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Manga Wrap-Up #4

November 29, 2008

Me: Guess how much manga I’ve read in the past four days?

Roommate: More than any one person should?

Me: …Yeah, pretty much.

Hello, and welcome to Manga Wrap-Up #4.  Today’s wrap-up will focus on five titles: Marmalade Boy (volumes 1-6), Hana-Kimi (1-10), Me and My Brothers (1), Honey Mustard (1 & 2), and Until the Full Moon (1).

Let’s start with the small stuff.

Until the Full Moon by Sanami Matoh is so out of date that I could hear the ’80s power chords in the background.  The hair is always a dead give-away, no pun intended.  This title is about Marlo, whose father is a vampire and mother is a werewolf.  This would be all well and good, except that in Marlo’s ancestry there is a recessive werewolf gene that swaps gender during the full moon rather than turning the ‘wolf into a big old dog’ thing.  Marlo, once a month, becomes a woman.

Despite the big hair and crazy Western names (one of the girls is named–wait for it–IRA), this is a pretty endearing little story.  Marlo, having only recently started to change, is conflicted, especially since his/her feelings for childhood vamp friend David have always been complicated and perhaps romantic in nature.  David, though?  Loves Marlo whoever he or she is.  This is only a two-volume work, and I think that will be quite enough to wrap up this sweet, sexy, funny story.  (But come on?  IRA??)

…Aaaand of course my library doesn’t have the second volume.  OH COME ON.

Me & My Brothers by Hari Tokeino is the story of Sakura, whose parents died when she was very young.  She was raised by her grandmother but, upon the old woman’s passing, she finds herself very much alone–until her house is overrun by four older brothers she never knew about.

Any problems I have with this title are fairly minor: Sakura acts like an eight-year-old rather than a fourteen-year-old, but I’m hoping that goes away eventually.  There’s a secret that’s quickly revealed that turns the whole premise on its side, but I guess I’ll just have to deal with that.  These small things are nothing compared to the sweet story of a young girl who learns the true meaning of familial love.  At least, I hope it’ll keep going this way, but I have my doubts.  Unfortunately, there’s a small waiting list for the second volume.  We’ll see.  I have faith in it; it really charmed me.

Ho-Kyung Yeo’s Honey Mustard is a manhwa (Korean) in which a teenage girl boosts her courage with alcohol before confessing her love for her crush, except that she ends up in a room with a completely different guy.  Having been “compromised,” she is tossed out of her school and her family, and finds herself married to Different Guy.

Actually, my description’s a little off.  This story is as much about Young-Woo, Different Guy, as it is about Ara, the girl.  It is also about Young-Woo’s old-fashioned and quirky grandfather, and Ara’s heartless family, and Young-Woo’s hot young dad, but both Young-Woo and Ara are the focus here.  They agree to this marriage purely out of convenience and are hoping to divorce when Ara comes of age.  I’m going to take a wild leap and say that probably won’t happen.

Despite my twitchiness over Ara’s age, I always like a good arranged marriage story.  I have to say, though, that at times the art puts me off–specifically, the lips, which are all huge.  Huge and floppy-looking.  Everyone looks like they went to Pamela Anderson’s collagen doctor.  (Is that a doctor-worthy thing?  I assume so.)  Ugh.  But other than that, there’s humor and twists and great romantic tension between Ara and Young-Woo.  It’s only a four-volume work, so I ordered the next two.  Should end up being a good little series.

Okay, on to the big ones.

I read six out of ten volumes of Wataru Yoshizumi’s Marmalade Boy.  The library only has eight.  I’m just going to pretend I didn’t narrow my eyes at my browser.  That’s unfair to the browser.  But I really LIKE Marmalade Boy and I want to know how it ends!  *whine* (EDIT: I guess there are only eight?  The eighth seemed pretty final to me, but I read somewhere–probably Wikipedia–that there are ten.  Going to have to double-check that information.)

Anyway, it’s the story of a girl, Miki, whose parents come home from vacation announcing that they are getting divorced–and not just divorced, but remarried as soon as possible, to another couple they met during their trip.  Wife-swapping, EH?  You know, you don’t actually have to divorce and remarry…but I digress.  Miki is taken aback by the strange situation, that will give her four parents and a step-brother, Yuu, who will all live in the same house.  Don’t you wish all divorces went this well?  (Orgies, I’m tellin’ ya.)

The thing about Yuu is that he’s sarcastic and mean sometimes but sweet other times.  You know what that means: perfect to crush on!  But Miki has always liked Ginta, and Yuu’s ex-girlfriend doesn’t know how to give up.  Whatever will happen?

Well, actually, the usual happens, but the thing I love about Marmalade Boy is that it doesn’t happen unnaturally, or over too much time.  The plot continues to progress, characters fall in and out of love over just about the right amount of time that it would take for teenagers to fall in and out of love, and Miki doesn’t spend 9 of the 10 books trying to decide how she feels.  Good for Wataru Yoshizumi!  Great for us readers!

This may be the ultimate teenage drama in terms of how well its done and how likable the characters are.  It could indeed become the standard by which I measure all other shojo manga.  I’m just going to withold that statement until I’ve finished the whole thing.  Now I just have to figure out HOW to finish the whole thing…

Finally, I read ten volumes of Hisaya Nakajo’s Hana-Kimi (Hanazakari no Kimitachi e or, translated, For You in Full Blossom).  Hana-Kimi was the title I was talking about yesterday when I spoke of two characters being “retarded for each other” and the book being drawn out far too long.  When I think that there are still thirteen more volumes of this work left to read, I cringe a little.  However, I do enjoy the characters, so I’ll keep reading till the end.

Hana-Kimi is the story of Mizuki, a Japanese-American girl who, when in middle school/junior high, sees a Japanese guy named Izumi Sano on TV doing the high-jump.  She is instantly taken with Sano’s looks and talent, and decides that she’s going to go to school in Japan so she can see him jump.  The thing is, Sano goes to an all-boys school, so Mizuki cuts her hair and enrolls, just to meet her idol.

One thing that I like about Hana-Kimi is that Mizuki commits to her plan: she’s in for a pound, especially when she realizes that her crush is turning into something more.  She doesn’t go over there because she luuuuurves some strangers.  She thinks she just wants to see him jump.  I don’t think that’s true; I think part of her wants him in the sense that she’s young and she doesn’t really get what her body’s telling her, and then here’s this guy and he’s right in front of her and she likes him as a PERSON, too, and then her feelings grow.  I think it’s great that she’s basically deluded herself. 😀  No, really.  I’d rather that than her thinking she’s in love with someone she’s never met from the start.

Another thing I like is that when someone has a crush on Mizuki who has never had a crush on a guy before, the author takes some time–although maybe not enough at times–with that character, letting us be confused with them.  Nakatsu falls completely for Mizuki but takes a long time to accept it, because Mizuki is a “guy.”  He freaks out: is he, omg, gay??  He is so wrapped up in this confusion that it never really occurs to him that he’s not attracted to any other guy, which I think is pretty cute.  There is also an older gay character who tells us flat-out, “He’s not gay.  He just likes YOU, Mizuki.”  Nice.

The things I don’t like are small things that don’t really pile up.  Although she’s lived in America most of her life, there’s very little that’s American about Mizuki.  I felt she adjusted TOO quickly to Japan, and I would’ve liked some backstory on how that was possible.  It could be that the author doesn’t realize how amazingly different it all is, or it could be that Mizuki’s life in America was pretty Japanese.  I mean, the food alone, people.  COMPLETELY different.  I can’t even imagine.  But I did feel good that Mizuki’s American best friend, Julia, has a cute Westernized nickname for her.

Also, the pace of the volumes has started to slow down.  I’m thinking by the time we get to 23, I’ll be thinking, “You know, they could’ve condensed this down to (20…15…10?).”  I like these characters too, author, but I’m more interested in their development, not what they’re doing at school.

Finally, the secondary characters?  Don’t even ask me to tell them apart.  Everyone’s eyebrows look the same.  If I can’t go by hair style, I don’t even bother guessing. :/

So, there you go.  Five titles, all pretty good.  Some better than others, but that’s always goin to be the way.  Next manga wrap-up will probably include some more Marmalade Boy, the rest of Honey Mustard, some more Hana-Kimi, as well as something called Ark Angels, some yaoi (but not, like, hardcore), and…uh…whatever else is around.  Oh hey, there’s the yaoi!  I knew it was around here somewhere.

I’m not doing very well on this Manga Mom thing, but when it came down to it, I was more interested in talking about what I was seeing, not what kids will see.  I let my daughter read Me & My Brothers, but the early marriage thing in Honey Mustard made that a no (just like it’ll be quite a while before she can read Twilight), Hana-Kimi‘s got too much blatant sexuality with its gay character, Marmalade Boy has a teacher-student relationship (I just want to avoid her growing up getting into THAT fetish), and Until the Full Moon?  Eh.  Too gender confusing for an eleven-year-old, and I don’t want her bringing ’80s hair back. 😀

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