Whilst the title might suggest a comedy or circus act, this is in fact the latest romantic comedy manga from Kodansha which is also getting an anime adaptation this month. Desperate for cash, Futaro Uesugi takes on a tutoring gig, but when his students – the five beautiful daughters of a wealthy businessman – find five times the excuses to slack off, what can he do?! At this rate, the sisters won’t graduate, so if he wants to get paid, Futaro must think of a plan to suit each of them… Which feels hopeless when five out of five of them think he’s a loser!
It’s easy to think from the premise that The Quintessential Quintuplets will be a typical comedy harem manga. However, it quickly proves it has a lot more to offer. For one, the series is framed as a flashback where Futaro is about to marry one of the quintuplets and it is not made clear to readers which one he is engaged to. It is of course rather early to know for certain which one it will be, and there isn’t much in the way of romance outside of the flash forward scenes, but it makes for an intriguing hook to discover which one it will be.
Futaro himself is far removed from the usual hapless male protagonists that populate the genre. He possesses some snark and a cynical side that doesn’t allow him to be a complete doormat, whilst not becoming unlikeable at the same time. There are some of the usual misunderstandings that crop up in a series of this kind, but Futaro seems to be fighting these tropes before they can happen. He refuses to be swayed in his initial meeting with quintuplet Itsuki and only pursues the tutoring gig when he is put in a position where he can make his family money. Also, his desperation to avoid a mishap/romance manga cliché involving quintuplet Nino at the end is admirable but ultimately futile.
The quintuplets themselves have more variety than you’d expect character wise. Haruba does a great job planting seeds for development down the line so they avoid becoming one-dimensional stereotypes and all of them play off well against Futaro’s determined/prickly demeanour. This is the same on the art front with the quintuplets all having distinct designs that match their personalities and Futaro having an edge over other male protagonists in this genre.
This romantic comedy manga has far more spark and variety than one would expect and is a promising start to a series which is sure to have significant buzz surrounding starting the year.
The Quintessential Quintuplets 1 is out now from Kodansha Comics (9781632367747, p/b, £9.99)