Butterflies, Flowers Volume 4
I think with every volume the situations in Butterflies, Flowers grow more cartoony and thus even more hilarious. Yanagi, the president of the company where Masayuki and Choko work has decided that Choko will be his new personal assistant. Oh, and he just happens to be the man who sexually harassed her at a group date a few chapters ago. Despite Masayuki’s utter devotion to the company president, he will not let him take Choko and thus the men are locked in a battle for her nether regions. Masayuki vows to protect her. Unfortunately Yanagi just happens to be the ultimate rich otaku, with a home office tricked out like the set of a spaceship’s bridge, and an evil villain chair that seems to be able to pop up anywhere in his house. The men are constantly jumping out of windows and battling with giant robots and rocket launchers. Masayuki of course prevails, but his behavior begins to change. No longer is he constantly sexually harassing Choko. She begins to wonder what is wrong since he’s no longer constantly trying to show her his underwear.
Butterflies, Flowers does a great job combining slapstick comedy with emotional upheaval. Usually the over-the-top antics of the characters serve as a stand in for the revelation of some sort of emotional truth – the real reason Masayuki devotes himself to his job, or the insecurity of people in a new relationship. Combining all the robot and bikini underwear with heartfelt confessions of Masayuki and Choko as they begin to grow closer really produces a manga with a unique and funny point of view.
Arata: The Legend Volume 3
After reading the third volume of this series, I think I’m resigned to not seeing much more of the Arata in Japan. He shows up for a few panels to deal with his substitute’s school bullies, and then is shuffled off stage in favor of the Japanese Arata’s adventures in a fantasy world. This is a series that I wish I liked a little more than I do. I think that Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden just has more depth, due to the relationships and history between the characters. Maybe part of it is just due to the general tendency of shoujo series to focus more on emotion and shonen series spending more time on action. The action here is very competently done as Arata visits the home of the person he considered his first enemy and learns that his motivation might be more complex than he originally thought. Arata approaches his upcoming struggles with a vow for peace. While he might have to make other magic users submit to him, he vows only to collect the powers of those Sho who submit to him voluntarily. Since Arata’s motivation is more nuanced than the typical shonen hero who is going to battle for more power, Arata: The Legend does remain interesting to read even though this type of heroic quest story seems to be one of the main things that Watase specializes in, and I do feel like I’ve read it before. I just still find myself caring more about Takiko in Genbu Kaiden than I do about Arata. But maybe a few more volumes will win me over more, since the first three focused more on world building and setting up Arata’s quest.
Otomen Volume 7
This series continues to display the message of “Be true to yourself” in different stories. The battle of the bands set up in the previous issue ends up with the glam rock and rockabilly rivals revealing a shared sugary j-pop past. Juta struggles with his own disguise of posing as a female manga artist when it turns out that his first love is one of his avid fans. There’s a fairly typical “ghost at camp” story, and then Otomen returns to familiar territory as Juta tries to meddle in Asuka’s relationship with Ryo in order to get more material for his manga. Asuka’s been content to remain fairly passive about taking his relationship with Ryo to the next level. He’s not even sure of her feelings. Juta tries to start a rumor to bring the couple closer together, but the end result might mean that they will part.
I’d always liked what I’d seen of Ryo’s character, because her prowess at martial arts and her secretly unfeminine interests seem to make her the perfect match for Asuka. But while we’ve had stories from the point of view of plenty of the other characters, her inner life hasn’t really been detailed for the reader. I hope the upcoming storyline fills in more of her details so she doesn’t remain a sort of cipher that is just brought out whenever it is necessary for Asuka to act awkward around the girl he likes. Still, with the variety of situations shown in this volume, I still put it down feeling satisfied.
Review copies of Butterflies, Flowers and Arata provided by the publisher.