This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series My Beloved North Star. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to gender stereotypes, sexism, sexual assault, violence, bullying, toxic masculinity, child abandonment, divorce, and cheating, as it appears in the manga.
Yuri Mizutani is just trying to live a good life as your average high school student. Every day is no different from the next until he encounters a foreigner who seemingly can't speak Japanese. The guy seems to need help getting to Yuri's high school. Despite his better judgment, he helps the foreigner find his way. The guy is so happy that he kisses Yuri on the cheek as thanks before disappearing onto campus. Yuri is shocked but brushes it off as a strange encounter and moves along with his day.
To his surprise, in class, the strange foreigner is back and is introduced as Kei Satono, a transfer student from the United States. As it turns out, he can speak perfect Japanese and, later admits, only put on an act in hopes of ingratiating himself with the women who have a thing for foreigners. Unfortunately, Kei thought Yuri was a woman, which plays on deeply rooted insecurities Yuri has about his looks, which are more feminine than most. Yuri does his best not to get upset, especially since he assumes Kei will leave him alone once he reveals his gender, but upon telling Kei he's a man, Kei just seems all the more encouraged to pursue him.
Is there a way to get Kei to focus his attention somewhere else? Or is Yuri doomed to be the object of Kei's affection forever?
This is by the same creator as Hand in Hand, which was inconsistent, but pretty overall. This was published after Hand in Hand, which is apparent based on the art. While Hand in Hand was pretty for the most part, this work is much more consistent overall. I love seeing an artist's growth throughout multiple works, and this is a perfect example of why. It's very, very pretty, and I love the character designs (especially Kei's because long-haired tops are everything). It's such a pretty read. If you liked the art in their previous work, you're sure to love this, and if you weren't a fan, give this one a go because it is better.
Not only is it pretty, but the characters are fun. I love Kei's personality so, so much. He's an extrovert, through and through, plus a little bit ditzy. He gives off dog vibes, which I love, especially when paired with Yuri, who is more of the cat type. This might be one of my favorite couple tropes in existence. Yuri and Kei are so funny together, and while it isn't explicitly designated as a comedy, it is very comedic, which was vital in the enjoyment of this work for me. So much of the humor is based around Kei being such a charismatic playboy, casually flirting with all women, and Yuri being annoyed or jealous. But when he turns this same attention on Yuri, Yuri gets even more frustrated. It's a very cute dynamic, which establishes Yuri's inevitable realization that his annoyance is based more on jealousy than anything else.
If you are looking for smut, you might be mildly disappointed. There are some spicy parts leading up to the big event, but there's no full-on sex until the very end. If you've read My Frilly Secret, it has a similar spice level, which, despite being a self-professed degenerate, I really enjoy. It gives the relationship enough time to develop platonically before reaching the more physical level. Don't get me wrong, Kei is very physically affectionate. He kisses and touches Yuri all the time, but Yuri doesn't fully reciprocate until later on when he finally understands his feelings for Kei go beyond friendship into something more intimate and romantic.
There is mildly dark familial drama, completely opposed to Kei's personality. As it turns out, part of the reason he is so extroverted and all smiles is because of the hard childhood he had to endure with a broken family and never really having roots anywhere. They often moved, which meant he could never establish long-term friends or lovers, so he's so quick to make friends and integrate himself into whichever place he lives. It's all very superficial, so it hurts less when he has to leave. He also has a level of distrust due to his mother's constant infidelity. He was so used to those fake relationships built on foundations of cardboard that Yuri's honesty and reluctance to fall for his charm pulled him in. It is probably the most honest and authentic relationship he has ever had, which is just so heartrending when you consider all of the people he has encountered in his lifetime. He is the quintessential “the person who smiles the most is often the saddest,” or whatever that corny saying is. This slowly changes from two high school boys fumbling and playing around to one who finally meets someone he wants to be vulnerable with and another who realizes he wants to be home for him. It's beautiful, to say the least.
This is adorably funny, painfully somber at times, but a fluffy journey overall. It has little specks of spice scattered throughout, but that's just a treat added onto a much more emotional story. If you're looking for a smutfest, this isn't for you. But if you're looking for a story with substance and character growth predicated on romance, look no further. This is a great one. I highly recommend it.
Have you read My Beloved North Star? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!