Comics/Graphic Novels

Manga (and Comics) Cinnamon Roll Smackdown

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S.W. Sondheimer

Staff Writer

When not prying Legos and gaming dice out of her feet, S.W. Sondheimer is a registered nurse at the Department of Therapeutic Misadventures, a herder of genetic descendants, cosplayer, and a fiction and (someday) comics writer. She is a Yinzer by way of New England and Oregon and lives in the glorious 'Burgh with her husband, 2 smaller people, 2 cats, a fish, and a snail. She occasionally tries to grow plants, drinks double-caffeine coffee, and has a habit of rooting for the underdog. It is possible she has a book/comic book problem but has no intention of doing anything about either. Twitter: @SWSondheimer

We were hanging around the virtual Book Riot water cooler the other day and someone mentioned they’d love to see a post featuring literary cinnamon rolls. I, as a consumer of growing quantities of manga and manhua (and a few American comics that have learned of the differences from their brethren) immediately asked, “Okay, but what kind?” Because if you, too, have fallen into the gloriously wide and deep world of the aforementioned, you know that there are, in fact, many varieties of cinnamon roll.

I could write quippy little biographies of a few select bebes. Or I could pit them against each other in adorable grudge matches to give you a better idea of the range within each category and introduce you to even more delightful boys who are each, in there own way, trying real hard.

Yes. The second one. Let’s do that.

The Pure Cinnamon Rolls: Nakayama Haruki vs. Adachi Kyoshi

Haruki (Given by Natsuki Kizu)

Haruki may have cut his hair at the end of Given Vol. 4 but he will always be my sweet ponytail son and I will steamroll anyone who hurts him, I am watching you, manga Akihko (anime Akihiko is already dead and they will never find his body). Here’s the thing that makes this sweet bean special: many of his brethren are able to be kind and gentle because they’re naïve. Haruki knows exactly how the world works. It’s hurt him. It’s scarred him. And he still chooses to be kind and gentle and forgiving. That doesn’t mean he’ll take infinite abuse; he sets limits and he stands by them. But he doesn’t have a mean or jaded bone in his entire body and that’s pretty damn remarkable.

Adachi Kyoshi (Cherry Magic by Yuu Toyota)

Adachi. Oh, Adachi. He likes to think he’s a surly Emo Misanthrope but surly emo misanthropes do not uses phrases like “emotionally loaded pajamas.” The truth is he’s a really good guy who thinks worthiness is tied to romantic and sexual experience and the fact that at 30 he hasn’t found the right person means he’s a failure rather than considering, for half a second, that the right person hasn’t been lucky enough to find him.

He has no self-worth but sees the value in everyone else. He lacks confidence but knows exactly what to say to boost the confidence of others at their lowest. He can’t understand how Kurosawa can possibly love him (despite being able to read Kurosawa’s actual mind) but sees all the ways Kurosawa is easy to love even without magical powers.

He is so busy seeing everyone else, he forgets to see himself. That’s about as sweet, selfless, and cinnamon as you can get.

Winner: Tie.

Don’t @ me, I refuse to break either of these hearts.

The Secret Cinnamon Roll: Tanaka Ryunosuke vs. Kirishima Ejiro

I could also have called this category “My Favorite Himbo.” These two look scary and they can definitely hold their own when they’re doing so in defense of people they care about, or completely innocent strangers, but in their chests beat hearts of marshmallow.

Tanaka Ryunosuke (Haikyu!! by Haruichi Furudate)

Tanaka is the first to jump between any of his teammates and a perceived threat, be that threat of the physical or psychological variety, and he’s carefully cultivated his look and his rep to match his propensity for going from 0 to 80k decibel profanity in half a second. He’s also the first in to encourage a friend if they’re nervous or make a mistake, and the first one to ask forgiveness if the error is his. A master of figuring out what’s going to get under someone’s skin, he’s also careful to only poke the bear when the other person is in the proper frame of mind to take it as a catalyst and is also king of knowing when to wave other people off.

The fact of the matter is, Tanaka has an inherent senses of sportsmanship, fairness, and right/wrong. He might enjoying giggling when Kageyama loses his shit over not being able to decide what he wants from the vending machine, but he would take a volleyball to the face, or a bullet, for the guy, anyone else on his team, and probably his worst enemy if it came down to it.

Kirishima Ejiro (My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi)

Kirishima, like Tanaka, built his image deliberately after he decided to try for UA’s prestigious hero program. The shark teeth (he has actual shark teeth where Tanaka’s are symbolic) didn’t hurt and neither does his quirk: the ability to harden his skin into what is essentially jagged rocks. He also spends a lot of time talking about what is and isn’t “manly,” which on the surface makes him sound like a dude-bro, and his willingness to throw himself into physical altercations would seem to reinforce that. If you listen to what Kirishima actually says though, when he says “manly,” he actually means “kind” and “generous” and “selfless.” Chivalry minus the misogynistic bullshit. He’s friends with everyone in class 1-A, no matter their background or who else they happen to be friends with. He is relentlessly patient with class pain-in-ass Bakugo Katsuki, seeing, where many others fail, beneath Lord Explosion Murder’s thorny exterior to the frustrated, hurt, damaged, desperate kid beneath. Kirishima sets himself up to be that friend, sticking around with a grin and an eyeball when Bakugo tries to shove him away (sometimes literally).

Winner: Kirishima

But only because Karasuno problem child Kageyama hops the “I should also probably make an effort” train a little more quickly than Bakugo does.

The Cinnamon Roll Who Could Kill You With One Finger But Probably Won’t: The Immortal Dragon/Tatsu vs. Jack Zimmerman

In normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be a contest because Tatsu is a former Yakuza assassin and his astronomical body count is evidence enough that even a badass hockey player wouldn’t stand a chance. However. Tatsu met a nice girl, fell in love, and left that life behind to make Instagram-worthy bento boxes and challenge the robot vacuum to cleaning contests, so all bets are off. Ish. He does do yoga with the neighborhood ladies. Also people keep trying to kill him while he’s grocery shopping so the reflexes are still on point.

The Immortal Dragon/Tatsu (The Way of The Househusband by Kousuke Oono)

Tatsu really loves his wife. He’ll hop on his bike and bring her lunch when she forgets the one he made her. He buys her figurines from her favorite anime if they’re in the budget. He can get any stain out of her favorite blouse, even (especially) blood. He can make all of her favorite dishes and knows how to set up a spa in the house. When she and Tatsu’s best friend make a total disaster of the birthday party they’re trying to throw him, he fixes it and thanks them for the effort. When one of his former Yakuza buddies decides to follow him out of the life, Tatsu teaches him how to keep house, including the secrets of rice cooker bread. I cannot wait for this man and his wife to have children because oh my goodness, Papa Tatsu with kid in carrier, fighting off the old rivals who keep trying to off him (he has not killed a single one of them since retiring, only maimed and not even particularly badly) while juggling baby bottle, milk, and eggs, infant screaming with laughter. (Please note: I do not think parenthood is integral to every adult’s experience, I just want to see Tatsu dad it up.)

Tatsu is confident enough in himself and his abilities to know he doesn’t have to kill anyone anymore. There’s no doubt he still could. But he doesn’t have to. There’s also the fact that he made a promise and he is, despite a criminal past, a man of his word. Very manly, as Kirishima would say. Very manly, indeed.

Jack Zimmerman (Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu)

Jack. Also pretty manly kissing Bittle on a giant stage during the broadcast of a sport that hasn’t always been welcoming to LGBTQIA+ players. He’s also overcome serious anxiety and other mental health issues, gotten his shit together, and reentered a milieu that isn’t big on second chances. He’s a person who has chosen the harder path, one where his pretty face and imposing physique are going to open doors but aren’t going to protect him from whispers and there’s only so much weight even a broad pair of shoulders can bear.

Despite all of that, he makes room for love. And room for mistakes and reassessment. Does that mean he won’t shove you into the boards? It does not. Does it mean he won’t loom over your ass or that he couldn’t grind your bones? Nah. But he probably won’t. At least not off the ice. Because for a relatively young human, he’s lived a lot. He knows the world can be mean and it takes some people longer than others to find the things that really make the beautiful things.

Unless you’re a homophobic twatsicle. And if you are then you deserve it.

Winner: Tatsu

Tatsu wins by a hair. Jack had to work really hard but, in fairness, he was never an actual murderer and no one has tried to kill him recently. Three guys tried to gun Tatsu down while he was at the corner store grabbing the last head of bargain cabbage and he limited himself to throwing hands in retaliation. Tatsu and Jack would probably get each other, though.

The Cinnamon Roll Who Will Continue To Cinnamon Roll While They Kill You: Iida Tensei vs. Victor Nikiforv

I’m borrowing Victor from his anime here because he’s just…so perfect for this one and look, he and Tensei even have the same smile. Isn’t it cute? It is. And it will keep being cute while they respectively beam at your while you bleed out on the floor.

Iida Tensei (My Hero Academia: Vigilantes by Hideyuki Furuhashi)

We know Tensei’s brother Iida Tenya from the trunk My Hero Academia timeline and he is a very good boy; follows the rules, likes his schedule, is most comfortable when things go as planned. Tensei, who we see only very briefly after a tragedy in Tenya’s world, is very much…none of those things. He, like his brother, is a complete sweetheart, but he is 100% extrovert and a rule bender, if occasionally outright breaker. Unlike many pro-heroes in the MHA universe, he doesn’t automatically discount folx with less flashy, more practical quirks; he, in fact, recruits them into his agency as sidekicks and makes them part of his team. His goal, every time he goes on a hero mission, is to save as many lives as possible, and another thing that differentiates him from other heroes is that he doesn’t mind sharing the glory or even giving it away entirely.

He also isn’t concerned about his image, in that he’ll save those lives by any means necessary. He’ll partner up with illegal vigilante heroes, do bodily harm to villains, and even go so far as to kill if he has to. He’ll apologize while he does it and probably feel bad but in the end, the ends justify the means, so he won’t be too broken up about it.

Victor Nikiforv (Yuri!!! on Ice)

Victor is so moved by Yuri’s performance of his old routine and the adorable Japanese skater’s drunken plea for him to move to Japan and coach him that he risks his own career by taking a year off to actually do it. He’s a man who, instead of getting frustrated when he doesn’t understand his skater (boyfriend), takes the time to get to know him, to ask his loved ones about him, to analyze and asses. To learn and to try again if his tactic proves sub-optimal. He loves hard and dreams big and feels deeply. He has no qualms about crying in front of other people if emotion warrants it. And that smile…that smile has launched at least a million fanfics.

The thing about loving hard, though, is that you tend to do everything else hard as well, including protect hard. And while I’m not sure Victor would kill someone for himself, I’m pretty sure if someone even had a nasty thought about a member of his found family (yes, Yurio too), he’d use that famous smile to draw them in and then keep smiling while he cut their throat with his skate blade.

Winter: Victor Nikiforov

Because he wouldn’t just do it, he’d enjoy it.

Ta da! There you have it. Four flavors, three winners, and two hearts I just can’t break. I love them all. I hope you will too.