Tag Archives: viz. shoujo

We Were There Volumes 6 and 7

We Were There Volumes 6 and 7 by Yuki Obata

This is my go-to series whenever I want to indulge in intense teenage misery. Everybody is so unhappy! Love doesn’t make anything better, and can in fact make things so much worse. Part of the reason why I enjoy this series is that even though the characters may find themselves in the middle of a love triangle, Obata does such a great job mapping out the motivations and inner lives of the characters that the plots don’t seem facile or unearned.

In the sixth volume, Nanami tries to avoid Motoharu at a festival. She isn’t ready to cope with talking to him. Motoharu’s best friend Masafumi has a terminal case of nice guyitis. He has a crush on Nanami too, but isn’t going to do anything about it because he doesn’t want to betray his friend. Nanami agrees to get back together with Moto if he tells her all about his dead girlfriend Nana, who she thinks has been casting a shadow over their relationship. Moto agrees, but his inability to open up combined with Nanami’s lingering suspicions seems to indicate that their rekindled relationship isn’t going to work out again. Masa helps them get back together and puts his own feelings aside. He ends up acting like a relationship counselor, saying to Nanami “The person whose actually hung up on Nana-san isn’t Moto, it’s you Takahashi. If you don’t have trust…nothing can succeed.” Nanami decides to will herself to trust Moto. Thinking to herself “We’ll…be fine…” shows that she’s still trying to convince herself that the relationship can work even with all of their issues.

The seventh volume shows additional complications getting in the way of Nanami and Moto being able to move on with each other. Masa forces himself to go out on dates to meet a girl that isn’t tied to his best friend. Moto faces additional revelations about his past, and Nana’s younger sister derails Nanami and Moto’s big date when she calls Moto with a personal crisis. Seeing Nanami so unhappy prompts Masa to break his silence about his feelings when he shows up to take Nanami home.

One of the things I like about this series is the contrast of the characters’ facial expressions and inner thoughts with more expansive background settings. Nanami and Moto start to get back together during a festival at night, surrounded by glowing lights. They walk together on a deserted beach. Nanami’s left alone and shivering under a barren tree until Masa comes to rescue her. Obata zeros in on faces during times of heightened emotional tension, sometimes just focusing on a partial profile or a close-up of Nanami’s eye welling with tears. Part of the reason why I like this series so much is that there’s this overwhelming feeling of tension and doom as Nanami and Moto face the future. I don’t see how they can end up with a typical shoujo happily ever after ending without enduring several years of emotional turmoil. I have a general feeling while reading We Were There that something horrible is going to happen, but I’m fascinated at the same time to see how everyone deals with the impending tragedy. The fact that the characters are bringing on their own crisis themselves simply due to the way they deal with their own feelings makes for a gripping series.

Viz Ongoing Series – Honey Hunt, Flower in a Storm, and Nana

Honey Hunt 5

Honey Hunt continues to be one of the best soap opera manga around. Yura is starting to gain recognition for herself as an actress as her new series debuts to great ratings. She runs off on a date with pop singer Q-Ta and her manager stays up all night calling her phone. Q-Ta’s attitude towards Yura continues to be basically selfish. He does seem to like her, but he wishes she would stop acting so she’d have more time to spend with him. He blurts out that he’s dating her on a national TV program, triggering the beginnings of a scandal. In contrast his brother Haruka genuinely admires Yura’s acting ability, notices her becoming more confident, and just wants her to succeed. Yura’s manager continues to act like a jealous schoolboy when Q-Ta is around, and the two men have sophisticated debates about Yura over the phone “She’s mine!” “I’m going to take her away from you!” As a shoujo heroine, Yura is a bit of a wimp but it is nice to see her so thrilled about the response to her acting career. Yura is delighted when fans recognize her on the street and call her by her own name, not referring to her as the child of famous parents. Some flashbacks showing the evilness of Yura’s mother inspire even more sympathy in the reader.

Flower in a Storm Volume 2

I think part of the reason why I like this short series is all the varied transportation options available to the characters. In this volume there’s a helicopter, motorcycle, horse, and a jetski. Two volume series generally seem a bit rushed to me, and there wasn’t much transition leading up towards the decision for Riko the girl with super physical abilities to start dating the heir to a megacorporation Ran. But there were some cute moments between them, like when Riko notices that Ran hasn’t eaten (he fears being poisoned) so she makes a snack for him herself. While the storyline might not be the most coherent, I appreciated the stylish art and the romance/action movie mash up vibe as Ran and Riko continue to fight of assassins and dream of a normal life together. I’m going to be on the lookout for more from Shigeyoshi Takagi if it is translated over here, I’m really curious to see what she do with with more space to develop a story.

Nana Volume 21

I’ve been putting off reading this since it is the last volume of Nana until Ai Yazawa is able to produce more chapters. There’s been a feeling of impending tragedy hovering over the past several volumes of Nana, and something irreversible finally happens in this volume. It isn’t necessarily a bad stopping point for the series, as the characters come together to deal with tragedy in their individual ways. Nana manages to display all the messy emotion that comes when facing a crisis. Even though there are unresolved storylines, I’m still left with a feeling of hope for Nana and Nana H. They’re such strong characters that I hope they’ll be able to support each other and move beyond the crisis somehow. Yazawa focuses on the small details of interaction that illuminate her characters’ personalities. Takumi yells at Nana H that she doesn’t know anything because she just stays home cooking all day, but grips her hand when he gets horrible news on the telephone. One of the things that’s good about such a long series is that the reader builds up a sense of shared history with the characters. When everything falls to pieces it makes it more interesting to see how everybody reacts and how the bonds of friendship are either made stronger or begin to fray.

Review copy of Nana provided by the publisher

Crown of Love Volume 1 by Yun Kuga

Crown of Love Volume 1 by Yun Kuga

I haven’t read Kuga’s other series Loveless, but I gather from the covers it involves cat people. Lots and lots of cat people. Crown of Love is set in the world of show business, but I had a hard time getting into this manga initially. I’m glad I persisted past the first few confusing pages. Maybe it was a function of reading this right before bedtime, but I had a hard time figuring out who the main characters were because everyone was introduced so quickly. Yurie is worried about one of her classmates missing the train. Tajima is so handsome, smart, and popular he basically has a built-in fan club at his high school for the performing arts. A girl runs by, chased by paparazzi and a ten year old fan. She’s the popular teen idol Rima. Rima bumps into Tajima and a one-sided romance is born. Tajima decides that he’s in love with Rima. She doesn’t know that he exists. Rima’s former manager and current crush object decides to scout Tajima as the latest teen idol to join his agency. Tajima agrees because entering the world of show business is the only way he can get close to Rima. Poor Yurie is left on the sidelines as Tajima decides to pursue fame and Rima.

One of the things I liked about this manga was the gender swapping of the typical teen idol plot. Rima is the one who is more established in show business and Tajima has to try to catch up with her. She views him as a new rival and doesn’t appreciate his blase attitude towards becoming a teen idol. She yells at him “In this business everyone is your rival! You’ll never make it in the entertainment business thinking like that!” She’s in love with her former manager and doesn’t appreciate that all his time is going towards launching Tajima’s career. Both Tajima and Rima are dealing with less than perfect family lives, so it is easy to see how they might find the artificial family created by a show business agency a refuge. Having the focus of the manga be on the boy pursuing an unobtainable girl is a little different than the typical shoujo plot line. Kuga’s art is attractive, although sometimes the character designs seemed a little inconsistent. Some of the plot twists seemed a little sudden or forced. It seems from the author’s notes that this series is a reworking of an earlier two-volume series. Crown of Love is like Skip Beat’s angst filled second cousin once removed. I think I’ll pick up the second volume to see if some of the storytelling issues smooth out a bit, since I do enjoy show business manga.