A review of the first volume & first impressions
(NOTE: 18+ 🔞 NSFW review ahead!)
Ladies on Top (Onnanoko ga Daicha Dame desu ka?) by Nejiganameta is the fourth and final launch title of Seven Seas' new Steamship imprint. Launched in May of 2022, Steamship is an all-new imprint dedicated to "sexy romance for women, with manga in the genres of shojo, josei, Teens’ Love, and beyond." The other launch titles were Outbride: Beauty and the Beasts, I'll Never Be Your Crown Princess, and Game: Between the Suits. Serialized in Ura Sunday Jyoshibu, Ladies on Top is a 6-volume rom-com series. Seven Seas describes the story:
Mizuki looks like an ordinary office lady—cute, quiet, and looking for Mr. Right—but while she yearns for love, traditional romances where men take the lead just leave her cold. Then, at the age of 24, Mizuki discovers Shinomiya, a seemingly perfect co-worker who likes aggressive women, and she experiences a fiery awakening. Together, Mizuki and Shinomiya learn that reversing traditional gender roles can be both liberating and exciting!
I'll be honest. When I first heard of this title, my knee-jerk reaction was: "This is some dude-bro shit. BOO!" It also didn't help that people were sharing manga panels and discussing the series under the fan-translated title, "Is It Wrong to Get Done by a Girl?" (or some equivalent/variation of that phrase). Now, astute learners of Japanese would realize that's what the title literally translates to but get real. That title is a walking joke and gives me "Fellas, is it gay that [insert punchline]" hurr-durr meme vibes.
If the manga was still titled "Is It Wrong to Get Done by a Girl?" and I knew nothing about this series, I wouldn't glance at it twice in the store. I bet Seven Seas thought their target audience would act in the same fashion, hence the title change. Just a theory. Even if that wasn't the case (and it's probably not), title changes are not uncommon in publishing. Besides the new title Ladies on Top is snappy and cute and so is the logo.
Anyway, having read the first volume now, I'll say that Ladies on Top is the odd man out of the imprint thus far. If Steamship didn't exist, Ladies on Top would easily fit in the Ghost Ship imprint, and nobody would complain. (At least, I wouldn't, lol.) That is to say, it's a great olive branch, cross-appeal title to recommend shounen/seinen romance readers who enjoy smut. This title is also great for people who enjoy offbeat romcoms like Sweat and Soap by Kintetsu Yamada and wouldn't mind a manga about pegging.
True to its word, Ladies on Top is a manga about "reversing traditional gender roles" and one of those gender roles is "who's on top" in sex, and when I think girls topping guys, my brain thinks "Cowgirl" and positions like that, not penetrating guys. (Why, yes my fave position is Missionary. How can you tell?) So surprise, it's a manga about femdom, and all of this is taken seriously. In short, the series is about a couple overcoming past relationship trauma and navigating a relationship that works for them.
Our protagonists Mizuki and Shinomiya are "not normal" which is emphasized in the very first pages of the book. Before you start the manga, you're greeted with a definition of "sexual intercourse" from the Encyclopedia Britannica, which is hetero-normative. It reads:
The act in which the male reproductive organ enters the female reproductive tract. If the act is completed, sperm cells are passed from the male body into the female, fertilizing the female's egg and forming a new organism.
From there the manga jumps right into a near-naked Shinomiya apologizing to an equally near-naked Mizuki because he can't perform. Instead of being disappointed Mizuki feels excited. From there we flashback to the events leading up to this moment, which happens to be the first failed attempt at sex as a couple and a pseudo awakening for Mizuki. As the first volume unfolds, we quickly learn that Mizuki and Shinomiya have past trauma in the romance department. In Mizuki's case, she doesn't like the "traditional" random acts of affection that guys do like kabedons, head pats, hand feeding food, rubbing crumbs off the face, etc. These acts "make her skin crawl" and make her seem cold to her past suitors.
In his case, Shinomiya had no trouble dating in his youth, but he struggles with dating as an adult because of sex and the expectations that come with it. He got rejected by a past girlfriend who told him he sucked in bed, and to add insult to injury, she saw his phone and his interest in pegging, and she didn't take that revelation well. So, you understand both characters' dilemmas and motivations, and you feel for them. After much fumbling around, Shinomiya decides he can trust Mizuki with his inner desires and asks her to try topping him. She doesn't give him a definitive answer (she's never heard of pegging before), but she also talks about her desires. They communicate. They communicate. Like actual adults. The volume ends with the two coming to an understanding while Shinomiya's phone buzzes with a message from his ex. Could there be trouble on the horizon?
In closing, I'm not as enthusiastic about this series as the other Steamship titles. The characters and art are great. I like seeing Shinomiya lose his cool and blush constantly, and I like seeing Mizuki be cool and aggressive. (I love the rain scene!) I'm just not 100% enthusiastic about the pegging thing. Also, while this is a great first volume, I'm a little wary of how this entire series will play out. Because Ladies on Top is mercifully short and I'm not ready to call it quits yet, I'm going to keep reading, but I won't be the first in line to grab the next volume when it hits store shelves.
So, what do you think? Have you read Ladies on Top? Let me know below or via Twitter @ThatMangaHunter.