Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where all four editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss a Harlequin romance manga. Today we’re discussing Possibles by Junko Okada (original novel by Lass Small). Join us for adventures in poor workplace boundaries, sock garter modeling, and probably the worst decision making in any Harlequin manga we’ve covered so far.
CC: wanna start with a summary?
I’d like to describe Possibles as the story of two tire fire human beings who blame their poor decision making on gender roles but somehow wind up making it??? work???????
also I’d like to apologize for making this rec, although I still think the art is cute
Jenny: lol that feels accurate
i hated it so much
Rachel: i actually really enjoyed this one!!
there were some really great parts
Ashley: I enjoyed this a LOT even though it was also a disaster
CC: ooh yeah i loved that panel
Rachel: i really loved these goofy drawings
CC : I LOVED the art but GOD, THESE PEOPLE AND THEIR DECISIONS
Jenny: i suppose that’s fair — i loved most everything about the protag except the decisions she made
Ashley: Continuing with summary for the readers at home
A secretary has a hard time dealing with her new boss, who is a sexist jerk. She only took this job to try and find a husband, so she considers quitting. But then they fall in love and have to try and pretend they’re not boning. Eventually, this is resolved by the shitty boss proposing, the end!!
ok so just to add
she wants to find a husband, this is the only reason she took this job
but look, this is the reason i really enjoyed this
Rachel: FUCK THIS DUDE AND ALSO GETTING MARRIED
Ashley: Lol YES
Rachel: YOU DON’T NEED TO LIVE YOUR LIFE LIKE THAT
i mean, yes, they do get married, but only because he totally comes around to her way of thinking re: how to be a good partner
Ashley: Honestly without Steven Blake, she had her priorities right, because she found fault with every mediocre man for TEN YEARS
Jenny: this sequence was really good and important, i will grant
Ashley: Also he is I think, sadly, objectively the hottest Harlequin protag so far
Rachel: i love a story that starts with a woman shutting down a man
Rachel: also i think i agree about him being hot but i do not like his v 90s business bro haircut
Rachel: but look at that very TINY BUTT
Ashley: Hahaha I think I am partial to it because… I have that haircut myself now 😅
Rachel: LOL YOU ARE ALLOWED
actual business bros are not!!
you are reclaiming this haircut for bisexual babes everywhere!
CC: loved her dream about him btw
Rachel: oh def def
Ashley: Does he have a hummingbird tattoo????? Or is that shojo embellishment
Jenny: let’s say it’s a tattoo
CC: I think it’s just screentones of flowers
Rachel: i want that to be true so bad
CC: BUT also I think this dream is basically just this, which I loved:
A lot of things remind CC of this beloved and infamous Hark a Vagrant comic tbh.
i think that’s why i found this protag so relatable
like she’s a dummy who has messed up priorities but also has very high standards for men and is thirsty af
also she does martial arts and can put a man in the hospital
Jenny: that part was v funR
Ashley: The karate scene was great and you also posted my FAVORITE PAGE
I ALSO frequently fall into swamps and holes upon exiting my car
Marry me instead, I have the same haircut and lack of coordination, but without the sexism or the expense account!
CC: I def think she would be trading WAY WAY WAY WAY up
Jenny: oh god that was unbearable
Ashley: That slap was EPIC tho lol
Rachel: yes she follows up with the martial art of slapping a sexist dummy
i just really like that when this guy was an asshole, she fought back
she didn’t just let him be that way
CC: the men in this manga tho are like, the worst assortment of men in any of these that we’ve read so far. EVERY. MAN.
Jenny: and lewis sending that fucking fax
Rachel: AND NOW HE’S GETTING MARRIED???
what a nerd and also a loser
CC: And then calling her a “lenient woman”
what is lewis actually
Jenny: the “sara is a bitch who ruins lives” anonymous fax on the first day her new boss starts
Rachel: he was the nephew of her old boss, i think
Jenny: phil was the nephew of the old boss, and lewis was just some asshole she met at the speed dating club
CC: CRY MORE, LEWIS
Ashley: You know Lewis was simply on sale at the husband store
going out of business sale at the husband store
buy one husband, get lewis free
Jenny: everything must go
Ashley: Speaking of the club, I was a little disappointed that the club itself was mostly off screen
we got ONE SCENE
Ashley: Like, I really wanted some babysitter’s club singles group bureaucracy for some reason
Rachel: that’s the harlequin manga that we need to write
CC: it was a unique selling point!!! why name the book after the club if we barely get to see the club!!!
Ashley: Haha, someday we will break the market with our Harlequin manga inspired ideas
Rachel: the cover was also a very interesting choice
i’m so curious why the art direction went there
cause the art is this book was actually GOOD
CC: maybe it’s the cover of the original novel and they didn’t bother to get unique art for the manga
Ashley: I think the art overall in the book was maybe technically the best we’ve seen
The lettering DEFINITELY was
CC: this is such a good cover page!!!
Ashley: Ooo yes
CC: ohhhh true
Rachel: it did have an interesting choice of… bead effects???
like these are literally strings of beads, right??
CC: I think so!
also this screen tone with the penguins
at the weirdest possible moment
Ashley: I LOVE THE PENGUINS! Also this page was so Sailor Moon it killed me:
Rachel: that’s so true!!
Ashley: Like, extremely thirsty daydream followed by a super cute caricature
CC: apparently Junko Okada has done a lot more work, including a lot more harlequin work
Ashley: Oh wow we should definitely dive into more
Jenny: for sure — the art was v charming
like this was a very usagi face
Ashley: Haha yes
Ashley: I think we’ve all been gushing a bit but I think we need to air the negatives – Jenny what say you?
Jenny: every man in this whole comic is unbearable
most of them in ways that are Too Real
CC: Y EEE EEE EP
Rachel: yeah not ok
Jenny: V CREEPY
i mean, he turns it around by the end and seems ok??
Jenny: but stilL! that’s your daughter!
stop talking about how hot she is?!?!
Ashley: Oh man that was SO weird
CC: yeah no thank u
Jenny: but also, with the dad
Jenny: suggesting that this is reasonable/natural/acceptable behavior
for a grown ass adult??
what the fuck!
don’t encourage this!!
Rachel: god what is he a 5 year old
CC: Men Will Be Boys
Ashley: I remember adult men in my life telling me this and like
No wonder she’s got it bad for Mean Boss!!!
Jenny: don’t try to soften it to make it seems normal and not super super shitty!!
and i feel like, we, as the reader
we’re supposed to go along w it!
and i hated that
Ashley: Yeah, like we’re supposed to forgive him this natural defensive response or something
Jenny: yeah or we’re supposed to think of it as a natural protectiveness
a la this
Jenny: and it’s just like — no!
no! that’s unhealthy!
i hate it!
CC: also this story had my absolute least favorite romance novel trope: the old “i am a man and have no control over my CHOICE TO MAKE SEXUAL ADVANCES ON YOU”
Rachel: VERY TRUE
Jenny: yeah just not good
CC: paired with one of my other least favorite tropes: the old “As a woman, here’s why I’m fine with that”
like: “it’s not problematic, actually” YES, IT STILL IS
Rachel: like, what are you Edward Cullen
CC: needs more hair gel
Rachel: more sparkles
more leering at teenage girls
CC: ya I guess one thing I appreciated is that the protag is 29
Ashley: But like, the boss/employee power dynamic is still very similar to adult/minor
Jenny: it was just v much the kind of thing where like, i love this protagonist but i cannot understand or abide the decisions she makes
Ashley: Why can’t we have it all???
Jenny: AND ANOTHER THING
re: the boss/employee power dynamic
as someone who has done admin work for abusive people!
Jenny: this is unforgivable!!
ARE YOU AN IDIOT? I’M ASKING YOU BECAUSE I COULDN’T FIND THEM THERE
FUCK YOU GUY
Ashley: Oh my God yeah, that was awful
Jenny: Just bc you’re bad at finding things!
bc you’re not responsible for your own space!
what did he think that she stole them??
CC: OR that it was her sworn duty to find them at all hours, including hours where he’s not paying her to be there
Jenny: there were so many moments like that!
CC: like she has a duty to him at all times
Jenny: the “i need you to come in on your day off”
the i’m going to show up at your door and demand you come w me to the office, and then i’m going to complain about what you’re wearing and pretend like you could’ve changed into something different because it’s not like i was rushing you out the door
i hate it!
Ashley: Pure evil, this is true
CC: in this whole book, I think he literally only makes one good point about business
CC: while the whole thing with lewis was not her fault
pulling a rando stranger into the drama was awkward as hell, and also she co-started a group dedicated to DATING YOUR COWORKERS: a very well known BAD MOVE
Jenny: the whole “i don’t want to hear explanations for things i ask you to explain”
i hate it and i hate him
Ashley: One thing I did get real mad about was that they turned him being a Bad Boss into a Good Boss who saves jobs
That does not justify being a raging asshole
To your secretary
you’re an adult!
show some restraint!
this is unprofessional!
CC: okay also, on a related note bc he’s terrible, though outside of the workplace this time:
Jenny: oh yeah what the fuck
CC: i hate him so much, on this page and also throughout this book
Jenny: running red lights
Rachel: not even wearing a seatbelt!
CC: A LADY SHOULD GET HOME EARLY
IT’S DIFFERENT FOR MEN
Jenny: you don’t really care about her if you’re driving recklessly w her in the car
CC: men drivers amirite; so Emotional
Jenny: it’s true
Ashley: The weird thing about this book, is that when he’s being a shit she frequently gives him what for, and he’s shown to be the shit
UNLESS it’s a horny situation, in which case it’s just forgiven
Jenny: yeah i suppose that’s true
she, in general, does a good job standing up to him
Ashley: And this book was UNREPENTANTLY also probably the horniest
They have sex a LOT before marriage
Rachel: extremely horny!!!
Jenny: i mean
yes but also
Jenny: “her first experience”?
CC: I was wondering about that too!!!!
Jenny: 29 years of pent-up horniness
Ashley: Yeah that was stretching my suspension of disbelief quite a bit
Rachel: i wasn’t sure how to interpret that because come on girl, surely not
like maybe her first experience with this dude specifically
but there’s no way
CC: maybe it was her first experience with actually crossing the finish line~~~
i mean, i doubt that lewis was necessarily making that happen
Rachel: oh i doubt if she let him kiss her
Jenny: true but also she only had the one date w lewis and he was an ass
CC: so true
Jenny: so yeah i think rachel’s right on this
idk that she did anything w lewis
Ashley: Also she daydreams about sex in a specific way so much
I do not think an inexperienced person really does that?
Jenny: that’s a good point!
Ashley: My pre-sex daydreams were basically the equivalent of bumping Barbies together
Rachel: omg so true
CC: so, side note here
what product do i need to be using to get that “filled with smiles” skin aesthetic
Ashley: That’s some Bitch Planet nonsense lol
Two things skin should have: milkfat and rows and rows of bared teeth
Jenny: gotta get that look
CC: other side note
CC: WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM IN THE WOODS
did he just park and run 5 miles without looking out for trees???
Jenny: fell in a swamp
Ashley: It was a swamp / hole
And he probably had to wrestle an alligator
CC: oh whoops
Rachel: he ran into a witch and she cursed him to look like the teenager he’d been acting like
like, he definitely aged backwards here
suddenly a gangly teen who can’t tie a proper tie
CC: love that his shirt is unbuttoned but still perfectly tucked in
Jenny: i do love that there was some attempt at equality w the “girl runs through woods and tears her shirt to expose more skin in a sexy way” trope
Ashley: Look, swamp magicks are some serious necrotic shit
Rachel: lol i believe it
Ashley: Also I bet he wears shirt garters CC
He seems fussy enough
CC: LOL AAAAHHH
Rachel: what is THAT
AHHH I GOOGLED IT
Ashley: Hehe yup
Ashley: They’re honestly quite handy for “women’s” button downs which are too short to properly tuck!!
Rachel: god before this i was attracted to men
now i don’t know
Jenny: LOL same
i had no idea that these existed but wow, humanity really has thought of everything
no cure for cancer but by god we have shirt garters
Ashley: We need to put out a call for fanart of harlequin manga love interests in pinup poses with shirt garters
Ashley: I think this could be a real hot trend
CC: look: some of these aren’t too bad but
Ashley: OH NOOOO
THE GARTERS ATTACHED TO THE #MANDALS I CAN’T!!!
Jenny: oh dear god
CC: The SOCKS UNDER THE #MANDALS
the combo of all three things is
[kisses fingertips like a chef]
the worst thing i’ve seen all week
Ashley: Lol we are true epicures of the worst trash
lol ok are y’all ready for final thoughts?
CC: oooh ya i am
mind if I go first?
Rachel: not at all!
Ashley: Do it!
CC: A story in two parts:
CC: all i could think of during that scene tbh
Jenny: LOL same
Jenny: the most intimate thing you can do with a partner, according to charles boyle
Rachel: ok so here’s my final thought, which is a build on this
but i tend to have crushes on redheaded fictional characters and i just felt so called out by this book
that i did hate lol
so that’s it, I just don’t want to be associated with this asshole protag lol
CC: i mean, i think as long as you don’t start telling redheads that you fear them, but also love them, i think it’s fine
man Steve really set the bar low there
Jenny: def the running thread about hair color just made me think of that movie “down with love”
CC: LOL SAME!!!!
Jenny: where rene zellwegger seduces ewan macgregor as a brunette, then a blonde, then a redhead
Ashley: Oh yeah actually this whole book kinda had that vibe!
Rachel: woah!!! i have not seen it but should i???
Jenny: or “joe versus the volcano” where tom hanks projects love onto a meg ryan who is brunette, then ginger, then blonde
oh yeah both are good in a bad way but down w love is better
Ashley: Down With Love is very campy and has a plotline similar to this but pulls it off better
campy in a v fun way
Jenny: solid directorial choices for fun campiness
a good and fun movie all around
but my actual final thought
is that you should never sleep w your boss
esp if he’s garbage
Ashley: HEAR HEAR
Jenny: and really you should just quit your job and pursue your interests
CC: so true
Jenny: and we never found out what her interests were!
i was kind of mad about that!
Ashley: That is tragic
Jenny: she was going to go off and do her own thing and then she didn’t?
or she did and her thing was being a wife and mother
which, like, fine if that’s what you want to do
but the conversation had really been framed in a professional way
like, what business could she be passionate about?
i want to know
Rachel: give us an epilogue you cowards!!
Ashley: Where she transforms Michael’s into a craft store empire
CC: the pessimist in me thinks that the epilogue would just be that they got divorced bc this dude making a complete 180 on all his life stances didn’t take
i’m sorry! maybe i have no romance in my soul LOL
Jenny: lol ugh
Rachel: lol but that’s the realness people need to see!!
Ashley: Haha I mean… It’s not unlikely
Okay my final thought is
Ashley: Children ARE weak and they DO cry a lot and that’s why every woman should be single until the end of time
Jenny: i cannot fault him for that reasoning
Ashley: I actually like children but do not want any, and so yet again, I find myself relating to the worst men of Harlequin manga
CC: same tho, sorry, Youths
i mean like, what if you drop them?????
too much responsibility
i can’t even keep drought-resistant plants alive
Rachel: lol but being physically weak and crying a lot also describes me
Jenny: lol same
i can’t even take care of one weak crier (me)
let alone a totally separate, additional weak crier
Ashley: Being physically weak and crying a lot is VALID
Rachel: it works for Usagi, it’ll work for me
Join us for our next Romance Roundtable, where we’ll be recapping No Ordinary Man — a Harlequin manga that promises 60s shoujo manga aesthetic and a Florida murder mystery all in one convenient package.
In the meantime, join us over on Patreon for some extra goofs & Jokes we couldn’t quite fit into this piece.