High School Debut #4 by Kazune Kawahara (amazon)
This continues to be one of my favorite new series. The plot isn’t particularly unique, but the characters are so engaging that I didn’t mind the continuation of Yoh and Haruna’s awkward romance despite having encountered similar storylines before. Haruna vows to make Yoh’s Christmas the best ever, and she throws herself into planning with her over the top enthusiasm. She plans out a detailed schedule, learns how to bake, changes her look, and gets a job in order to save up money for Yoh’s present. When Yoh and Haruna grow closer, she totally freaks out and starts acting intensely awkward. Will some coaching from Yoh’s sister save the day?
Part of the reason why I like this series are all the little details of character interaction. Haruna consults Yoh’s friends for help with her Christmas plans. Yoh’s sister Mami takes Haruna to a store and beauty salon for a makeover and somehow manages to secure free gifts and coupons for herself in the process. Haruna depends on her athleticism to pull through difficult situations. Yoh still acts as his usual inscrutable self, with a couple outbursts that demonstrate how he feels for Haruna. It is nice to read a manga that has an angst free ending too.
Skip Beat #13 by Yoshiki Nakamura (amazon)
Finally the end is in sight for the Dark Moon Saga. After Kyoto worked with Ren by improvising with him to help his acting, he improvises with his co-star Itsumi to prove that his interpretation of the character Kastuki is better than the original. Kyoto sees Ren’s heavenly smile:
It is the same way he looks at her sometimes. She begins to wonder if he doesn’t hate her after all. The developing relationship between Kyoko and Ren keeps inching slowly forward. While normally I’d be annoyed at such a drawn-out plot I find Skip Beat entertaining because Kyoko is a nice antidote to the typical shoujo heroine. Kyoko’s progression from being solely focused on revenge to gradually caring for Ren and wanting to become a good actress in her own right is interesting. She has more complex motivation than the more typical manga girl who just seeks a boyfriend. While the Dark Moon arc was long, I was impressed at how fraught with tension Ren’s acting exercise was even when it was spread out over half of this volume. Really, this series is worth picking up if only for the many scenes of Kyoto giving Ren advice while she wears a chicken costume.