Minima! 1 by Machiko Sakurai (amazon)
Minima! is a shojo series with an interesting twist. The series opens with a scene from the future where a woman is getting married. A tiny animal sits in the church wearing a tuxedo. In the present day Ame has a pathological case of shyness at school. She greets the boy next door Midori with a gloomy hello when they are getting ready to walk to school. When Ame goes to an amusement park and picks up a stuffed meerkat, she ends up having tons of attention forced on her. The meerkat Nicori has broken the secret that all toys have – they can actually talk! Nicori yells at some of Ame’s classmates and causes such a sensation that she soon finds herself surrounded by roving reporters.
Nicori’s personality at the beginning of Minima! is very self-involved. He’s excited by all the attention he receives from the media, but he doesn’t really understand the impact the frenzy has on Ame. He wants to be a star. He’s afraid of being used up and thrown away by other toys, and Ame is sympathetic about his situation partly because one of her only outlets is toy collecting. Nicori also doesn’t appreciate the nuances of human behavior and he blurts out information about Ame’s crush Sasaki in front of her entire class, causing her massive amounts of embarrassment. There’s some character growth towards the end of the volume, as Ame begins to speak up for herself a little more and Nicori grows more protective of her.
Having everyone be aware of a sentient stuffed animal is an interesting plot device. While in some ways Minima! seems to be setting up a typical shojo love triangle wth Ame, Sasaki, and Midori, Nicori’s antics and the events he puts in motion make me want to pick up the second volume to see how the plot of this series develops. The art is attractive, with plenty of exaggerated expressions and gestures from Nicori that fit his larger than life personality.