (and get distracted buying her cute outfits), and Shintaro struggles with going to school and leaving Towa on her own during the day. This is made worse for him when Towa flies to school to bring him his forgotten lunch and Shintaro tries desperately to prevent his schoolfriends from finding out about her supernatural identity.
The story alone isn’t where this series shines, though, it’s in combination with matoba’s artwork which is simplistic in terms of character designs but very comical. I appreciate that all the characters we’ve seen so far aren’t overly similar to those of the authors’ previous manga, except maybe for Shintaro. Backgrounds can feel quite empty in certain panels, but when there is stuff present, it’s detailed enough where I think matoba manages to strike a nice balance between the pages where a lot is going on and those that are a little more barren and emphasise the characters’ expressions.
Most importantly, the cast in this series are all charming. It’s hard not to get immediately attached to Towa who wants to see the best in everyone and goes around full of curiosity toward everything new she encounters. Shintaro is a little blander in terms of personality, but he’s a hardworking nice guy whose heart is in the right place and he works well in contrast to Towa who’s got a much more lively persona (as do other members of the cast we meet toward the end of the volume!).
As previously mentioned, Studio Apartment, Good Lighting, Angel Included Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Kei Coffman with lettering by Katie Blakeslee. The translation reads well and there are some helpful translation notes at the back of the volume, mostly covering references to Japanese brands and food.
The series is ongoing in Japan at three volumes and Volume 2 currently doesn’t have a scheduled release date in English, so we may be in for a bit of a wait there.
Overall, Studio Apartment, Good Lighting, Angel Included Volume 1 is a funny and heart-warming series about a high-schooler and an angel. They navigate living together and going about their everyday lives while slowly growing closer as friends and potential lovers. Fans of As Miss Beelzebub Likes will absolutely want to pick this one up!