With con season in full swing, it's time to once again take a look at manga that are all about fandom, otaku-dom, and all things nerdy. Of course, these days the focus is less on the traditional male otaku and more on their pervy sisters in slashiness, the fujoshi.
FUJOSHI RUMI (Mousou shoujo otaku kei), by Natsumi Konjoh. First published in 2006 and first published in North America in 2008.
Rumi was simply content to spend her days squeeing over her favorite shows, her favorite man-on-man ships, and especially her own vivid fantasies about class hunk Chiba and his best friend Takahito hooking up. Then Takahito accepted an invitation to model for her in art club and instead found himself falling head over heels for Rumi. He might not understand what she's talking about half the time, but he's determined to make his feelings for her known even if he must compete with both his best friend and Rumi's newest fujoshi friend for her time and attention.
I always get kind of wary whenever I see anime or manga that are specifically about fujoshi. Far too often, the story leans on the same old tired jokes about fujoshi being literally unable to comprehend the world outside of BL terminology. Fujoshi Rumi is not entirely innocent of this, but it's helped out a lot by a strong supporting cast and the total sincerity that Konjoh brings to Takahito and Rumi's nascent romance.
Like most fujoshi characters in manga, Rumi is defined by the sharp divide between her fujoshi fixations and her shoujo-esque naivite about everything else. If anything, she helped to codify this as a stereotype of fujoshi characters as a whole. At least she gets to avoid some of the more unpleasant signifiers of fujoshis, like being fat, slovenly, and generally anti-social. She may be an otaku, but outside of her obsession with her favorite shows and her dirty mind, she's an otherwise functional and sociable young lady. It's easy to see why an ordinary guy like Takahito would be drawn to her, even if his freakouts over her interests are all too predictable. He's completely sincere in his pursuit of her, and that's a big part of what lends Fujoshi Rumi some charm.
What really makes the story, though, are Chiba and Matsui. It would have been easy to write him as an oblivious (and unintentionally homoerotic) playboy and write her as just another mean girl bully. Instead, Chiba is shown to be largely disinterested, even cynical about romance and his interactions with Takahito have the sort of joking, lived-in sort of camaderie that feels true to life. Still, that's nothing compared to what happens with Matsui. She goes from no-name extra to potential antagonist to something between Rumi's best friend, a potential love interest, and a snarky foil in much the same way Chiba is. Those two not only fun characters onto themselves, but they play off one another and the main couple in a way that is incredibly enjoyable. It's thanks to this combination that a manga that could have been just one long fujo joke turns into something genuinely enjoyable.
You'd never think that this series was seinen from looking at it. The character designs are pure shoujo: cute girls, handsome bishonen, a lot of brightly patterned screentones for wackier scenes, and sparkles and flowers for the romantic moments. Of course, it's used just as much for comedy purposes as it is for sincere moments, usually whenever Rumi's mind goes into full-out fujoshi mode. Still, Konjoh has a real knack for poses and her bodies have a sense of dimension that's seldom seen in this style of art.
Between Rumi and Matsui, there are just as many references to actual anime quotes, real-world shows, and even actual big-name seiyuu. It's a good thing then that there's a thorough translation guide explaining them all. There's also a lot of references to Gundam, which makes a lot more sense after you read the omake where Konjoh reconnects with an old school friend (and inspiration for Rumi) and the two end up comparing the charms of Char Aznable versus Athrun Zola.
Fujoshi Rumi manages to avoid a lot of cheap jokes at the expense of its heroine to instead create a charming romantic comedy. It's a shame that we never got all of this because if we had (or if it had been released by a better publisher), it might have become something of a classic.
This series was published by Media Blasters. This series is complete in Japan with 7 volumes available. 3 volumes were released and are currently out of print.