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Manga Wrap-Up

October 9, 2008

Why, hello there.  It is one day before my birthday but instead of going to the bank and depositing the $31 dollar check from my friend T (get it?  31 dollars, 31 years; I’ll be rich when I’m REALLY old!), I am here with you, dear readers.

Well, also because I forgot to bring the check with me when I went out for physical therapy.  I can hit the bank later when I’m taking my daughter to her doctor’s appointment.

ANYWAY, on to the manga!

I have said it before, and I’ll say it this one last time: I am not crazy about the whole “magical girl” thing.  I don’t often care about fighting.  Generally, I don’t really gravitate toward monsters or ghosts or vampires or WHATEVER.  I don’t read enough manga to get when artists are “subverting the genre” (as I’ve heard so many times about CLAMP) or even parodying it, really.

What do I read then?  I read what I read most of the time: stories about girls and women.  I also read whatever catches my daughter’s fancy that rated 13+, just to make sure there’s nothing age-inappropriate.  (Flirting’s fine, but explicit sexual comments or situations–er, not yet.)  So if you’re wondering why Gothic Sports made my list, there’s your reason right there.  I had to check it out for my kid.

From least to most interesting:

Ouran High School Host Club – I’m not saying this is terrible.  It’s not.  But there’s something about manga comedies–it probably has to do with the way that these “episodes” get published.  You really have to rush to get everything in order in that first section, and I suppose there’s a trick to it, but it’s the same trick every time.  HERE IS MY PLOT, NOW ENJOY THE STORY.  It’s off-putting if you’re reading the collections.  The thing is, if I tell you what this is about, it’ll sound no different than what’s written on the back of the book itself, and what fun is that?  Ultimately, I didn’t care enough to pick up the next volume, but you’re also reading the girl who took three volumes of Cromartie High School to realize that it was actually really funny.  And also?  I don’t care if this girl looks like a boy, or this boy looks like a girl.  I’ll talk about this a little more further down, but for now let’s just say that a story based on a girl looking like a boy?  Eh.  It’s gotta have more, and this book wasn’t giving me the more I wanted to keep going.  Could subsequent volumes really pick up that pace?  Yes.  Will I read them?  No.  I have other things to read.

Gothic Sports – This is a cute book, good for tweens, about a school that doesn’t let girls play on their soccer team, so they start their own.  It’s an underdog story–with Lolita clothes.  Its weaknesses outnumber its strengths, for an adult like me, but I’m not the primary audience.  A tween might not realize the ridiculous amount of overposing that goes on in the first volume.  A tween might not notice that the only way to tell many of the characters apart is by their hair color and length.  (Fortunately, no two characters have the same color and length of hair. OR YOU COULD LEARN TO DRAW DISTINCT FACES.)  A tween might not wonder why the main character, Anya, is so hell-bent on going to a school known for sports and joining a sports team when it seems more like something she told herself to do, rather than something she’s passionate about.  But Anya does become passionate about soccer–maybe there’s a message in there.  By the third volume, the kinks seem to be worked out (except that I still had to refer to the beginning of the book to figure out who anyone else, using hair color and length as my guide) and the story is running smoothly.  Oh, and also it’s German, which means different cultures, foods, etc.  I’m always up for that.

Beauty Pop – Just because this title fits in the middle doesn’t mean it isn’t great.  It is TOTALLY great.  We’re eagerly awaiting the fifth volume while bogarting the sixth and seventh so we don’t have to wait when it finally comes in.  Where Ouran High School failed to draw me in, Beauty Pop not only succeeds, it soars, and leaves me wanting more.  Both are funny books with a lead female character who can pass as male, but Beauty Pop doesn’t make this yet another cross-dressing comedy: the andro look of the main character (while she’s in hair-cutting mode) is basically just what she wears to be comfortable.  It helps that this “hides” (or at least obscures) her identity in part while she’s up against the “Scissors Project,” a group of spoiled rich boys who make the pretty girls in the school even prettier, leaving her the anonymity she desires, but it’s not a mask.  It’s part of who she is: she becomes a blank slate, even with her gender, while she focuses on the person in front of her and transforms them the way THEY want.  This is in direct opposition to the Scissors Project (or SP), because they put their own desires onto their hand-picked clients, which makes for quite a clash.  At times, main character Kiri is almost TOO laid-back and apathetic to be likable, while her rival Shogo Narumi is almost TOO hot-tempered and narcissistic, but author (well, mangaka) Kiyoko Arai rounds the cast out with distinctive (DISTINCTIVE), likable characters and, by giving brief glimpses into the romantic lives of the clients, always has a place to draw the reader’s attention if the main characters are getting too annoying.  This one’s highly recommended, which means from here on, we’re just talking plain awesome.

Kitchen Princess Volume 7 – Okay, I could’ve swapped this one’s place with Beauty Pop because, for a moment, Kitchen Princess used a trope I’m not crazy about: the spitting image of someone dead, blah blah blah you look just like them!  It is a testament to the authors’ talent that this turn, which made me roll my eyes, never nosedived into stereotype.  This new character immediately is fleshed out and the story continues.  While I wish the whole “spitting image” would be more like “reminds me of, maybe only from the back too,” well…that’s not my place.  The fact that my interest is held is enough for me.  I do so love this series.  It’s cute and endearing.

Sand Chronicles – Hello, new favorite!  You had me at “josei.”  I swear, I haven’t been let down yet by anything I’ve seen under the heading of josei: Honey and CloverParadise Kiss, Nodame Cantibile, and of course my all-time favorite Tramps Like Us.  (Then again, I get my idea of what’s considered josei from Wikipedia, so take that as you will.)  Sand Chronicles follows specific instances in the life of Ann, a girl whose parents’ divorce has brought her and her mother to the small town where her mother grew up.  There, Ann falls in love for the first time and–well, I’ve only read two volumes, and everything I could say would end up being spoilers like whoa.  There is a fantastic sense of time passing in the manga.  Each scene is set against the backdrop of the season in which is takes place, and while the metaphors of the seasons are firmly in place, the author never hits the reader over the head with them.  If change or love occurs in the spring, it is because spring is changing, beautiful, romantic, renewing, and so on.  This series is truly lovely, and I expect great things from it, especially since I’m already getting great things from it.

PS I had to finish this the day after I began it and, hey, I did actually make it to the bank!  Go me!  Also, Happy Birthday Me!

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