Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss a Harlequin romance manga. That’s right y’all — we’re back in Harlequin Manga Hell as we cover Wishes by Mieko Tachibana (original novel by Rita Clay Estrada). Join us for an extremely 1997 Austin, Texas romance, with a side of cursed lamps.
Rachel: it’s been so long since we did a harlequin story that this really felt like a trip to me
Jenny: oh you mean michael dell: the untold story?
Jenny: truly i’m not sure who else to read this
Rachel: i have weird feelings when things are set in Austin!!
like i’m delighted but also like, please do not perceive me or my city
Jenny: i mean very same
CC: i mean where is the lie tho
also the timing of this story
Jenny: yeah that’s how you can real place the timing
they only really drew the steps building
CC: is this 1997 austin (when the book was written) or 2016 austin (when the harlequin manga came out)?
this is legit the view from my office at work (just south of the river LMAO)
but it feels like some stuff is missing
CC: i haven’t been downtown in a year so I cannot remember LOL
Jenny: it definitely feels like 1997
bc there’s no frost tower — that went up when i was in middle school
CC: OH YOU’RE RIGHT
you’re a For Real hometown girl Jenny I forgot
Rachel: i’m sure it’s like, the manga artist googled austin skyline and went with whatever image they found that fit the angle they liked
Jenny: fair, tbh
Rachel: google was a thing in 2006 right??
just ask jeeves, “show me austin skyline please”
ask jeeves was def the preferred search engine
made me feel like a fancy man
CC: yeah but this manga came out in 2016! that’s like 19 more years of skyline to pull from
Rachel: oh whoops!!
CC: so maybe she really did that research
if so like hats off, that’s way more than most of these books pull off
it definitely feels like Austin In My Memories (circa mid/late aughts) more than Austin Now to be fair rachel! it has that vibe!
Jenny: honestly yeah — a lot of it hit home, in a way that the other texas books we’ve read definitely didn’t
like the small town outside of houston that was also somehow in the mountains
or the detective in san antonio who had to deal with swamps?
CC: I hope Harlequin Manga flew the artist to Austin, for research purposes
I hope she got to eat at fancy downtown restaurants or whatever fancy people do when they come here
Jenny: lol i hope so too!
i hope herlequin fired up a time machine and sent the artist to austin, circa 1997
Jenny: there is ice cream on 6th!
the only softserve in town!
CC: there is??????
Jenny: yeah right by easy tiger
so all the way by 35
Jenny: s a m e
Rachel: i feel like this is also a good sign of like, a bygone era though
you don’t just “go to sixth street”
where are you going to park my dude!!!
they parked in a garage across town and lime biked over
couldn’t show it bc it’d ruin the mood
Jenny: god remember when we were upset about lime scooters?
remember when those were like, the thing to be upset about. so small, compared to the whole total hell we live in now
Rachel: wow yeah
Jenny: oh to go back in time
harlequin please share your time machine w me
CC: I mean some of this was a wayback machine to college in austin tho
CC: where do yall think she lived
bay window makes me think hyde park
Rachel: oh i could see it
CC: apparently there WAS a culinary school up by north loop
(that is now permanently closed as per google)
so you might be right jenny!!! dang!!!!
Jenny: oh yeah! i actually got a great deal on kitchenware when it went out of business
like, a really nice skillet, a couple of half sheet trays
Rachel: oh nice!!
ok well, i have weird feelings about this being set in austin
but let’s do a quick recap of the story!
Jenny: a great point
CC: OOF LOL you’re right
Jenny: our girl is training to be a chef, but rn she is waitressing. a rich old lady left her wallet at the restaurant and our girl returns it. as a reward, she has to choose: $500 or a magic lamp!!
also the rich old lady’s son is hot!!
Rachel: love that she goes with the lamp just to spite the handsome Dell man
Jenny: honestly whomst among us hasn’t made a stupid decision out of spite!?!
Rachel: it’s true!!
CC: also a whole ongoing thing about this lamp that may or may not actually grant wishes, or if it’s just a mom-generated marriage plot
Rachel: i did fully expect this to be a monkeys paw situation
Jenny: oh for sure!
i kept waiting for her wishes to backfire somehow
but honestly i kind of respect it: no consequences, just vibes
CC: if I’ve learned ANYTHING from children’s cartoons it’s to never trust a magical wish granting device
no matter how small the wish it’ll get ya
I’d take the 500 just to opt out of the obligatory curse honestly
even then, it might just be $500 in scam money!
I was gonna go on a tangent about scams but I don’t trust wish magic
Jenny: i mean, i feel like it would be $500 real monies
Rachel: that dell money is good here
CC: that 1997 dell money
that’s like buying beer in canada
Jenny: it’s true
monthly dental checkups??
Rachel: LOL i did not catch that
Jenny: that’s how you know they’re for real rich
Rachel: and also maybe masochistic
ugh, the dentist
CC: going to the dentist every month
I can’t even imagine
ok can we get this out of the way
Jenny: yeah not good
Rachel: very bad
CC: this 1965 looking oil lamp
Jenny: clearly an ancient native treasure
and therefore magical
Jenny: would’ve vastly preferred, like, just a table lamp from like the 80s
one of the ones w like an ugly pattern of like, ducks flying over a lake
feels like it’s going to get that weird chalky powder on your fingers if you touch it
CC: my grandma had one and it did!!!!
cursed lamp either way
Rachel: yes, god!!!
just some weird vaporwave lamp
CC: 100% prefer weird vaporwave lamp that may or may not grant wishes
Jenny: a little of this action
CC: oh yes very nice
Rachel: yes, god
Jenny: really would’ve sold it for me, is all i’m saying
seems way better and possibly more fun to draw
but also hey
maybe i’m just too irish
Jenny: ready to believe in strange powers
Rachel: this made me think i’ve been doing irish wrong
this grandma though
Jenny: oh yeah she’s great
Rachel: i know she’s not technically a grandma, but she does have that aesthetic
Jenny: not YET
CC: the most relatable moment in a harlequin manga:
CC: it me
just a crone with shoujo eyes
Jenny: feels good and right
Rachel: at first i like, who is this grandma and why is she jumping to these conclusions
Rachel: BUT THEN
Jenny: LOL yeah that part GOT ME
just scheming to make young people fall in love
lying about possessing magical items
CC: that is gonna be all of us when we’re old
when the harlequin manga isn’t powerful enough to scratch that itch
Rachel: me to youths: NOW KISS
CC: y’all know I love to NOW KISS
when I get my crone powers it’s just going to be an unreal amount of that
sorry to all the youths I meet who don’t want to be in love
Jenny: i will say
she was great at both the subtle manipulation
and ALSO the absolutely savage takes
literally a line the granny from boys over flowers says too
i love this
Rachel: one of my favorite things about this book was how often people just dunked on this guy
he deserved it!!
i did not like him!
like big red flag right off the bat:
Jenny: he’s a millionaire CEO of whatever is second place to microsoft, but he works out of a van?? like one of these old chevy conversion van??
Rachel: “so passionate”
no girl, run away
CC: those passionate, long stock fingers
Rachel: and his complete lack of respect for her or her goals
CC: I LOVED THIS
this girl is right and she should say it, consistently!!!
Jenny: oh yeah she was GREAT!!
Rachel: when he’s like “I CAN’T ADMIT MY FEELINGS FOR YOU BUT ALSO I CAN’T LET YOU GO TO DALLAS”
and she’s like “FUCK OFF”
you love to see it
Jenny: she was honestly really good!!
CC: oh yeah, DALLAS, wow
this guy who definitely has got to own a plane or something can’t go to DALLAS LMAO sure pal
Rachel: their relationship was really confusing to me honestly???
like it escalated really quickly
they were just like, around each other and then suddenly having sex
Jenny: oh YEAH
Jenny: just like THIS
out of NOWHERE
Rachel: yeah it’s surreal!!
CC: I thought it was a dream sequence tbh
until the plot just kept going???
like ok cool this party dress is a negligee and this is all just kind of a for real coincidence
Rachel: and her response
Rachel: what??? is this logic?????
“in a way, he’s really faithful”
Jenny: truly makes 0 sense
CC: OK look this made sense to me, in a “I am 19 dating a 25 year old” kind of delusional way
like you might talk tough but you are still baby
Rachel: imo just another case of a competent lady giving someone dumb more consideration than he deserves
Jenny: yeah i’ve got to say like
he’s a massive ass about sleeping w her
like, this guy SUCKS
but then she just sort of accepts it? and is like: ok so that’s what this is, and i’m going to be fine w it
Jenny: and then he gets all pissy about her being chill about it?
Rachel: men are just so EMOTIONAL
if only they could be more rational, honestly
Jenny: her perspective of: i am living in a house w my hot rich boss, i will sleep w him for a while, and then i’ll move away and it’ll be over — seems p reasonable to me!
but it’s HIS escalation and HIS emotional reactions to it all that made everything difficult
Rachel: “clumsy” is one way to put it
CC: I love how blunt everybody is with him tho
he is maybe in the upper tier of shitty harlequin protag guys imo bc he gets called out constantly
CC: HOW MANY of these stories would be cut off right there
if the head babe of the story just said this outright
i truly love to see it
she was good
CC: DO YOU THINK I’M AFTER YOUR GENES? STOP IT
you’re doing amazing sweetie
Jenny: when he’s like: you can take a day off but i can’t
she immediately both recognizes and calls him out on the fact that that means he doesn’t take her work seriously!
CC: she’s just like THE HELL I CAN i need 2 souffle
idk what actually you do in a culinary school class but souffle sounds hard
Jenny: agree! seems complicated!
CC: lotta chemistry!
dietary chemistry baby!!!!
Rachel: there’s no rat under my hat sir!!
CC: yeah she’s doing this all for real!!!!!
LOL rachel amazing
Jenny: i will say in this guy’s defense, there was one moment of his that i found p relatable
Jenny: someone asks me about kids, and i IMMEDIATELY try to change the subject
CC: i LOVE her The Secret confidence MANIFESTING this feminist labor dividing ass dude in austin texas
Jenny: she’s very powerful!! and it’s definitely not the magic lamp bc that thing is shit!
CC: like of course we’d be raising the kids together it’s almost a new millennium my dude!!!!
men nowadays don’t call it babysitting when they watch their own kids it is 1997 and this is obviously the status quo
love this for her
Jenny: truly truly
Rachel: the vibe i got from this interaction is that he got jealous at the thought of her having a baby with someone else because it meant that she’d be boning another dude, and decided to finally be supportive of her career out of selfishness
CC: L O L L L L L
Rachel: tldr; this guy sucks
Jenny: i mean, very fair reading
Rachel: “b-b-but what about your career!!! (you can’t have sex with anyone else!!!)”
ok ok fair point
he DOES suck
Rachel: i just love to dunk on dell moneybags
Jenny: as you should
CC: this dell propaganda
Jenny: i feel like we should maybe talk a little bit about the wishes she makes
first one was a decent paying job that gave her some opportunities for the future
and that’s when mike d hires her to be his mom’s secretary (a paid, live-in position that does not interfere w her culinary classes) / how she ends up in this situation, really
second one was for love
Jenny: which like, i was 1000% expecting this to backfire on her
CC: yeah i’m just not used to seeing wish-based media that doesn’t backfire
if a wish isn’t actively trying to kill u idk what 2 do with it
Rachel: def thought this would be the monkey’s paw curling
Rachel: mr. mediocre over here
CC: awww i love him
i found his brand of dumbass very relatable
Jenny: LOL pete is my boy!
Rachel: he’s honestly good, i just love that the text is like “WHOMP WHOMP” at this bad poetry lol
Jenny: honestly also this is me
she laughed at my jokes so i am in love now
CC: truly relatable content
Jenny: AND ALSO!!
the main love interest “never heard her laugh”!!!
Rachel: RED FLAG
CC: he doesn’t seem like he tells very funny jokes
Jenny: that’s how you know you’re not meant to be my dude!!
in defense of pete!
CC: pete’s cute i’d have dated pete
Rachel: oh for sure
will agree though that poetry is a hard sell opener
so wish #2 seems to be manifesting pete
but she’s not satisfied w him
Jenny: even though he seems great!!
and so she uses her 3rd wish on “wilder” (michael dell)
CC: wilder honeycutt
fancy lad, esquire
Jenny: she wishes for him to have a true love/to be able to let his guard down enough to actually love someone
and that someone turns out to be her!
who could’ve guessed!
CC: maybe that was the monkey’s paw all along
let’s check up on them in 2021 see how it’s going
yeah i guess the wishes trapped both of them into fake love magic feelings (wish 2 for him and wish 3 for her)
so that is their curse
CC: what a yikes and a half!!!!
don’t mess with love magic y’all!!!!
Jenny: i did enjoy her reaction to it at the end though
Rachel: HAHAHA yes 100%
CC: more people in these should tell people to stop being weird
i do love her
Rachel: well, with that, do y’all wanna do final thoughts?
Jenny: yeah! i’ve got one!
Jenny: this was a great moment
CC: tl;dr all of us
Jenny: more A+ mom content
don’t make fun of harlequin!
even though that’s a lot of what we do here, we really do it with love!!
Rachel: it’s true!! you have to earn that right!!
CC: we love to see it, that’s why we’re here
Rachel: ok here’s mine
Rachel: this is also me when driving through I-35 traffic
CC: LMAO THAT’S SO REAL THOUGH
CC: so true
ok well here’s mine
CC: golden yaoi hands
horrifying, i hate it
CC: he needs those long digits to invest in gamestop or w/e stonk people do
CC: i don’t have michael dell money and maybe it’s been these stubby fingers holding me back the whole time from the unimaginable riches i deserve
Jenny: LOL i think you’ve hit on it — the mystery of how stocks work
the lamp was never magic, it was the long fingers all along
CC: it explains so much
well truly I enjoyed returning to the content well that is harlequin manga
it was refreshing to take this stroll down memory lane
but I’m also excited to keep on voyaging out onto other hashtag content
Jenny: yeah this one was not nearly as bad as some of the ones we’ve covered before — definitely a welcome dip back into the harlequin pond
Rachel: yeah for sure!! excited that we’ve broadened our pool but still safe in the knowledge that the harlequin well never runs dry
CC: truly!!!!! trash & treasure at the same time!!!!
Join us next time for even more love story shouting in our next Romance Roundtable! In the meantime, check out our Patreon for just a few bonus goofs that didn’t make it into today’s roundtable, as a treat.