This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Sweat and Soap. 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 bullying and sexual assault as it appears in the manga.
Asako works at a toiletry manufacturing company in the finance department, which is convenient since she struggles with something that makes life pretty tricky: sweat. Asako sweats much more than average, so she has to be extra hygienic to avoid smelling out in public. Even with her above-average hygiene habits, though, Asako still finds herself stressing over her smell. As a child, she was relentlessly bullied for sweating, and that trauma has carried over into her adulthood. So, her days are spent in constant anxiety and fear over getting too close to those around her and becoming the laughingstock of her peers due to her hygiene.
Her fears come to a head when the lead product developer Kotaro Natori at work approaches her in the lobby because of her smell. He has an unnaturally strong sense of smell because he develops the soaps their company produces, and Asako's scent is particularly strong to him. However, he doesn't dislike her smell at all. Instead, he is inspired by it, and he desperately needs Asako's odor to inspire him for the upcoming Winter line of soaps he is preparing to present. Though Asako wants to do anything but let Kotaro smell her all day, for the company's sake, she agrees to let Kotaro smell her at the office daily. It's not long, though, before Kotaro is drawn to Asako for more than just her smell, and even Asako is beginning to enjoy these sniff sessions a bit more than she expected.
First off, the unthinkable has occurred. I have found a male lead that I don't think is actually my type. Shocking, I know, seeing as my type is typically just every male lead. Don't get me wrong, I do think he is cute, but there is something about him that doesn't check those boxes for me. He is super sweet, caring, and cute, though, so you more than likely won't be disappointed by any means. I wasn't disappointed despite not being immediately infatuated with him.
While I wasn't immediately attracted to the male lead, I fell in love with the main protagonist, Asako. I, too, struggle with sweating. I have overactive sweat glands, so when she talked about doing her best not to be active, constantly wiping herself down, trying all kinds of different soaps, sprays, and deodorants to hide her smell… I felt that on a deep level. I still struggle with that today. I, thankfully, did not have to deal with the bullying she did, but even so, her struggle just made all of her trials and tribulations so much more realistic for me. Many people will probably read her story and find her to be overdramatic, but I can't express enough how mentally debilitating something like this is. You can't be comfortable because you constantly check that you aren't sweating. I avoid hugging people or standing too close to people in public because I am terrified that I might sweat and gross them out. I felt very seen with this story.
Now, let me talk about how much I love these two together. Something that usually gets old really fast is the build-up to the couple getting together. I feel like a lot of romances rely on unrequited love or the whole “will they or won't they” scenario, but that is not the case here. Instead, they got together fairly quickly, which was super refreshing. All of the tension is centered around their insecurities and dreams for the relationship, which is super wholesome and just enough drama to keep it interesting without being melodramatic. It really hits that sweet spot for me.
I did mention I didn't think our male lead, Kotaro, was my type, but that doesn't mean he isn't fantastic. He loves Asako for the one thing she is insecure about: her smell. I loved that so much. It never really occurred to me how intimate the act of smelling someone is, and while I thought it was a little weird to begin with, I found myself really enjoying those moments when Kotaro simply held Asako and smelled her. I'd be lying if I said I didn't find myself hunting down my husband and giving him a good smell down after reading this. I totally get it now.
Overall, this is a super wholesome story with some excellent sexy time sprinkled through. We get to see this couple start from strangers to a couple, to newlyweds, all the way up to parents. I love long-winded romances, and this definitely ticked those boxes for me. Drama is not the name of the game here, so if you are looking for super intense love triangles and tension based on misunderstandings, you will probably be disappointed. However, if you want some wholesomeness with real character growth, you can't go wrong here. I highly recommend it.
Have you read Sweat and Soap? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!