Beauty Pop by Kiyoko Arai (amazon.com)
I shouldn’t be surprised anymore about the subjects that manga is able to turn into Iron Chef style drama. Beauty Pop is about hairdressing. Kiri’s father owns a salon. She’s talented at cutting hair, but she isn’t very competitive. Her bangs are always in her eyes, and her uniform when cutting hair is a baseball cap and boyish clothes. Kiri looks sleepy most of the time, and she isn’t very emotional. At her school, the three most popular boys have banded together to form the “Scissors Project”. They’ll give pretty girls very public makeovers, making them even prettier. Narumi is the leader of the group, determined to grab awards and glory in order to become the top hairdresser in Japan. Minami is a goof-off who does nail art. Ochiai is the brains of the group, with extensive profiles on everyone who goes to school.
Kiri is totally uninterested in the hype that surrounds the Scissors Project. She does start doing a few makeovers at her school on the sly, for girls that the Scissors Project rejected. Kiri’s more concerned about giving people great haircuts to make them feel good about themselves. When her activities capture the notice of Narumi, he starts to go crazy trying to figure out who his unseen rival is. Ochiai starts piecing things together and figures out that Kiri is the undercover makeover artist. He sets up a makeover contest where Narumi and Kiri will fight to see which one makes their subject look prettier.
With plenty of overly perky heroines in shojo manga, it is refreshing to have a more reserved character like Kiri as a protagonist. The art is good at capturing all the mood swings you’d expect with so many characters getting makeovers. My major complaint is that the first volume ended on a cliffhanger.