WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Don’t Blush, Sekime-san! by Shigure Tokita, Nate Derr and Darren Smith, available in English from Manga Plus.
Shueisha's Manga Plus website-app recently published its English translation of Shigure Tokita’s Don’t Blush, Sekime-san! The manga tells the story of a new high school couple, Sekime and Takadono, who both share romantic feelings for one another but are way too shy to express it -- to the point where they can barely look at each other. Thus, their relationship has some pretty extreme boundaries.
But that's fine, sometimes relationships need to move slow. Don’t Blush, Sekime-san!, aside from being plenty sweet and plenty of fun, also shows how romance can blossom in a way that respects everyone's needs.
Sekime is popular and kind to all her classmates, except Takadono. Whenever Takadono spoke to her, she would look away and act cold, always giving the impression that she hated him. But it's the exact opposite. When Takadono sees Sekime sitting at his desk after school, Sekime reveals that she's liked him since the first day of school and that her awkwardness around him is due to her feelings for him. Rather than hating him, Sekime's heart beats so fast around Takadono that she can barely be near him.
Despite this misunderstanding, Sekime and Takadono’s communication is the strongest aspect of their relationship. In Chapter 3, the pair Takadono exchange phone numbers and come to use texting as their main form of communication. Takadono realizes that Sekime still has trouble talking to him in person, and so he decides to make Sekime comfortable by following her pace. Takadono texts her when he wants to spend time or speak with her and generally lets Sekime decide what she can handle, rather than forcing her into situations.
One example of this is in Chapter 6, when Takadono asks Sekime to choose their seats at the movie theater -- which wind up being across the aisle from each other. Takadono takes the necessary baby steps to make Sekime feel comfortable around him. They communicate and clearly express their feelings to each other, but Sekima and Takadon also make small changes in their habits to accommodate one another, making a relationship where a girl actively avoids her boyfriend healthier than it seems.
Make no mistake -- Sekime's limits are definitely extreme: Sekime hides from Takadono at school and, when walking together, keeps about a 10ft. distance from him. Instead of a couple walking together, it looks more like Sekime is stalking Takadono, as she ducks behind trees and telephone poles to avoid eye contact. From the outside, they don’t seem like a couple at all. But Sekime expresses that she keeps her distance because she feels like her heart will burst whenever she's around Takadono. Sekime’s antics are hilarious because she goes to the extreme to avoid “closeness” even though she's extremely fond of Takadono. Yet, in their own way, this is just the love language between Sekime and Takadono: keeping their distance is their way of showing love and respect for each other.
In most romance manga, love and affection are shown with physical intimacy, like with the infamous -- but popular -- “kabedon” often seen in shojo series, where the male character corners the female character against a wall, like a mouse in a trap. Most male protagonists in romance manga use an aggressive approach to win the heart of a girl.
However, in Don’t Blush, Sekime-san!, Takadono already has her heart and he uses a much gentler approach to earn Sekime’s closeness. Don’t Blush, Sekime-san! is a refreshing reminder that it’s okay to go slow when you are in a relationship, which is something we don’t often see in romance manga.