Manga Spotlight: Cactus’s Secret

Cactus’s Secret is a four volume shojo manga series by Nana Haruta. The series was published in North America by VIZ Media’s Shojo Beat imprint.

Cactus’s Secret
Written by: Nana Haruta
Publisher: Shueisha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Dates: March 2-December 7, 2010

The main character is Miku Yamada, and she’s a first-year high school student. She’s had a crush on her classmate, Kyohei Fujioka, since middle school. However, she hasn’t admitted her feelings to him.

Back in middle school, Fujioka was a rebellious kid and he bleached his hair. However, he’s no longer rebellious and he’s no longer bleaching his hair. Unfortunately, Fujioka isn’t doing well in school, and he’s rather clueless.

Yamada decides that she’s going to try to confess her feelings to Fujioka.  However, even though Yamada acts in a way where people would figure out what she’s trying to do, Fujioka is so clueless that he doesn’t realize it. Yamada becomes frustrated with how clueless Fujioka is, and she can act rather prickly toward him.

Over the course of the series, the relationship between these two characters changes, and it ultimately leads to a relationship. However, there are obstacles and tensions that come in their way. Which makes sense, since there wouldn’t be a story without some kind of conflict.

But after I finished reading Cactus’s Secret, it felt like this was a typical shojo series that checked off most, if not all, of the checkboxes for shojo tropes. It’s not that this is a bad series, but to me, there really wasn’t much to make this story stand out from many other shojo manga set in high school and featuring teenagers. Admittedly, I’m not in the target market for this title, but I have appreciated similar shojo manga in the past because those titles included more “meat” to flesh out the characters and the story. To me, A Devil and Her Love Song is a great example of a shojo title that takes the high school setting and teenage characters and adds layers that help to make it a more interesting and memorable series.

Not only does this series check off all the checkboxes for shojo tropes when it comes to the writing, it also does the same when it comes to the characters and to the art. Again, I’m not saying that the art is bad, there’s just nothing to make it stand out from other similar series. To use A Devil and Her Love Song as an example again, the female protagonist (Maria) has a very different design to her than one would normally expect from a shojo heroine. Miku, Kyohei, and the other characters in Cactus’s Secret, however, feel more generic in their design and could easily fit in with other characters from any number of other shojo manga titles.

In the end, I think it’s a good thing that Haruta ended the series when she did. However, I was a little disappointed in the ending, because there were some loose ends that existed at the end of the story. It should be pointed out that the fourth and final volume of Cactus’s Secret had to include two side stories, a non-related one shot and a small bit from the author in order to get it an acceptable publication length. The one shot that was included here was decent, but it suffers from the same generic feel that Cactus’s Secret does.

In my opinion, Cactus’s Secret would be a decent series to introduce someone new to shojo manga, as a kind of “my first shojo” manga series. It would definitely have a stronger appeal to younger readers or to readers who don’t have much familiarity with shojo yet.

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