Caterpillar Girl and Bad Texter Boy (let’s call it CGBTB, shall we?) is a single volume (or standalone) manga. It was first published in Japanese in 2017, but has only recently (this June, to be exact) been published in English. As such, CGBTB seems to not yet be widely known and cannot be found on MAL’s manga database. Since that’s the case, I’ll briefly summarise its premise to you here! Suzume’s a cute, smart, popular highschool girl, the kind of girl who seems to have it all, whereas her childhood friend, Akane, is brusque, socially awkward, and prefers his own company. Nevertheless, Suzume has loved Akane for a long, long time. So when she finally confesses her feelings to him and is rejected (“You’re too perfect”) she’s devastated! So much so that she feels her only option is to have herself transformed into a monstrous caterpillar creature to try and win Akane’s heart… Naturally!
CGBTB took me by surprise. Its premise is so outlandish that you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s probably some kind of weird (even by Japan’s standards) romcom. But, whilst there were cute and funny moments (who knew that caterpillars could be so moe?), CGBTB was predominantly a moving story full of lessons about love.
The first lesson that CGBTB taught me was that you don’t have to be perfect for somebody to love you. Akane certainly isn’t. By his own admission he’s “kind of messed up”. Ever since his mother walked out on him and his family he’s pushed other people away. Mummy issues aside, he’s not especially handsome, clever, or even kind. So it’s not obvious why Suzume loves him so dearly or why she would go to such absurd lengths for him. The manga does little to clear that up for its readers (not that that’s a problem, as her love for him doesn’t feel anything but heartfelt and sincere). Maybe she sees something in Akane that we don’t? Or maybe she wants to help fix his broken heart? At any rate, should we need a reason to love somebody? Isn’t love something that occurs independent of logic and reasoning? It isn’t something that should be dictated by a set of criteria known as desirable qualities!
The second lesson that CGBTB taught me was that it is possible to love from a place of brokenness. As I already touched upon, Akane has some serious issues. His aversion to other people, something that stems from his troubled relationship with his mother, manifests itself in pretty extreme ways. Nevertheless, when Akane sees the predicament that Suzume is in – she can’t show herself in front of other people and can barely move or feed herself – and realises that this is (partly) his doing, he provides her with food, shelter (if you can call the underside of his bed that), and company. He even does his best to try and keep her clean (you’d get dirty too if you spent all day crawling on your belly)! Whilst it’s obvious that Akane’s behaviour is motivated by guilt, at least to begin with, his actions become increasingly selfless as the manga progresses. He continues to feed Suzume, even when she takes chunks out of his hand, and when her size becomes unmanageable, he takes her to the shrine of Ouga, the god responsible for her transformation. And, even though she terrifies him, he begs for her help, offering hundreds of paper cranes as payment. As a result of all of this Akane comes to realise just how special Suzume is to him. It’s tragic, what had to happen for him to come to this realisation, but, at the same time, it proves that, no matter how badly somebody hurts you, it’s always possible to experience and feel love for another person.
CGBTB’s final lesson is its toughest to swallow: that love can change you for the better, but also for the worst. Akane’s love for Suzume undeniably made him a better person. As I mentioned above, he became more selfless, but he also learned how to trust and open up to other people again. Suzume, on the other hand, suffered irreparable damage as a result of her feelings for Akane. I won’t elaborate on that statement (sorry!), as I would love for you to go away and read the manga, but anyway, her transformation into a caterpillar monster as a metaphor for the transformative capabilities of love, whilst fantastical, is still fitting. Sometimes love makes you do stupid things, things with lasting negative consequences, or sometimes, in the case of an especially harmful relationship, it can leave scars on your behaviour, your physiology, or your thoughts, long after it is over. This isn’t a particularly heartwarming message, granted, but I appreciate CGBTB’s willingness to tackle it head on!
Thank-you for reading my post! I tried to write it without spoiling too much of the manga for you, as I expect many of you have yet to read it! If that’s the case, please go away and do just that! As a standalone manga, CGBTB doesn’t represent a hefty commitment in terms of time/money, but it packs as much of an emotional punch as many of the long-running series that I’ve read! If you do take my advice and give it a read, please pop back and let me know what you thought about it!
It is actually up on MAL, but you know MAL and having to list things in Japanese haha https://myanimelist.net/manga/111983/Imomushi_Shoujo_to_Comyushou_Danshi
But yes, I read this a while ago, and also yep, it’s an unexpected fave! I don’t think I liked how it particularly ended (I didn’t feel like it was executed well), but overall it’s one of the best manga I’ve read this year. Just keeps making me think about a lot of things with relationships and how they can go. Despite the caterpillar girl premise!
Thanks for writing about it! Hope others can give it a shot too.
That’s so strange, because usually, even if you enter the English title into the search bar, it will bring up what you’re looking for, but that wasn’t the case in this instance. Anyway, thanks for bringing that to my attention!
I liked how CGBTB ended, even though it made me super depressed! I think if a book, movie, or show succeeds in making you feel something, even if that something’s sadness, it’s a great piece of fiction. Especially if it’s a book/manga, as it can’t use sound to appeal to your emotions!