Romance Roundtable #54: The Muscle Girl Next Door

Welcome back to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss Romance Manga. Join us for a trip to the muscle mommy store as we cover Amesuke Amo’s thick-of-thigh, thick-of-heart romance The Muscle Girl Next Door.

CC: without further ado!! the muscle girl next door!

Jenny: this book was SO CUTEEEEEEEEEE
giggling and twirling my hair the whole time tbh

Rachel: truly just a nice book!!

The first full color page from the comic, where Daria admires Ruby's muscles and thinks, "In that moment... all I could think was...nothing in the world could be... as beautiful as her muscles."

Jenny: like,
the sparkles! the rose petals!
setting the tone immediately!
they know what they’re doing!!

CC: yeah I guess the entire summary of this story is set up in this one image
beautiful boy loves stronk girl
(they are both v sweet and good)

Jenny: i mean, def the title helps too — beautiful boy loves stronk girl who lives next door

Ashley: really the only other plot point is, “and tries to hide it”

Jenny: yes — beautiful boy is shy and that comes off as his being kind of aloof and an asshole
but not for long!!
i think they do a good job setting up the two of them — ruby and daria — as sort of foils

CC: Daria!
his name is Daria!
and his pal, the wingman – Shou? I think?
very compact cast

Ashley: yep!

Jenny: like ruby is cool and and built, and daria is shy and scrawny
but he wants to be built!

Daria at the grocery story, thinking to himself, "I'm a university student who lives alone. But unlike most guys my age, I cook my own meals. Why? I want to get big and strong!"

Jenny: really sets up exactly what it delivers on (“train me mommy”)

Rachel: LOL


Rachel: that’s the vibe exactly though!!!

Jenny: but in general the two of them just compliment each other really well!
like daria is a great cook and ruby just eat protein powder

i mean at least he knows what he wants!!.png

Daria runs into Ruby at the grocery store, and all she has in her basket is protein powder.
Ruby: "I can't cook to save my life... so I stick to premade food and protein shakes. Kind of embarrassing at my age."
Daria, in his head: "What the heck? I'd gladly cook for her every day! Wanting to put a smile on her face isn't that unreasonable. Honestly I'd love nothing more than for her to eat my cooking. What I mean is, I want to marry her."

Jenny: which sets up another slam dunk plot point

CC: yeah just such a perfect compliment to each other

Daria, getting pumped up, and thinking, "All I can do is believe in myself and cook my heart out!"

Jenny: i really loved how much of a goofy mess daria is
incredibly endearing

Daria's imagination of himself giving Ruby food, "Hey, Ruby. I accidentally made far more food than I can eat by myself. So here."

Jenny: this is him practicing dropping off leftovers
but he chickens out! and just leaves it on her doorstep!

CC: drops off a heart shaped steak
like you do
v casual

Rachel: and FORGETS
like, made it heart shaped in a trance
realizes only after the fact

Daria thinks to himself as he stomps away after chickening out on giving Ruby the food he made her directly and just left it on her doorstep. "I'm the worst... and I was looking forward to it so much. Stupid project partner, leaving everything until the last minute... I forgot something! Oh no. It's..."
Daria realizes that the steak he gave Ruby is still in the shape of a heart. He grumps to dust, and the SFX say "Goodbye, world!!"

Ashley: truly the meal he prepares was the product of a madman

Jenny: yeah she was supposed to come over for dinner!
and he just fugue-state makes everything heart shaped??

CC: truly if someone made me an entire heart shaped meal i would die
(of delight)

Rachel: i think what is most nice about this romance
or one of the most nice things
is that at no point does Daria try to convince himself he’s not in love
like, he kNOWS
there’s no “what is this feeling???“”

Daria opens a note that Ruby left him. Thinking to himself: "I'm glad she liked it... she's got lovely handwriting. Hrm...?"
The note reads, "Maybe next time, we can eat together."
The audience sees Ruby as Daria imagines her, fresh from a workout and glistening with sweat, saying "Maybe next time, we can eat together."

CC: boys who think I LOVE HER every time they see their gf
gotta be one of my favorite genders

Jenny: LOL

Ashley: blushing down to his fingertips!!!!!

CC: his feelings are as strong as her muscles
i love it so much

Jenny: i feel like we say this a lot but i did also want to mention

Ruby approaches Daria and says, "About the food you made me the other day..."
Daria's heart BA BUMPS out of his chest as he already starts to panic.

Jenny: comics are good!
this is such a fun gag!

Rachel: YESSS

Ashley: oh that was my fave gag hahahaha

CC: i don’t even want to see a love that doesn’t doki doki out of yr chest tbh
(I also loved this gag!!! so good!)
ruby is also v cute
and I am hoping that the next volume of the story gives us more about her
exhibit a

Blushing, Ruby tells Daria, "I like the kind of cake that has a strawberry on top." Daria loses it (internally).

CC: exhibit b

Ruby eats the leftovers that Daria leaves for her. "So yummy..."

Rachel: oh this was so nice
love to eat desserts
love to be buff and love desserts

Ashley: how i’m trying to be
as the resident hater, i do have to chime in with that i did find this first volume at least to be a biiiiit of a bore
especially because of the point you just brought up, cc, which is that we don’t know too much about the Object of Love
i myself am not innocent of making lifting heavy thingy entire personality, and yet…

Rachel: honestly i agree!!
i think the bones of the story are there for it to be really good
but it’s not quite there in this first volume
like it’s still too surface level in some ways

CC: it needs to do more
(emotional) heavy lifting

Ashley: Hahahaha
fully agree tho! and I will say in fairness that the cartooning, which is excellent, does SO much good work here
but i coulda had a little more meat on those bones

Jenny: i mean, tbh i am incredibly shallow and also in love this w this woman same as daria

Ruby, to Daria, "You're taking a break today."
Ruby, trying to get Daria to not push himself, "If you're sick... you need to let your body rest. Working out puts a lot of stress on your body. If you try to push yourself when your body's already in a weakened state, you'll end up getting hurt."
Ruby to Daria, "There's nothing in this world you absolutely have to do every single day."

CC: ooh I took a screenshot of this one too


CC: she’s right and she should say it!

Jenny: i love her, i need her, where do i get one of her?? is there a muscle mommy store the same way that there’s a husband store?

Ashley: printing it out and putting it on my computer monitor
jenny IF ONLY

CC: i feel like the muscle mommy store would be like, sears in the 80s

Ashley: lma

Rachel: lmaaa

CC: the quality is too high
everyone has one craftsman brand muscle mommy with a lifetime warranty, an unsustainable level of high quality
(i too love ruby so much LOL)
I will say that after the emotional devastation of our last book, I found this refreshing but i wouldn’t complain about more Emotion

Jenny: real

CC: we got a little with Daria’s family backstory but….i still want more (and more about who Ruby is as a person!)

Ashley: for sure
the domming you into taking a break hints at something deeper within


Ashley: hard won gains etc

Rachel: ahahahahahahahh

CC: if you don’t take breaks and rest she will step on u (bad) but if you pace yourself and work on your gains safely she will step on u (good)

Ashley: works every time

Rachel: step on you, as a treat

CC: i feel like a non insignificant number of our RR protags would sign up for step on me mommy bootcamp in a heartbeat L M A O
here’s looking at you, in love with the villainess girl!

Ashley: this is an EXCELLENT elevator pitch hahahaha

Jenny: hell yeah hell yeah

CC: if this whole comics thing doesn’t work out for us maybe we can open one of those


Jenny: i volunteer for that hiring committee

Rachel: making those marketing materials would be… so fun

Ashley: i mean, this is comics, it would be the easiest scam. a little advertisement, a little “mail your check to…”

Rachel: LOL

Ashley: a time honored tradition even!!

CC: it’s that old school comics ad with the nerd and the jock at the beach

Jenny: muscle mommy bootcamp is the new x-ray specs
the atlas diet!

Ashley: exactly!!! y’all get it!!

CC: our huge brains
cooking with beefcake here at pome dash mag dot com

Ashley: lolololol

Rachel: the world needs this

Jenny: ok i do also want to take a minute to really appreciate the only other named character in this book – SHOU! daria’s best friend and wingman of the millenium

Daria thinks that his friend Shou is wingmanning for him, and thinks "Is he actually... setting us up... on a date?! He's an angel!! I underestimated his verbal prowess! I couldn't wish for a better best friend!"

Rachel: the fact that he figures things out without being told
an empath

Jenny: a genious!
he does SO MUCH of the work

After getting Ruby's number to share new restaurants, Shou turns to Daria and says, "Hey, Daria. You should get in on this, too." Daria is overwhelmed with gratitude, immediately thinking, "THIS GUYYYY...."

Jenny: like — he sets them up w a date idea, he gets them to exchange numbers, he delivers on the promise of the opening chapter!

Ruby to Daria, "You apparently want me to teach you about weight training. Or at least, that's what [Shou] said."

CC: he reminds me of nothing so much as that classic gag from girls monthly nozaki-kun


Rachel: ahahahahah
i really liked Shou
but this is still a thing i wanted more of!
tell me more about these peopleee
i have high hopes for future volumes though!
it kind of feels like the author/artist has just, a huge brain concept
and then didn’t have a clear sense of how to deliver

CC: yeah I feel like there’s a great setup here
but just — needs more!
give me more!!!

Jenny: truly CANNOT WAIT for vol2
especially bc of where it ended!!!

CC: not every story has to be emotionally tumultuous
and I am fine with that
but for this love story to really pay off, I really want to feel like I understand why both parties are falling in love!
and I think this story is capable of doing that!

Rachel: yeah! i almost which they had collapsed the first book to the first chapter
and then the rest of the book would be about them figuring out the actual dating part

CC: like sweat and soap, maybe?

Rachel: 👀
if it ain’t broke


Ashley: hire us to guide you, young mangaka

Jenny: i mean, i will say
and again maybe this is just bc i am incredibly shallow
but boy beautiful girl stronk
i am in love and so are they!
like, i feel like i’ve been convinced to love them, so it’s not unbelievable to me that they would also be into each other
idk i really loved this one
no thoughts only fun

Rachel: haha it was a very fun read!

Ashley: listen, in these unprecedented times, we deserve a little simple pleasure

CC: my brain and my heart are smooth and both were soothed by this love story

Jenny: and esp w where the first volume ended, i feel like! vol2 will hold more answers to these questions

Ruby tells Daria how much fun it is to hang out with him, and Daria overheats and doesn't respond. Ruby says, "Let me try again. That was me..."
"... hitting on you."

Jenny: unless he combusts on the spot ig

Rachel: i can’t believe they did this to us

CC: her confidence

Ashley: HAHA

CC: incredible
i mean she is very clearly not wrong but pulling off this flirtation feels like at least 2 good charisma rolls

Ashley: yeah i def want to see where this goes, that’s for sure!!

Rachel: what is that acid that musics make
you know what i’m talking about??

Ashley: lactic acid

Rachel: YES


Ashley: mommy milkers acid


Rachel: ok so her muscles make that but also CONFIDENCE

CC: a happy byproduct
(a product for bis)

Ashley: hehehehehe

Rachel: hohohohohohoho

Jenny: y’all feel ready for final thoughts?

Rachel: i’m ready!

Ashley: let’s do it!

CC: i’m ready!
honestly my only thought, final or otherwise
she strong
i love it
i really tried to mine the depths of my brain and that’s all that’s in there right now

Ashley: perfectly apropos
mine is, if seeing my crush doesn’t make me disincorporate like this, i don’t want it!!!!

Daria catches himself being weird, and thinks "I can't SPY on her! What's wrong with me?!" Suddenly the door rattles and he fizzes out of existance.

Jenny: too much emotion
the body wasn’t designed for this

Rachel: LOLLLL
again, comics are so good

Jenny: this is actually why he needs to build muscle
to hold all his feelings

Ashley: so true

Jenny: my final thought is p much just
i love friendship

Daria grips his fist and thinks, "A great wingman is a true blessing!!"

Jenny: a great wingman IS a true blessing

Ashley: my god yes

Rachel: IT’S TRUE

Ashley: Probably our species would have died out without them

Jenny: real!!

Rachel: my final thought is
i had this same haircut in high school

A pic of Ruby with her short, flipped out hair.

Jenny: pics???



Jenny: lol very fair


Rachel: lolllll

CC: i have seen a picture of rachel with this haircut
it’s real!

Rachel: i woke up every morning and STRAIGHTENED my hair to flip out this way
every!!! morning!!!!

CC: teen u was so powerful

Rachel: i also died it red

Ashley: girl saaaaaaaaame

Rachel: ashley!!!!!

Jenny: it’s red in this too!
from the one color page
it was the moment, apparently

CC: v on trend at that time!!!!

Rachel: it was real Josie and the Pussycats

CC: that was the coolest way to do your hair in the early to mid aughts!

Rachel: only looks good on muscle girls and 16 year olds in 2004

CC: also willow from buffy

Join us next time for even more love story shouting in our next Romance Roundtable! In the meantime, Monthly Ko-Fi members: head on over to Ko-Fi for just a few bonus goofs that didn’t make it into today’s roundtable, as a treat.

All images via Volume 1 of Amesuke Amo’s The Muscle Girl Next Door, unless otherwise specified.

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.
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.
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