Romance Roundtable #39: Sweat and Soap (Volume 1)

Welcome back to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss Romance Manga. Today we’re covering Sweat and Soap Volume 1 by Kintetsu Yamada: a spicy and surprisingly sweet romance manga about, essentially, being loved for the things that make you most self-conscious. Join us and bathe in the ~aromas~ of this adorable and sweaty romance (but, probably at home and not at work — this roundtable isn’t explicitly NSFW, but may be awkward read for your boss to snoop on).


Rachel: i’m so excited to talk about this book with y’all
i think it has been a minute since i truly really enjoyed one of these, but i really really liked this one!

Jenny: it was v horny!! a lot of fun!

Rachel: shoutout to my fave youtuber for recommending this (and many other excellent spicy manga i want to read next)

CC: YESSSS yes I loved this one too!
should we start with a plot summary right out of the gate?
mine would be:
musty girl finds love, And How

Rachel: LOL yes accurate and good

CC: also: horney manga pretty wholesome, actually?
odorable romance
get it
; D

Rachel: ahhh!!!!!!
i got it

Jenny: a lot of good stuff in there about communicating your feelings honestly
v wholesome for sure

Rachel: yes!!!

CC: i guess when your partner can smell your whole BO profile like a sommelier taking in a full bodied wine it makes things easier L O L
without that bloodhound-level sense of smell I feel like this guy would have been in trouble so kudos to him for leaning into his superpower

Natori: "Because... if you want to talk about whatever it is. If that would help at all, I'm here. Too push?"
Asako: [b'dump]
Asako, internally: "I can't believe he knew, just by smelling me. I just can't lie to him."

Rachel: so to break down the summary a bit, we have our very sweat protag, Asako, is has grown up ashamed of her BO and because of that loves soaps and deodorants and things
Natori is the head perfumer/smell guy at the company that Asako works at, and he smells her when she’s happy and loses his mind
that is something that i wish i could do — tell someone’s emotional state from their smell
i mean i say that, maybe it would suck

CC: “he smells her when she’s happy and loses his mind”
so true
tl;dr the whole book LOL

Jenny: lol and quick, importantly: they work at asako’s favorite soap/deodorant manufacturer

CC: what was the name again? i know it’s bootleg bioré

Jenny: liliadrop! but i think she uses a bootleg biore deodorant sometimes

CC: from the very very horny cover i was not expecting this book, and specifically the “i love my stinky gf” portion of it, to be so sweet!!

Natori, smelling Asako: "... Yes. This is it. The way you smell when you're happy.... THAT'S my favorite scent."

Rachel: yes!!!!
i was fully expecting a weird not endearing fetish comic
but instead we got a fully lovely and very sweet fetish comic!!

CC: yes!!!

Rachel: one thing i will say
is that apparently this comic was originally just a 1 shot
which is why the first chapter feels so compact
they go from meeting to bonding and smelling to boning in a very short amount of time
which like, good for them!
but the poor artist had to figure out what happens next when it was decided to give them a whole series lol

CC: yeah i mean like, to be fair
as a fully formed adult
i feel like if somebody gets within sniffing range that frequently
things are going to escalate quickly
the one thing that surprised me was how much these two hook up at work

Jenny: yeah i gotta say the whole workplace romance element took me a long time to get used to

Rachel: yes because i would NEVER
i kept thinking about that scene from Ted Lasso
where Roy tells his gf that he likes porn of people doing it in the woods
because he could never be that free
that’s me, but with office romance

CC: LOL

Jenny: LOL

CC: yeah if we have learned ANYTHING in the past 18 months
it’s that you can’t trust your coworkers’ hygiene any further than you can throw it (and it’s a metaphorical concept so u can’t throw it far)
have to protect the precious natural resource that is ur butt from those harsh environs

Jenny: and really the majority of chapter 1 does feel like 1 big HR complaint

CC: LOL

Asako, shocked: "A... a weekend's worth?!"
Natori shoves his face in Natori's chest and smells deeply.
Natori smelling Asako from behind.
Asako, blushing, thinking to herself: "I'm so sweaty... I didn't have time to clean up..."
Asako and Natori are sitting on the floor, and Natori is leaning into Asako.
Natori: " I want more... a lot more..."
Natori slides his hand up Asako's leg, edging her skirt.
Asako panics and pushes Natori away: "Wait!"

Jenny: this is all before they’ve ever even kissed!
but it’s ok because he’s not a weirdo (trust me)

Asako yelling at Natori in a crowded lobby after he asked to smell her: "Wh-wh... what are you doing?!"
Natori, holding up his hands: "It's okay. I'm not a weirdo."

Rachel: LOL
and they go out of their way to prove it by having him CATCH a sniffing harasser on the train!
not a very subtle way to draw a line between the sniffers we like and the sniffers we don’t, but i appreciate the attempt

Natori: "Creepy, right? I'm as badas that guy on the train. But I just had to do it. I had to apologize to you in person."

Jenny: lol it was really a case of it’s OK if you’re hot and the other person is into it
but bad if the other person doesn’t like it
which, like, i guess is most things

CC: i mean: isn’t that just the beautiful nuance of consent, that a hot person you’re into doing a sex thing to you is different than a weird rando on a train?

Jenny: i mean yes
but also he’s not historically the best at consent
right out the gate we’ve got:

Natori: "I'd like to study your scent. Do you mind? It'll just take a few minutes."
Asako: "Do I...?"
Asako runs away with a zoom effect: "Yes, I do!"
Natori pulling Asako by her shoulders and running: "I'm not going to hurt you! I just want a good sniff!"
The door closes behind them. Asako: "No! Anything but that!"

CC: oh yeah absolutely

Jenny: and i think that’s part of why it took me so long to warm up to them
like, after chapter 1, he’s great at listening and talking openly
but to get the ball rolling there was some arm twisting
which: not great!

CC: i retract but do not delete my statement about consent bc i forgot about this and was a little off base lol

Rachel: well i will say that the book tries (but doesn’t necessarily succeed) to imply that Asako is nervous about her body odor not about him
this is that attempt
it kind of lands???

Natori, obliviously smelling a panicking Asako.
He pulls away, surprised. Asako is teary eyed.
Asako: "I... I apologize for the smell. I know it's unpleasant. All I ask is that you spare my life."
Natori, realizing and also panicking: "Sorry! I didn't mean to make you cry. Also... your scent isn't unpleasant at all!"

Jenny: i mean, i can definitely see the validity to that reading! for sure!

Rachel: but also i had the same reaction to him literally DRAGGING her away against her will so he could smell her

Jenny: yeah it was a Bit Much!
but i guess it’s fine bc in the end

Asako to Natori: "You're nothing like him! You're kind. You make wonderful soap. And... when it's you smelling me... I don't mind at all!"

Jenny: and then they immediately fuck!!

CC: “when it’s you smelling me….i don’t mind at all”
LOL

Asako, blushing: "I was kind of looking forward to being smelled. And I've been... waiting all day."

Rachel: love when two people’s kinks completely compliment each other

CC: i am so happy for this artist
who got like, what, 9 volumes out of this series that, if vol 1 is any indication, is 9 volumes in their particular horny jail

Rachel: good for them
also love that this artist is so into their own characters they made their own porny doujinshi about them LOL

Jenny: oh lol yes v same!
gotta respect it
one of the things that i think works well for me (bc the first chapter is so condensed/gets right down to business) is that MOST of this book is about the two of them actually BEING in a relationship, which is nice. feels v Going Steady

Rachel: YES JENNY
that’s a great point
because they hook up so quick, so much of the book is them navigating being IN a relationship

Jenny: and it’s good, relatable, non-smell-related stuff for the most part
just like, are we dating?? do we kiss each other goodbye?
how do dates work? are we allowed to touch each other in public??
i’m having fun? is she having fun? what do people do with other people??
but also, i think the main conflict was she saw him at work with a female coworker and got jealous

Asako, crying in bed: "He just... smiled a smile I don't know at a nice girl he works with... that's all. So why am I crying? And why can't I stop thinking about it? I hate this..."

Jenny: and then that coworker was SUPER VAGUE on the invoices she turned in, and asako ended up having to confront her about work stuff
a thing that i hate, personally, as a fellow “i work in finance for a large entity” (edited)
when people don’t just tell you the things they bought
what does “supplies” even mean???
come on!!

CC: LOL
also
I did think the jealousy thing was a bit….idk, extra? because they’re adults? but then I remembered:

Asako, thinking to herself while looking at her bedsheets: "So you really do bleed... how long does it last? Should I wear a pad today?"

CC: i have a feeling she does not have a lot of love and sex experience

Jenny: yeah idk what it is w romance manga and virgins

CC: at least this girl’s back story makes sense! I can see this being something she’d be self conscious about

Jenny: that’s very fair and true
much better than the one we read about mountainous houston and blacksmith who was PREGNANT but still technically a virgin bc she artificially inseminated herself
that felt like a real stretch

CC: i forgot about that one LOL
so ok
there’s one thing i really want to talk about
and by talk about, i just mean bring up
a bit off topic but

Natori: "The characters for 'Asako'... it's 'Asa' as in the plant right? Hemp? Is there a story behind that?"
Asako: "... have... have you ever seen a hemp plant? They grow up strong and straight. People have always loved them since ancient times."

CC: ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡° )

Rachel: lol is this a comment on the “strong and straight” part?

CC: hemp plant

Rachel: ok here’s something i am scared to admit online but
i do not know if hemp is a different plant than weed!!!
are they they same??? or just related?????????
i don’t know and at this point i’m too scared to ask!

CC: via healthline dot com

Jenny: i love to learn
thank you for this

Rachel: huh the more you know

CC: romance roundtable: the new learning channel, with 50% less aliens and 15% more weed
i am making up these numbers idk how much weed is on TLC these days
considering i also had to google “weed and hemp same plant” i too can’t claim to be a thoughtleader on this matter L O L

Jenny: is THAT what TLC stands for?? the knowledge just keeps comin
really always assumed it was THE what not to wear with stacy London and clinton kelly CHANNEL

Rachel: lolllllllll

CC: oh i guess iceroad truckers is the history channel huh
whoops!

Jenny: i mean, now with 50% less “can you believe how many children these religious midwesterners have” and 15% more weed

CC: we can have it all!

Jenny: lolololol

CC: BUT, going back to my initial screenshot: appreciate literally dank office lady having weed name

Jenny: LOLOLOLOL

Rachel: ahahahahahah

CC: thanks sweat & soap for setting it up for me

Jenny: how’re y’all feeling for final thoughts?

CC: i’m feeling good! ready when y’all are

Jenny: my final thought is p quick
just that if you take our advice and check out this book
and you think
it’s the heightened sense of smell for me
might i recommend Gourmet Hound

Rachel: YES +1!!!!
also finished relatively recently so you can binge the whole story!

CC: love a “recommended for you”
bless
ok, my final thought is
THIS, this is the source of my enmity for the zodiac

The TV in the background: "And the unluckiest sign today is... Aries! Bad news, ewes! Everything you've built up could come crashing down. Try not to do anything that might upset the balance."
Asako, to herself: "Uh-oh... that doesn't sound good."

CC: this is every aries horoscope

Jenny: LOL i did think of you when i read this part

CC: 🆒🆒🆒

Rachel: LOL what do the stars have against Aries?!?!
we will start a petition

Jenny: we’ll petition the universe
take it easy on these poor sheep

Rachel: yes, The Stars??? we have some suggestions

CC: wake up sheeple (the stars hate you): literally every aries horoscope
v grateful to feel so Seen in this horny manga
if for no other reason than this

Rachel: lolll
ok here’s my final thought
i do not have this level of self control and it is good that i am not a cop or something

Asako: "... wait. Am I allows to use the company intranet like this?!"

CC: LOL
this looks like a breakroom poster
are YOU using the company intranet incorrectly? it’s more likely than you think!

Rachel: LOL
i would love to see Asako in one of those training videos
just doing super mundane stuff and being like “OH NO” and getting flustered for extremely minor possible offenses
mean while you’ve got her bf literally snoozing in a storage room

Jenny: lol relationships are all about Balance, i guess!!
get you someone who makes you both better and worse, somehow

Rachel: LOL yes!!

CC: true! Love!!

Natori, yawning: "What? I can't take a nap on my lunch break?"

Join us 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.

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!!
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.
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.
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