Written by kriptonima April 25, 2007
Cute, with a mix of violence and humor.
Basic plot summary:
Secret Connection (a.k.a., Noodle Shop Affair) is about Ukyo Tatsumori, heir to the Tatsumori family (a yakuza group) who falls in love with Kakeru, the son of a ramen shop owner. However, the ramen shop has come under some hard times and is frequently harassed by a rival yakuza gang. This has caused the young Kakeru to hate all yakuza. What's the poor Ukyo Tatsumori to do? Well nothing wins the heart of the one you love like dirtying yourself up and pretending to be a homeless beggar! The naive Kakeru, not recognizing "Ukyo" for the yakuza he really is, lets him take a job at the shop.
Review (no spoilers):
This review covers volume one of the English-language release by Deux (titled "Noodle Shop Affair"). Although the story does contain some dark elements (kidnapping, bloodshed, etc...) the overall atmosphere is very lighthearted and mostly comedic. The majority of the plot can be summed up in two scenarios: 1) "Ukyo" working beside Kakeru and dealing with his suppressed desire, and 2) Ukyo Tatsumori showing up at convenient times to save Kakeru's cute little butt from harassing yakuza.
Noodle Shop Affair doesn't add anything new to the yakuza genre, but does have some amusing moments. The characters are likeable. Kakeru is your typical slender, pretty uke who's a little (okay, a lot) on the naive side. However, there is a mix of sweetness and bite to his personality which keeps his character from getting annoying (which can sometime happen with these types of ukes). Kakeru doesn’t want to play the part of the maiden in need of rescue. If he had it his way he’d save his father’s shop all by himself. Ukyo in his beggar persona is rather goofy and a bit shy. As his normal yakuza self he's a smooth, tough guy, following more along the lines of the stereotypical mobster/seme.
In the end you find the characters growing on you and hope for the best for them. The art is good. Not the best, but still good. As for sex scenes, there are none in the first volume so I have no clue how graphic this story will be later on. There is some minor nudity, a flash of butt here and there. Nothing extreme.
Overall, the manga doesn't take itself too serious. If you are looking for a story that's more on the side of cute and funny with the occasional fight scene, then I recommend this. Just keep in mind that some of the scenes do require a small stretch of belief. Even in the author's note CJ Michalski mentions her "liberal" take on the yakuza. So look for this title if you are in the mood for something with a mafia theme that's not too heavy, and will leave a smile on your face.