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"Back then I never knew what this flower was called... all I wanted was to get a closer look. But this flower would never let me get close to it..."
Stepping On Roses (Hadashi De Bara Wo Fume, literally translated as Stepping On Roses Barefoot) is a romance drama written by Rinko Ueda. Originally published in the Shoujo manga magazine Margaret from 2007 to 2012, the series received an English language release starting in April of 2010 by publisher Viz Media.
Fifteen year old Sumi Kitamura was the eldest girl in a family of six orphaned children living in Japan during the Meiji era. She spent her days with her younger adopted siblings, doing what she could to care for them in a household with little food and less money to buy it with. Making matters worse was her elder brother Eisuke, a playboy who not only gambled away what little money he managed to earn, but also had a habit of bringing home any abandoned young children he could find. With an ever increasing burden and a family spiraling deeper into debt that she had no means of repaying, Sumi was left with little hope for the future.
Those last shreds of hope were quickly dashed when an enraged debt collector burst into their home one night demanding to find Eisuke, who the man had just caught attempting to seduce his wife. Seeing that Eisuke was nowhere to be found, the man kidnapped Sumi’s younger siblings, declaring that she could have them back when she repaid Eisuke’s debt of two thousand yen (the equivalent of three million yen in modern times.) In desperation Sumi decided to sell her body, though she quickly found that no one was willing to pay such a price. It was then that she met a well-dressed and obviously wealthy stranger by the name of Soichiro Ashida, who made an unusual offer… he would pay her any amount of money she wished, but in return she must agree to leave her old family behind to become his wife, since he needs to marry so he'll be able to properly inherit his massive fortune. And most important of all, she would be entering a marriage of convenience in which love would not be part of the bargain.
What was Soichiro truly after? Would Sumi be able to leave her siblings behind for the new life that he offered? And would she be able to give up on the hope of ever finding true love to ensure the safety of her family?
Tropes in Stepping On Roses include:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Apparently, even if they initially preferred the gentlemanly type.
- Arranged Marriage: Between Nozomu and Miu.
- Attempted Rape: After overhearing Sumi telling their butler that she has no intention of betraying her husband, Soichiro rewards her loyalty by forcing himself on her in an attempt to get her to hate him, driving her into the arms of Nozomu. He stops when she promises to try her best to love him, and he replies by yelling that there isn't any love allowed in the marriage. It's not clear if he would actually have raped her, or if it was an attempt to frighten her...still, pretty disturbing.
- Nozomu attempts this as well. Several times, actually - though arguably, the time he's most determined is later in the series when he's drunk. This results in Sumi smacking him in the head with a lamp... which leads to Nozomu screaming her name and chasing after her... breaking down doors with an ax, The Shining style.
- Ax Crazy: Miu slashes Nozomu's artwork of Sumi with a knife, then later tries to stab Sumi herself.
- It looks like Miu matches Nozomu quite well, as Nozomu himself later picks up an ax and starts breaking down doors while screaming Sumi's name, trying to catch her "cheating on" him. To his credit, she really was being banged by Soichiro at that moment.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: So Soichiro, you want Nozomu to fall for Sumi as part of an evil scheme to get the Ijuin bank's total support? Okay! After all there's no way he'll ever try to turn out to be an AxCrazy Yandere that will do absolutly anything to posess her later on. Nope, no chance of that happening.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Nozomu as the series progresses, and later on Miu.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Keiko.
- Break His Heart to Save Him: Sumi cruelly tells Soicihro that because he lost everything, she no longer wants to be with him and is leaving him for Nozomu. But Nozomu was present at the time she said that. She visits Soichiro alone and confesses that it was a lie and is actually working on a plan to have him as President of his company again.
- Break the Cutie: Miu. She came to her Arranged Marriage with Nozomu as a somewhat Wide-Eyed Idealist, even falling in love with her betrothed, but with Nozomu's downward spiral into obsession with Sumi, she goes on her own downward spiral as well. When Nozumu outmaneuvers Soichiro out of his own company and takes Sumi for his own, Miu is abandoned in a near-catatonic state. She's getting a bit better, though.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Finding out that Sumi is really his sister Aiko doesn't sway Nozomu's feelings for her one bit.
- Cranky Landlord: Sumi's former landlady, who is fed up with Sumi's noisy siblings and the fact that she hasn't been paid for their rent. When she learns that they are up to their ears in debt, Eisuke's charm is the only thing that keeps her from kicking them out on the spot.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Oh lord, Nozomu. To insane proportions. He even goes so far as to go around with an ax "Here's Johnny" style trying to catch Sumi "cheating on him".
- Derailing Love Interests: Nozomu Ijuin, who goes from "princely" gentleman to possessive psychopath as the series progresses.
- Domestic Abuse: Romance or not, there's no way around it -- this is the way Soichiro treats Sumi as the story begins. In the English translation so far we've had physical violence, verbal abuse, Moving the Goalposts (Soichiro keeps making additional demands as Sumi meets his requirements) and Attempted Rape. And that's not even counting the fact that his nice moments have the effect, intentionally or not, of psychological mindgaming; Sumi is continually thrown off guard as he switches from aloof to violent to pleasant.
- Elegant Gothic Lolita: Some of Sumi's outfits are more like modern lolita clothing than what would be accurate for the time period.
- Evil Debt Collector: The thuggish debtor in the first chapter initially offers to let Sumi pay off what her brother owed with her body, later kidnapping Sumi's other siblings and threatening to sell them off unless he had the cash in hand by the next day.
- Face Heel Turn: Nozomu.
- Flower Motifs: Soichiro, who well fits the comparison with a rose... beautiful, but painful whenever Sumi gets too close.
- The Gambling Addict: Sumi's older brother, Eisuke Kitamura. This, even more than the children he brings home for Sumi to care for, is the primary source of their financial troubles.
- Happy Marriage Charade: Soichiro and Sumi's marriage at first. Nozomu also thinks this way towards his own marriage with Miu.
- Heel Face Turn: Soichiro.
- Hime Cut: Miu's hairstyle.
- Honey Trap: Keiko tries this once other tactics fail to work, and when that fails she falls back on the Wounded Gazelle Gambit
- Soichiro's primary motivation for marrying Sumi was to set up a Honey Trap for Nozomu, with Sumi as the unwitting "mole."
- Hypocrite: Almost everyone except Sumi and the children. Soichiro orders Sumi not to love him...then gets possessive of her. Eisuke demands that Sumi make sacrifices for their family...while frittering away their income and making everyone's life as difficult as possible. Nozumu calls Soichiro out on his treatment of Sumi...then attempts to murder her. Even Komai, who initially seemed to be the Only Sane Man, viciously blames Sumi's "fickleness" for an attack on Soichiro made by Miu...and Miu was aiming for Sumi herself before Soichiro jumped in, causing her to feel worthless and guilty...but at this point, Komai's just after throwing a hissy fit at Soichiro himself and quitting his job as butler.
- In Love with the Mark: Soichiro originally married Sumi to get his inheritence and manipulate Nozomu. However, slowly but surely, he falls for her.
- The Ingenue: No, Sumi, going to the house of a man who is obsessed with you and tried to murder you is not a good idea. Especially if you go alone. No amount of purity, innocence or general amiability is going to help you out if he flips.
- Virginity Makes You Stupid: Despite a couple of close calls, Sumi still falls into this.
- To be fair though, it's mostly Soichiro's fault for thinking Nozomu was no longer a threat as she initially didn't want to be around him anymore after the hotel incident.
- Virginity Makes You Stupid: Despite a couple of close calls, Sumi still falls into this.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Soichiro, and more than he realizes.
- Karma Houdini: Eisuke. Charms and uses everyone in his immediate vicinity, no sign of major consequences (for him) as yet. One of several characters in the story who is long overdue for a piano falling on top of him.
- Long-Lost Relative: It is revealed in chapter 55 that Sumi is Nozomu's missing sister Aiko.
- Lost Wedding Ring: Nozomu cruelly takes Sumi's wedding ring away from her.
- Love Confession: Between Sumi and Soichiro in chapter 52 when they consummate their marriage.
- Love Makes You Crazy: The drama of the series, in a nutshell.
- Love Triangle: Soichiro, Sumi, and Nozomu.
- Manipulative Bastard: Soichiro and his butler. Nozomu has his own variation.
- Meido: Keiko while she's being a spy for Natsuki.
- Mood Whiplash: Soichiro is the personification of this trope, but in the story itself we have an Attempted Rape, shortly followed by the heroine cooing over how childish her husband is, then a rather sweet dance scene... which ends with Soichiro ripping up a photo in his wife's face and yelling at her.
- No Sympathy: Komai initially appears sympathetic of Sumi's situation, but his loyalty ultimately lies with Soichiro. He's quick to blame Sumi when something happens to Soichiro, never taking into account that Sumi is young, confused, lonely and being used as a chess piece.
- Of Corsets Sexy: Sumi's first time wearing a corset was on the day of her wedding with Soichiro.
- Only in It For the Money: Eisuke's primary motivation for collecting so many orphaned children, as he plans to have them work for him in his future business endeavors (or, in the case of sister Tomi, to be married off to a family of higher status.)
- Plucky Girl: Sumi keeps dusting herself off and getting up again, no matter how life treats her.
- Promotion to Parent: Sumi and (to a far lesser extent) Eisuke for their adopted younger siblings.
- Rags to Riches: One of the main themes of the series, as Sumi is given the choice to leave her life of poverty behind to become the wife of an extravagantly wealthy young bachelor.
- The Reveal:
- Sumi and Eisuke are not related at all. He found her as a baby, abandoned in a rose garden, and raised her like a sister. This abandonment also explains her dislike of roses.
- In chapter 55, it is revealed by Eisuke and Nozomu's father that Nozomu and Sumi are brother and sister!
- Sanity Slippage: Nozomu, who goes from "nice person" to "psychotic Yandere" more and more as the series progresses.
- Miu even more so. She's getting better, though.
- Strictly Formula: The author remarks in the notes that this is a "cliche" romance.
- Taking a Level In Badass: Sumi, who starts out as a naive and confused ingenue, is starting to show shades of this when she vows to gain back for Soichiro the company that Nozomu took away from him.
- Their First Time: While it almost happened a few times down the road, Sumi and Soichiro finally consummate their union in chapter 52.
- Together in Death: Nozomu attempts to invoke this trope as the hotel he's dragged Sumi to burns down. It doesn't work.
- Tsundere: Soichiro. But he slowly becomes less and less of this as the series goes on.
- Yandere: Nozomu in the latter part of the series.
- Your Cheating Heart: Soichiro's scheme revolves around this. Natsuki pulls a particularly cruel example on the smitten Keiko, bluntly telling her that he intends to marry...but not to worry, because he'll keep Keiko as his mistress.