Author: Akegami Takara
Genre: Romance, Shoujo, Smut
If there is one thing that shoujo manga are known for, it would be how everything is too good to be true. Coffee & Vanilla is the epitome of having a storyline and characters that are too good to be true, but sometimes we just want to be swirled away to a land where unrealistic things happen, don’t we?
Don’t expect to be in for a deep plot full of convoluting twists and surprises. Coffee & Vanilla is just a burst of flowery shoujo happiness, a dash of squeal-worthy romantic moments and a sprinkle of smutty scenes, perfect for those who are seeking temporary refuge in a fantasy land.
Risa suddenly gained popularity in college, and even though she has always wanted a boyfriend, she doesn’t know how to react to her newfound reputation, dubbed “Risa-sama, the flower no one can reach”. After ordering her drink (a Vanilla Frappuccino, since it seems to bear titular importance) in a coffee shop one day, Risa runs into a stranger who is insistent on hanging out with her.
She bumps into our leading hero Fukami in the midst of it, and lo and behold Fukami smoothly sweeps her away and saves her from the dilemma. Their little coincidental meeting should have ended here, but since this is a manga and these two are the main characters, it is no surprise that Fukami suddenly invites her to dinner. If this happened in real life, Risa should really start to think about how to get away from Fukami next.
I should probably stop questioning shoujo manga logic, especially since this particular manga doesn’t have any. More questionable things happen after this that if it were to happen to you in real life, you should probably bear caution. At dinner, Risa discovers that Fukami is 12 years older than she is, and they have classy food at a classy place. Risa passes out either from a food coma or from the wine, and not knowing where she lived (I mean, they’ve only formally met for what, a few hours?), Fukami takes her back to his place. Multiple red flags here, and everything just suddenly took off faster than anyone could imagine.
Fukami immediately makes his move on her and asks her to go out with him. Just know that if it wasn’t because Fukami is super hot and has smooth moves, Risa should be calling for help at this point. Yes, I know that I’m taking away a lot of the fun from reading this manga with my commentary here, but rest assured, things do get better after this point (and if you take everything with a grain of salt). Fukami and Risa’s relationship jumped a little too fast in the first few chapters but it becomes more understandable as the series goes on.
It’s a cute story that should be clichéd but somehow it comes across as being somewhat unique. Standard shoujo tropes are scattered across this manga, such as the appearances of arch enemies and love rivals, but they never take the focus away from our main couple, whose relationship continues to flourish, much to the squeals and delight of fangirls.
The art makes reading the manga super pleasant since it is easy on the eyes and I personally prefer manga art styles with cleaner lines. Risa is a beautiful girl as most shoujo manga heroines are – no surprises there – but I’m most impressed with Fukami’s design and expressions. Somehow his expressions display his sincerity for Risa, even if the entire plot and romance seems to have just exploded with no build-up.
For a college student, Risa is quite an airhead with no sense of caution. She follows a random guy she just met for dinner, lets her guard down and finds herself at his place, and even then she just gets super flustered and doesn’t know what to do. Risa is a girl that needs to be protected, even though she strives to improve herself for Fukami’s sake. I couldn’t find her annoying, and instead I was cheering for her to do better. She is earnest despite her submissive nature, and it is endearing that she doesn’t have the ojou-sama/haughty tsundere mode that most popular main characters have.
Fukami is just…too good to be true. He is the hero that almost all shoujo manga readers wish would appear in real life. He is a handsome man in his early thirties leading his company at the forefront, bearing a soft spot for Risa and would do anything for her. Unrealistic as it may be, Fukami rushes back from his job commitments overseas to save Risa from a stalker just from sensing a change in her facial expression during one of their video calls. He randomly calls off from work just to spend time with her, and always seems to be able to read her mind.
He is tolerant of her in any situation and never seems to get frustrated. Fukami is the perfect male character who can only live in our imaginations. We do not yet know of any weaknesses he may have, but recent chapters suggest a challenge that the couple may have to overcome, stemming from Risa meeting her first love at her class reunion. Past obstacles have been a little too easy to get over, and I’m hoping that their relationship faces a deeper kind of struggle so that we could see some real character development between these two characters.
Although these characters feel one dimensional, I can’t seem to hate them. Even the side characters are redeemable in their own ways.
If you want to run away from reality, this is the manga for you. It doesn’t have many chapters out at the moment, but it is worth the wait. Do note however that this is considered a smut manga, and it may only be suitable for mature audiences. For Risa, love just blossomed out of nowhere, and one can only hope for the best for these two lovable characters.