Like many adolescent girls, Ai is simultaneously obsessed with and terrified by the idea of losing her virginity. Apparently virginity is at a premium in Japan—in Doubt!! girls mock those who haven’t ‘given it up,’ while frowning upon those who ‘give it away’ too easily.
This dynamic becomes a huge part of Ai’s life when she falls for the dashing Sō Ichinose, a bizarrely charming blonde bishounen who alternately defends Ai’s honor and embarrasses her in public. Sō is constantly accompanied by the hapless Yuichiro Kato, his best friend since elementary school.
Though clearly the ‘better choice,’ Yuichiro isn’t bold enough to make a move on Ai, and is forced to play second fiddle to Sō. Meanwhile, Ai’s new best friend Mina Sato, a gregarious, oversexed ganguro girl, futilely struggles to get Yuichiro’s attention. (Attempting to rape him during study hall probably wasn’t the best move.) There’s also a sadistic student teacher, Chiharu, who has a mysterious sexual past with Sō.
Ah, young love…
As expected, most of Doubt!! centers around Ai’s efforts to attract Sō’s attention, while hiding her nerdish past from her new classmates. While unbelievable at times—when was the last time students from your high school were randomly recruited to be fashion models? Or transformed their homeroom into a sexy ‘host club?’—the book offers a surprisingly astute commentary on high school politics, adolescent sexuality, and the superficial nature of teenage popularity. The Doubt!! in the title refers to Ai’s constant confusion about her place in high school society, where she stands with Sō, and the disconnect between her ‘nerdy’ interior life and ‘popular’ exterior appearance. Basically, Doubt!! is a wacky, often touching, always entertaining Japanese version of Beverly Hills: 90210, with an expertly drawn cast, and surprising plot twists. It feeds the same need as a soap opera, without the embarrassment. Recommended for anyone who enjoyed Ranma 1/2, or similar romantic comedy manga/anime.