My Coworker Has a Secret! Volume 1 Review
Readers of the site will probably already be familiar with Wotakoi, an office rom-com following two otakus who kept their hobbies a secret from (most of) their coworkers. Since then a multitude of similar series have popped up, one of which I’m here to take a look at today – My Coworker Has a Secret! Volume 1.
The story follows Akari Sejima, a 25-year-old office worker who’s obsessed with the idol Ren-Ren. On her lunch break, Akari tells her coworkers she’s meeting her (non-existent) boyfriend, but instead heads to the local park where she watches Ren-Ren’s daily streams. Akari is so in love with the idol that she spends all of her time and money on her hobbies, leaving her with nothing even to buy lunch with!
When we meet her, Akari is about to enjoy her first lunch in three days only for it to be stolen by a passing crow! Having survived on nothing but wakame seaweed for the last few days, Akari’s hunger is at its limits and when she sees a very attractive bento box sitting out in the park she can’t help but want to take it for herself. Luckily for Akari, the bento belongs to Ritsu Kazama, a nice man, who assures her he simply made too much food and would be grateful for someone to eat it.
The problem is that Akari happily blurts out all her life troubles to Ritsu, including her love for Ren-Ren, thinking that she’ll never run into him again. But once she gets back to work, Ritsu is also there being introduced as one of her new coworkers! Now she needs to swear him to secrecy or risk the others finding out about her hobbies. Luckily for Akari, Ritsu agrees to keep quiet, provided Akari eats lunch with him every day, which she’s happy to do, given her lack of money. From there a friendship (and possibly romance!) begins to blossom between the two.
While I talked about Wotakoi at the start of this review, I think it’s important to point out that Ritsu is not an otaku himself. But he is happy to spend his lunch breaks listening to Akari talk about Ren-Ren and watching the streams with her. Akari meanwhile is just happy to have someone to talk to who understands and isn’t going to judge her like her other coworkers would (she has bad past experiences there).
The comedy of the series doesn’t stem from Akari and Ritsu delighting in otaku hobbies as it would in Wotakoi, but more from Akari’s destitute lifestyle. The crow stealing her lunch is not at all the worst of the problems she faces in this first book as she goes through multiple misunderstandings with Ritsu. As the story goes on, it becomes very clear that Akari must have been born under an unlucky star…
This series is mangaka Mushiro’s debut work both here and in Japan. The art is quite basic without a lot of shading or detail to the backgrounds, but the characters are expressive and attractive. The comedy scenes, in particular, are well-drawn and there are many panels of Akari making hilarious expressions. My one issue with the art is that Mushiro tends to draw quite small panels and sometimes the amount of text does overwhelm everything else. It would be nice to see what Mushiro could do if they gave themselves more space to work from page to page.
My Coworker Has a Secret! Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Tokyopop under their Love x Love imprint where it has been translated by Claudia Takizawa. The translation reads well with no issues to note. The series is complete in Japan with Volume 2, which Tokyopop have scheduled for a digital release on the 24th of February and a physical release in July. Volume 1 will be available as a paperback in April.
Overall, My Coworker Has a Secret! Volume 1 is an entertaining debut for this new mangaka. Akari as a protagonist is easy to root for as she stumbles through life, keeping her otaku interests a secret and growing closer to Ritsu. Readers will no doubt have a smile on their faces as they watch her latest disaster unfold, safe in the knowledge that she has a good support by her side. If nothing else, it seems unlikely the charm will wear off when there’s only a single volume still to come.