What Lies Beneath
Love 365 had a whole bunch of stories for free to celebrate their anniversary, among them Sera Hidetaka’s from After School Affairs. Hidetaka looks like your run-of-the-mill, charming outside, rotten inside, manipulative bastard. Needless to say, I must have a look.
Our MC is to be the assistant of homeroom teacher Mr. Sera. She is excited about this, because Mr. Sera – who was raised in England – is the perfect gentleman and a popular teacher. He is gallant to a fault; not only does he deflect the headmistress’ negative attention away from the MC, he also volunteers to speak to Mrs. Toralis, a disgruntled former employee who storms in demanding an explanation for her dismissal. And he is an excellent teacher, engaging the students and winning the hearts of a difficult class in just one lesson.
After Hidetaka wows the MC and his new students, she asks him for guidance on teaching methods and he offers to meet up with her on the weekend. When he doesn’t show up on time, she steps into the hallway to see him have a discussion with an unknown person. This is how she finds out that he is, in fact, “H. Sera”, the famous translator she admires so much. Since he was just handed a document with a tight deadline, he asks her if she would mind helping him translate this modern adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet”. Specifically, he asks her to translate a love letter from Juliet to Romeo into a more modern voice. When he reads the document, he seems very impressed with the MC’s work.
A few days later, the MC overhears Hidetaka speak to Mrs. Toralis, with whom he had agreed to meet. The MC is shocked to hear Hide tell Mrs. Toralis that she and the other former teachers of KHS, the boys’ school, might have a claim to a wrongful dismissal suit. After she leaves, emboldened by his advice, he immediately makes a phone call, telling an undisclosed party that their plan of ousting the headmistress is coming to fruition.
The MC, deeply troubled by what she heard, decides to confront Hidetaka. He, however, has foreseen just such a situation: he made her translate that love letter so that he could use it as leverage against her if the need arose, claiming that it was a real love letter the MC had sent to him. He wastes no time calling it her “slave contract”; from this point on, all his pretense falls away, and he’s making her do all his work for him, and using her to advance his plan of goading the fired teachers into suing the school for their wrongful termination.
Things spiral out of control rather quickly, though: instead of the desired lawsuit, the fired teachers of KHS stage a protest in front of the school where Mr. Kagari gets injured. As a result, the press are now besieging the school. Just as things are starting to quiet down again, somebody leaks a past scandal to the press. Was it Hidetaka, in his effort to get rid of the headmistress?
Obviously, the MC is very taken with Hidetaka, just to be bitterly disappointed when he shows his ostensibly true colours. Fortunately, he is a bit more complex than that, which she comes to realise rather quickly. What is happening here is two people approaching each other cautiously and somewhat despite themselves. There are glimpses of things lying beneath Hide’s façade from the very beginning, and his defensive mechanisms become obvious rather quickly.
The MC is insecure, which she often is. But she is also angry when appropriate, and none too forgiving or understanding of his treatment of her. On top of that, she is fierce when she knows she’s right, and absolutely undeterred in her general attitude towards humanity in general and Hide in particular. She can be a little bit silly, and she certainly is slightly star-struck in the beginning, but her judgement and her sense of justice are indomitable.
Since only his main story was free, I didn’t check out any of his other stuff. I might do so in the future.
The Love Meter
Ah, look at this, I’m usually so good with the assholes, and this is no exception. I ended up far into the Amorous Ending territory with no problem at all. Since both endings could be viewed for free, though, I checked out both. The Amorous Ending has a grand gesture, but displeased me with Hide’s “tricking” the MC into confessing her feelings and then not confessing his. He is the Incorrigible Tease archetype, but I would really have appreciated a more heartfelt ending for the both of them. In the Climactic Ending, there is a different kind of gesture, and a different kind of tricking the MC. That’s a bit disappointing. The clandestine kiss behind the teacher’s podium is kinda cute, though.
Initially, I was furious with Hidetaka/the writers for using such a lame-ass, antiquated method for blackmailing the MC. It relies on a society where women’s perceived honour and emotionality are constantly used against them. It also made me mad as hell that he would use the threat of the letter to make her do menial labour. Like, really? Wouldn’t you want to use something dire like this for more worthy endeavours?
What is interesting about the series in general, though, is it often addresses larger issues. It turns out that Hide has very, very good reasons to want to get rid of the headmistress of the school, and he has already tried the “honourable” approach to solve a problem. Generally speaking, the characters involved here are all complex and therefore interesting. While his blackmail of the MC is unnecessarily heavy-handed, we also see him coming around. I was put out a bit by the ending – is it so hard to get a genuine moment out of a guy like that? Pity, really. All in all, though, I liked his story. It’s a more than solid effort.