Venus Capriccio Volume 1 by Mai Nishikata (amazon)
Jacket Copy: Takami is tall, attractive and funny. Akira’s a quiet, musical prodigy who seems much more effeminate than Takami, even though he’s a guy. Best friends since childhood, Takami turns to Akira when yet another would-be boyfriend dumps her. Now will their longtime connection finally turn into something more than friendship?
This is a low-key shojo series that manages to be enjoyable despite some typical character types and plot elements. Takami has grown up with four older brothers and as a result she’s a total tomboy. The manga opens with Takami getting dumped on a first date due to her eating habits and unfeminine appearance. Takami goes to visit her childhood friend Akira. He’s two years younger than her, and they met at piano school where Takami was enrolled against her will when her mother thought she should pursue traditionally feminine hobbies.
Akira has an exotic (half-Japanese) appearance, and he is so pretty that when Takami first met him she thought he was a girl. Many years later she still thinks of Akira as her idealized little sister. He’s content to play the piano to calm Takami down and accompany her to all you can eat cake cafes in the wake of her breakup, but he requests that she dress up to attend a concert he’s giving at a jazz club. Takami puts on a dress for the first time since she was seven years old and goes to hear Akira play. Everyone comments that they look beautiful together, and Akira announces that Takami’s his fiancee. The next day Akira visits Takami’s school and gets into a confrontation with the boy who dumped her. Takami says “Don’t be violent like that again. Akira, you’re my ideal girl.” Akira says “Don’t be so obtuse. I’m no girl, and if the girl that I like gets hurt I’m going to fight about it.”
Takami finally realizes that Akira is a boy who cares about her, but she isn’t sure how she feels. The events that unfold between Akira and Takami will be familiar to any shojo manga fan. They need to work together to perform a piano duet, there’s a girl that attempts to come between them, a school festival that involves some cross-dressing, and a visit to an amusement park. As Takami and Akira hang out together on the way to becoming more than childhood friends, it was nice to see a friendship between a boy and a girl that is mutually supportive and drama-free.
One of the things I appreciated about Venus Capriccio was the slow pacing. While Akira is confident in how he feels, Takami isn’t so sure that she wants to change their friendship, and while she’s more self-conscious about hanging out with Akira she isn’t pushing herself into a romantic relationship. In some ways this reminded me a little of another CMX title, Venus In Love, because of the room given for the characters’ relationship to develop.
There were a few spelling and grammatical errors in the volume that were slightly distracting. The art was fairly typical shojo style, with the characters portrayed with elongated figures and necks. I enjoyed the contrast between Takami’s boisterous reactions to the world around her and Akira’s cool reserve. While Venus Capriccio isn’t a title to pick up if you are looking for something wildly innovative, it has a quiet charm that is quite rewarding.