You know, I was expecting this manga to be some witty, zany romance considering the uhhh title and premise and instead I got a really dark romance with a theme about obsessive love.
Caterpillar Girl and Bad Texter Boy is a relatively recent published manga that I don’t think a lot of people have heard of.
The manga is only eight chapters composed into one volume. When I was looking the manga up online what I found interesting is that the one and only genre it’s categorized under is romance. And while yeah, ultimately this is a romance story, there’s definitely some dark supernatural elements as well. [update: this manga is now on mangafox and it IS categorized under supernatural and psychological as well as romance]
I tried to find some information on the manga author, who goes by “Sanzo” and nothing else, but I couldn’t find anything other than he has written a manga before this one called “My Girlfriend is a T-Rex”, which seems a lot lewder than Caterpillar Girl- it’s also a volume longer. I guess he likes the monster girl subgenre. Other than that, I couldn’t find out much about Sanzo.
Alright enough of the background stuff, what is Caterpillar Girl and Bad Texter Boy actually about?
Well, it’s about two childhood friends that seem to be opposites in just about every way. And what each gets from their relationship is very different. We have Suzume Kikuo, who was beloved by everyone she knew, beautiful, smart, and in love with her childhood friend Akane. Akane was self-loathing, a loner, insecure, and constantly compared himself to Suzume. In the very first page, he says in narration that “Suzume had everything I didn’t”. This all leads to what I said about what each character gets from being around the other. Suzume has a crush on Akane so we can assume his presence makes her feel happy. Akane on the other hand…
Whenever he was with her he felt so miserable he wanted to die. That’s a pretty extreme way to feel by merely being around someone. And can I also add that the way he rejects Suzume’s feelings is really harsh? Not only does he respond to her request to be his girlfriends with “Hunh? No way.” but he then continues to say “If I were to go out with someone perfect like you, Suzume…it’d probably be really hard on me…” And that’s just…a really fucked up thing to say to someone who put themselves out there and confessed romantic feelings towards you. Akane made it all about himself despite Suzume being the one with these feelings. And you see his self-loathing nature to cause him to be self-centered and selfish (I’ve said ‘self’ way too many times in this sentence) a lot more times throughout the series. And the story addresses how this negatively affects those around him. So much so the Suzume turns herself into a caterpillar, bringing us to the premise of the story.
Suzume turns herself into a caterpillar as a means to get Akane to accept her feelings for him. She strips herself of her beauty and “perfectness” all for Akane, thinking he’ll be able to be with her if she’s more miserable than he is.
This brings me to the theme of obsessive love in this story. Or even how Suzume’s caterpillar form symbolizes obsessive love.
After this turn of events, Akane will continuously ask Suzume why she likes him- why does she like him enough to turn herself into this ugly creature? And she never really gives him an answer. In fact, I don’t think even Suzume understood why her feelings for him were so strong.
Something to consider about Suzume’s caterpillar form is that while she made the decision and purposefully became a caterpillar, the consequences that come after that are not things she wanted. She begins to hate being outside and just wants to stay inside in the dark, she was no longer reliable like Akane described her, she loses her ability to taste food, she can no longer do basic things like fold clothes or pick things up. Sure she gave up being a human, but along with that, she lost even more of herself.
And what Suzume says in that last panel is right. She only continues to lose more of herself, sometimes losing all control of her caterpillar form and not being able to speak or anything. Still, at this point in the story, Akane doesn’t think he’s good enough for Suzume.
Later in the story, Akane finds a way to turn Suzume back into her human form, but only for a temporary amount of time- she’s still a caterpillar. Think of it as a disguise. However, even when she’s in her human form- she’s been a caterpillar for so long at this point that she can’t read or write. Akane also describes her as not being the same happy girl at school she used to be.
Suzume’s love for Akane was to an obsessive point where she willingly gave up a huge part of herself to gain his acceptance. And before she knew it she was losing more and more of what made her-her, not even being able to help it. And in the end, when he finally reciprocated her feelings, she was only a shell of what she used to be. Her human form was just that, a form. It was now a fake version of herself. You see what I mean when I say this was dark?
Now I don’t blame this all on Akane. Suzume is ultimately the one who turned herself into a caterpillar. Akane is… a very distressed person. He lacks any sort of self-worth. That, on top of the guilt from Suzume turning into a caterpillar for him (which he sees as because of him) really messes with him. I mean imagine not seeing anything worthwhile in yourself while also seeing someone give up themselves for you- it would feel very conflicting. He’s so blinded by his own self-hate that he’s incapable of understanding Suzume’s feelings, which I think in the end will only lead him to hate himself even more.
In the end, both characters are hurting each other. And yet they end up together in the end.
This really was a bizarre story, but not at all in the way I was expecting. I did not expect it to be this dark. Then again, I really have a knack for unintentionally finding dark/depressing books/movies/series. I wish I knew how to break the curse.
Would I recommend this? Yeah sure. It’s relatively short and it’s interesting. I could see some people not enjoying it, however.