There's no greater pain in the world than having a lover. After all, when you're romantically involved with someone, you have to go on dates and cuddle with them, which takes away from all your gaming time. That's why Kai Nakamura is perfectly fine with devoting his heart and soul solely to games and anime and sharing that love with his bestie, Jun Miyakawa. And then his junior coworker, Kotobuki Hotei, asks him out on a date. Suddenly, Kai finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place, his decisions being to accept Kotobuki as his girlfriend or keep his gaming time with Jun.
Translation is tricky business, doubly so when one language has a unique dialogue system. In the original Japanese, Kotobuki's formal speech is a matter of swapping out the suffixes to verbs, but in English, she speaks like she's a transposed Victorian time traveler. It's one part odd hearing teenagers talk like they're rehearsing for the school play's theater adaptation of Dicken's Great Expectations, and it's three parts hilarious. Makes me wonder how far into a relationship they would take their dialect. Would they drop it after the first kiss, or would they take it to their bed? “M'lady, would it be to your satisfaction if I pollinate your garden with mine white seed?” and she replies, “Yes, I would very much appreciate that. Please ensure that you moan as you do so.”
This volume reveals a second trait of Kotobuki, that she's unbearably cute. She's also an otaku and has steel-cast resolve, but more vitally, she's adorable beyond comparison. First off, she's an anime character. Of course she's adorable. An artist doesn't need to dress one up as a screwdriver to make them a head-turner. Secondly, it's just plain annoying to hear after the sixty-seventh time. If I wanted to hear the same comment repeated infinitely, I would get a job as a door greeter for the winter and listen to every customer exclaim in shock how cold it is. And thirdly and more of note, it's a massive tattle of what this series values in a female. Sure, pretty girls are pretty swell, but there's more to a girl than inheriting her parents' superior genes. Looks are just the hook. No romantic will hang onto their catch if she has the personality of a tuna. If all it took to win Kai over was a lovely face, he would've touched more than Jun's right breast when she gave him the offer.
Kai and Kotobuki get along partly because they're coworkers and you tend to befriend people you're in proximity with on a regular basis, and partly because they're both anime lovers. They and Jun bond over their love of all things otaku, but there's this dissonance where they exist in our world and therefore discuss shows like Demon Slayer yet act like anime characters themselves, much like the cast from The Sidekick Never Gets the Girl, Let Alone the Protag's Sister! In one scene, Kai leaves his bedroom for a moment and returns to find Jun shirtless and Kotobuki wide-eyed at her baby whale-sized jugs. It's a depiction of our world so disconnected and lacking in self-awareness that I can't tell if I'm peering into a dimension parallel to ours, one which sits two levels below ours, one that's on the opposite side of our anime, and I think I'd have an easier time trying to understand a tesseract.
I concluded my review of volume one by snarkily remarking that all the side characters would get mad that Kai's cheating on his not-girlfriend Jun, and to my great disappointment, my soothsaying prowess is in need of refurbishing, because no such thing happens. Well, there is one moment where Jun's haughty friend, Bitch McQueen, gets on Kai's case, but after reminding her that Jun's just a friend, she goes, “Oh, yeah, that's right,” before vanishing into a void. Much as I would've loved the “I told you so” bragging rights, I also would've loved if this volume had something of dramatic worth. Kai and his two gal pals might have a blast playing video games and cosplaying, but all they do is comment, “You do this thing in this game” and “That costume looks lit on you,” so where's the fun for me? How am I, the pair of eyeballs gazing down at their prose world, supposed to enjoy reading about random cosplay? They're in a mansion, in the middle of nowhere, with no adult supervision. Either a crazed murderer should break in or one of the girls should bring up the vibrator she brought along.
She's the Hottest, But We're Just Friends is a snore to sit through. It has some amusing lines, but the plot structure follows a flat trajectory, and I could fly out to the American Midwest and find a greater rise. I'll spend hours listening to others espouse their opinions on a given work of fiction, but there's little joy derived from watching Kai and the girls do the same, because what they offer is merely filler. None of their commentary adds any value to an IP, so it's a total waste of time listening to them talk. I'd have more fun playing Monster Hunter with a migraine than I did reading about them playing Monster Hunter or dressing up as Danmachi characters or staring at each other's tits.