Romance Roundtable #34: Cutie and the Beast

Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss Romance Manga. Tomorrow, our Kickstarter for Comrade Himbo goes live!! So today, we’re celebrating by recapping Cutie and the Beast by Yuhi Azumi — the story of an extremely beefy wrestler and the teen who slides right into his DMs. Look: we may not have comrades in today’s Romance Roundtable but we’ve definitely got at least one himbo for you today. Hope you brought your suitcases because we’re About To Unpack Some Things!!!!!!


Jenny: ok! so this book! cutie and the beast!
high school student has a huge crush on her fave beefcake heel wrestler
the fantasy of parasocial relationships working out

CC: I guess dreams really do come true (if the parties involved are either inexperienced and / or dumb enough)

Rachel: LOL
i gotta say, i was really excited about reading this because a: I love a My Love Story dynamic
and b: love Seven Seas

Jenny: it’s true it’s true

CC: they’ve been picking up so much great stuff lately!!!!!
was very excited to see a love story featuring an extremely beefy boy

Ashley: big same
this the entirety of my plot summary:

A YouTube screenshot of a guy giving airquotes, and the title of the video is "How To Slide Into DMs".

CC: LOLLLLL

Jenny: i will give it this: you know it’s a genuinely good and compelling plot hurdle (the age difference – 18/29) when as a reader you are unsure you can be convinced of their relationship working out

Ashley: ahhhhhh hmmmmm! that’s an interesting way to look at it
it definitely Stressed Me Out but also, i think they treat it pretty seriously and not like in a gross flippant way
seriously not meaning not-fun, only meaning like, this is a real issue to be worked out

CC: this guy is dumb in a way that reminds me of Older Guys My Friends Dated When We Were In Our Late Teens

Jenny: my trouble is that i do not see myself rooting for them
and that’s not a feeling i’ve had w other romance we’ve read — even when it’s like “the millionaire playboy’s secret baby”; there’s usually some certainty on my part that they’ll end up together and that they more or less “should” end up together. but this time, i’m not sure that they will and i’m not sure that i want them to.

CC: he is uncomfortably reminiscent of a very specific type of guy that made me think “yeah, this guy really wouldn’t totally get why this is an issue even though everyone around them can see it”

Rachel: yeah, also, can i just say
the the only thing they really draws them together right now is that: he is beefy, she is into that
like mostly they have had no real interactions that make me think they would enjoy each other’s company??
there’s an implication that they talk on twitter occasionally

Ashley: they do talk on twitter all the time, but it’s like, pretty surface-level fan-pro dynamic

Rachel: but idk they went from “girl likes beefy guy” > “guy who girls normally ignore finds out a girl likes him” > “now they are dating”????

Ashley: HAHAHA yes, pretty much! although like… i did really like how much it nails that idea of what relationships are when you are a literal teenager
or a beefy wrestler with a teenager-level brain
like, all of this reminds me of my shortest high school relationship, where i ended up dumping a dude i had crushed on for 4 years because he said he loved me like, 5 days into “dating” after we kissed once

CC: I definitely appreciate the simplicity, honestly!!!
no destinies tied together by fate
no hammy overblown nonsense
“haha ur hot lets kiss i guess,” for this baby and this himbo? I mean sure. I buy it.

Ashley: yes exactly! the buy-in feels really genuine

Jenny: yeah maybe part of my issue is that i read too much into the title and assumed there would be some kind of fairy tale retelling, some kind of social contract that forced them into close proximity, such that their growing attraction happened in more of a vacuum? not like, at every turn, this 18yo and 29yo choose to continue pursuing a relationship
but true that there is value in simplicity

CC: despite all evidence that they should not ha ha ha

Jenny: almost certainly more realistic than being trapped in a castle

Ashley: HA
almost

CC: look, I’m not saying I am ROOTING for them or that I endorse this may / october romance or w/e

Ashley: lol CC it’s may-december but i like this spoopy crone version

CC: oh no I mean bc he’s not like
54 or something
not QUITE at opposite poles of the calendar but still some distance between them

Ashley: ah okay
that flew right over my head lol

Rachel: as the only non-liberal arts major (is that true???) i don’t know what this is referring to but i like it
is english a liberal art

Ashley: IS ENGLISH A LIBERAL ART i mean

CC: oh yeah definitely
at least so says the university of texas hahaha

Ashley: it me:

Kuga's friend: "Yo, did you forget that the rest of us have Twitter, too? We already know all about it."
Kuga, internally: "Crap. They're right. Everyone can see the tweets."

Ashley: enhance on the lower left for my joke about how dumb i am

Rachel: lollllllllllll
i mean i think twitter is the most fun when it feels like me and my friends talking about fictional gays we love

CC: I can appreciate that all their mutuals can witness this awkwardness
WE’RE ALL ONLINE DUDE

Ashley: i wouldn’t be surprised if momo’s twitter account is purely a wrestling stan account
meanwhile, our boy is using it like facebook in 2011

Rachel: “Kuga-san is….”

CC: LOL

Ashley: LOL YES

CC: I do like his cute bunny profile background image

Kuga's twitter profile, we a bunny pattern background.

Ashley: srtonk but softe

Jenny: truly! him w his cute bunny!!

Kuga, speaking to his rabbit: "Didja miss me, Usao? Your dinner's coming right up!"

CC: look:
LOOK
he is very cute
and very dumb
is he a comrade? NO; but is he a himbo: definitely

Jenny: oh for sure!!
we see here that he is just a sweet hunk. a real cutie
and later we see

Momoka, yelling during the wrestling match: "Awesome! More! Murder that guy!! Smash his brains out!!"

Jenny: this girl loves violence (and lo what wrestling fan does not)
but there are times

Momoka to Kuga: "Kuga-san, today... you are NOT COOL!"
Kuga: [is devestated]

Jenny: when she can be p cold and a little spoiled
a little unwilling to confront the reasonableness of the point everyone is making here (that the age gap is too much)
and she got SO ANGRY when he stopped replying to her on twitter
in a way that is believable for a teen
but also believable for a horrible little prince
and so (and again, almost certainly, this is bc i went into this expecting a fairy tale retelling), we must ask ourselves

Kuga kisses Momoka's cheek.
Kuga: "See ya. I'll be looking for you at the side of the ring."

Jenny: who is the cutie and who is the beast??

Rachel: !!!!!!!!
A GREAT POINT

Ashley: omg

CC: that is a VERY good question
also god the crushing horror of a teen telling you that you’re not cool
I mean they’re right but also jesus christ

Ashley: HAHAHA

Rachel: it’s the future that awaits all of us, most likely

Ashley: i mean, jenny you present an VERY strong case that momo is the beast
that moment was so crushing because she was so DEAD WRONG but 100% steely in her conviction
i would wither on the spot

CC: YES, same
it is very cool to break things off when you realize you slid into a teen’s DMs
truly that is the coolest thing you can do in that situation
way cooler than
PROPOSING TO A GIRL YOU BARELY KNOW???

Kuga to Momoka: "Then let's get married someday."

Rachel: LOL

Jenny: i think i literally yelled JESUS CHRIST
out loud
when i got to this part

Rachel: yes, that escalated quickly

Ashley: i just laughed lollllll
so painfully awkward
big himbo move

Jenny: it’s true
and her reaction!
was genuinely very cute and sweet

Momoka kisses Kuga's cheek.
Momoka: "Please take care of me. Now... we're even."

Jenny: imo
so really it was the perfect moment for this writer to remind us

Momoka's dad: "MOMOKA!"
Momoka: "D... Dad?! Mom?!"

Jenny: not cute!
not sweet!

CC: love that her dad is a fashionable beefcake tho

Rachel: i did appreciate this because it answered my age old question of “where are the parents”
RIGHT THERE, BEHIND YOU

CC: also probably like 5 years older than her boyfriend

Jenny: LOLOLOLOLOL

CC: GOD this manga, answering your question Rachel
hashtag blessed

Ashley: this will clearly never happen but i think the dad and kuga should kiss

Rachel: HAHAHAHAHA

Ashley: i ALSO (non-hornily) love how fashionable the dad is because momo also rocks some pretty cute/trendy outfits and it’s like oh!! that’s where she gets it

CC: although truly
THIS CAMO HOODIE

Momoka in a terrible camo, holding a stuffed bunny in a wrestling outfit, while Kuga holds an umbrella over her.

Rachel: look, i’m going to say it
camo was a mistake

CC: taking me straight back to my youth as a teen in the early aughts

Jenny: yeah what is this, 2003?

CC: I’m sure that our boy here can remember; he is of an age with us Olds
LOL

Rachel: GOD i hadn’t thought about like, this 29 year old dating an 18 year old is like me dating a 21 year old
god
GOD

CC: where would you even find the energy

Ashley: hahahahaha

Jenny: can you even imagine

CC: going places in the evenings
no….. no thank u……

Rachel: drinking smirnoff ice

Jenny: lol
dear god no

Ashley: there’s a DJ on the local radio station here who i dislike because she has TOO MUCH positive energy and i recently heard her say it was her NINETEENTH birthday
i was like, oh you’re just young……… can’t relate

CC: no………….
that’s so young……..literally a baby……. how is anyone that young…..

Jenny: oh to have the glow of youthful optimism

Rachel: i know there are people who have age gaps like this that work out and that’s great, that’s good for them
i just….. a 21 year old……

Jenny: but truly who has the energy
i guess professional wrestlers?
people who have to go out every night and give high-energy performances?

CC: get called uncool by your teenage girlfriend again see if you still have the energy

Ashley: BWAAAAAHAHAHa

Jenny: LOL
and i do have to admit that his buddy absolutely gets it
so maybe Not All Wrestlers

Kuga: "So I don't know what to do. I thought I'd ask you for advice..."
Kuga's friend: "What? What do you mean, ADVICE? Of course you can't be with her. Walk away, man."

Ashley: i really wasn’t expecting that level of sense from the bro!!!!! good job, bro!

CC: LOL
“What do you mean advice?” amen brother

Rachel: oh one thing i will say, and props to momo for this
i am very glad she didn’t lie about her age
i was fully prepared for that plot to unravel

Jenny: oh yeah same
i think that really contributed to what ashley was saying earlier — this book did seem to take the issue seriously, in a way that was p open and honest

CC: yeah like I was absolutely prepared for the worst in that moment
got to this panel like

Kuga, talking to Momoka over the phone: "Momoka-chan, what do you do? Like, for work."

Jenny: LOL

CC: very grateful she disclosed and also that the story seems to realize that this is not an easy issue to waltz right by!!!

Ashley: sorry guys i was really busy making this

That one Onion article: "Hearbreaking: Someone With a Goatee Just Made A Great Point"

CC: LMAOOOOO

Rachel: LOLLLL

CC: OH NOOOOO
also getting back to our beefy boy

Kuga: "I would've figured you were like twenty-five or something!"
Momoka: "Haha! That's, uh, a little older than I usually hear."
Kuga: "Eleven years... you must think I'm a old man!"

CC: I do appreciate that he thought she was like 25
I mean sure buddy
but you know what?

The "you tried" star.

Ashley: honestly, i believe it
there’s great characterization here because this guy is HOT and VERY DUMB

Jenny: LOL very true!!

Ashley: which makes his behavior all the way up the proposal pretty much understandable / close to above reproach
it’s like, at reproach
he behaves very respectably for someone who thinks he’s into a 25-year-old fan

CC: especially for a dweeb who rarely gets approached by fans for anything other than them wanting to be suplexed???

Ashley: ah yes, my favorite part

Kuga's wrestling bro pick's up a female fan at her request. The female fan: "You're so handsome I could DIE!"
Kuga puts a male fan in a headlock at his request. The male fan: "You're so strong I could DIE!!"

[Editor’s Note: Ashley and Jenny both posted the screenshot above at exactly the same time]

CC: LOLLLLLLLL

Ashley: lolllll jenny
you’re so classy: dear readers, jenny named her screenshot “the duality of man” and i named mine “the two genders” lmao

Jenny: it was a good way to set up how our beefy boy kuga is probably p starved for the kind of tender attention and affection that his sweet heart craves

CC: is that a thing??? do wrestling fans just go up to their favorite wrestlers like “pls step on me”???
I Do NOT Know About Sports

Jenny: i gotta say that i personally would probably not ask another person to suplex me? but idk — live your truth, etc etc
i think fandom in sports IS kind of gendered — at least, in hockey, the main sport that i pay attention to; the way people relate to the fandom and the sport, i mean, with cis dudes in one corner and everyone else in the other
so i think i could probably see a male fan asking a hockey player to try to knock out a tooth, in the same way that i think i find this panel believable, that someone would volunteer for a headlock in a (presumably) not horny way

Ashley: hockey fans will definitely get in a fight with their fave on purpose

CC: wild

Jenny: minnesota wild
(that’s the name of a hockey team)

CC: bringing it full circle!!!

Jenny: yes! all this to say that i think it is both believable and well introduced that kuga’s fans interact with him in a specific and almost exclusively not horny way
so it’s not unbelievable that affectionate female attention would be both noticed and appreciated by him

Ashley: absolutely

Jenny: esp when he sees his bro get that kind of attention and affection from women all the time
what do you get when a big kind hunk is starved for affection?
proposals to teens, i guess?????

Ashley: HA

CC: if I remember anything from going to high school on an army base, that tracks

Ashley: i mean, also like, idk if i’m right on this because my experience with wrestling is mostly limited to GLOW and dream daddy, but i think kuga might be playing a heel?
he talks about accepting his role as the guy who everyone wants to get beaten up instead of kissed by
and momo’s intense murdery cheering seems to fall in that vein
and if true, it’s a nice contrast to his bunny-having softie self

Jenny: it is! it’s nice!
and the author’s note at the end
i found very charming

The author: "Lately I have been interested in the new Japanese pro wrestler, Evil. I want one of those sickle-shaped penlights people use to cheer him on!"

Jenny: and i can only assume that someone whose merch is sickle-shaped is probably a bad guy?
so it’s nice to have that perspective

Ashley: AHH me too!!!! i want to support this wrestler!
also his name is evil lol
but yea… i’m all over it

Jenny: oh yes good point
nice to see this author out here making the content that they want to see in the world — big beefcakes who have to be mean on stage but who are actually just very good and dumb and kind

CC: truly!! but that brings me to my final thought, if y’all area ready

Jenny: go for it!

CC: ok well speaking of making the content u want to see in the world
i loved this manga bc it is the most lovingly depicted relationships subreddit adaptation I have ever seen

Jenny: LOL

Ashley: omfggggg haha

CC: if you told me this was wholecloth lifted FROM the relationships subreddit I would believe it unquestioningly, god bless
love to read some messy nonsense in my manga and also just generally

Ashley: with kuga as OP, right? we agree on this?

Jenny: oh 100%

Ashley: i choose to believe that millennials are the youngest age group on reddit but also i can TOTALLY hear his r/relationships post in my head

CC: I mean

Kuga: "I didn't realize you were still in high school... and I realized I shouldn't get involved with someone still in high school. Well, you're still in high school, but I... honestly... I don't even know why people think that's so bad."

CC: “honestly…I don’t even know why people think that’s so bad”
ripped right from the headlines of r/relationships tbh

Ashley: lolololol

CC: 18 / 29 age gap is pure relationships subreddit content
from concentrate
undistilled
lol

Jenny: i gotta say that my final thought is similarly just this big himbo energy
and appreciation for this artist

Kuga opens the fan letter that Momoka sent him, which includes a photo of her.

Jenny: this was a great face
when his bro, tweeting from kuga’s account, winky face asks momo to send a photo with her fan letter
kuga sees it and this is his response
just masterfully rendered

Ashley: hahahaha yesssss

Jenny: really feel that emotion
so relatable

Ashley: the art and expressions were super on point

Rachel: it was nice to see more wide representation in shoujo!!
we need 100000x more of it
but with that said, my final thoughts are
i enjoyed this story, but i still think My Love Story is just the peak of this shoujo beauty/beast dynamic

A great page from My Love Story, where the "beast" has an internal moment of "I LOVE HER."

Rachel: sorry, Seven Seas

Jenny: omgomgomg
this is too pure

CC: yeah My Love Story is my favorite version of this archetype (I hope it’s an archetype anyway, bc I would love to read more stories like this!!!!!)

Ashley: ????

Rachel: if it’s not an archetype, would like to officially sign that petition please

Ashley: i know how to use change.org for frivolous purposes so this could be a reality

CC: amazing, 100% endorse

Ashley: my final thought: don’t sit so close to the TV, you’ll fry a brain cell and end up bullying an adult man into an ill-advised relationship!!!!

Momoka watches Kuga's wrestling match, and she is like 12 inches from the TV.

CC: LOL
sage advice


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.

Rachel Weiss

Rachel Weiss

Rachel is a designer and artist from Texas. She is pro-feminism, pro-crones, and pro-dogs. She's also Boss Crone at POMEgranate Magazine, and one day hopes to be able to drink her tea without so much milk and sugar.
CC Calanthe

CC Calanthe

If you prick your finger and write “Cat Fancy” on your mirror during a harvest moon, CC will appear behind you and make you put human clothes on your pets. CC is Head Crone in Charge at POMEgranate Magazine, as well as the co-host of Moon Podcast Power MAKE UP!!
Jenny Mott

Jenny Mott

Jenny is just a Silly Nerd with a lot of Feelings about Comic Books and Friendship and also This Capitalist Yoke We All Share; she enjoys Dogs and Sleeping and Cartoons. Her three favorite words are: Breakfast All Day.
Ashley Gallagher

Ashley Gallagher

Ashley writes comics and emails from zir burrow in the Pacific Northwest. Ze is a sentient subtropical swamp fern whose favorite food is old words.
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