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Manga Wrap-Up #7

March 12, 2009

I have this giant pile of manga on my shelf, all first and second volumes of titles I’ve never read before.  I’m trying to find the next series I cannot live without.  Let’s see how the first five selections went:

Swan by Kyoko Ariyoshi – The story of Japan’s rise in the ballet world and especially a young girl with lots of potential but terrible training.  She becomes an example: If the flaws in her training can be corrected, she will become the proof her teachers need to win their “case” for a national ballet school.

Pros: The main character is highly likable, and ballet is awesome.
Cons: The art is seriously dated; the story’s from before even I was born.  Like the puffy lips in earlier manga and manhwa, the defining odd characteristic here is beaky, beaky noses.  And I had some problems telling everyone apart at first–even the guys from the girls, because everyone has big, beautiful hair.

Kid-friendly?  Yes, absolutely.  The first book has two guys teasing each other about a girl, but that’s as far as it goes; it’s got maybe two throwaway lines that are absolutely innocent.  The story’s focused on ballet, not romance.

Final thoughts: I can see why my daughter liked it so much, but I’m probably not going to continue with it right now.  Maybe later when I have more time, but no guarantees.

Your and My Secret by Ai Morinaga – Some relatively unfunny body-swapping occurs immediately in this first book in a *sigh* series.

Pros: After the book got into the swing of things, it wasn’t half-bad.  There’s a bit of gender confusion and swapped gender role expectations.

Cons: There’s nothing realistic going on with what they do after they switch.  It’s almost entirely from the guy’s perspective.  The female character has little depth so far.  The gender role thing is kinda lame.  (“You’re a nice, shy guy, so you’re just like a girl!”)

Kid-friendly?  Eh.  See: “nothing realistic.”  It could be worse, but it could be better, depending on what your definitions are.  The guy-in-a-girl’s-body is physically assaulted by his best friend.

Final thoughts: No thanks.  I’d just forget about it a week later anyway.

Off*Beat by Jen Lee Quick – Genius kid starts stalking his neighbor.  Seriously, that’s it.

Pros: Despite being a bit of a nutter, the main character is likable.  He’s so smart that everything and everyone bores him, and he gets single-minded.  This sounds about right to me.  The “mystery” is slowly revealed, but not TOO slowly.  The author takes her time but she doesn’t drop the thread.  The relationship between parent and child is true to life.  Everyone looks distinctive and is easy to recognize.  The backgrounds aren’t cluttered.

Cons: The girls look stupid. …That’s all I’ve got.

Kid-friendly?  Yesss.  It mentions the word “porn” once, and the back of the book suggests that the main character’s obsession stems from a possible crush (they’re both boys), but I’d let my kid read this volume.

Final thoughts: American book are hit-or-miss, depending on how weeaboo the author is.  This one isn’t at all; the book is set in Manhattan and the art is her own.  I’d read the next one, boylove or no.

Train Man by Machiko Ocha – Geeky, socially inept guy begins a relationship with the backing of an anonymous online forum.

Pros: Everything.  This is an adorable little love story!

Cons: Nothing.

Kid-friendly?  I’m not sure why the book has a 16+ rating.  At all.  13+ maybe?  Because he owns porn, which is mentioned all of once.

Final thoughts: This is just the perfect example of why forced drama doesn’t work.  Supposedly based on real life, this one-volume story hits every part of the romantic adventure without having to throw in all the junk that clutters many titles.  No need to divide the couple just to have something to do for another couple books, etc etc borrrringggg.  No, this is like, condensed cute and I absolutely loved every second of it.

Off*Beat Volume 2 by Jen Lee Quick – As it turns out, this was just on another shelf.  The continuing adventures of Tory and Colin.

Pros: Tory’s feelings are developing slowly.  Colin has a distinctive personality besides “mysterious.”

Cons: Just when you get it into your head that this is about Tory and Colin having a thing for one another, the plot jumps up and inserts itself.  So it’s like reading two different stories at times, although not so much so as to be completely off-putting.

Still kid-friendly?  Indeed.

Final thoughts: I’ve stopped being invested in Colin’s backstory.  That probably shouldn’t have happened so quickly.  I think it says more about the author’s ability to write emotionally though.  Whatever that means; I may have just woken up.  This is a good book, although perhaps it needs a stronger balance, which I think it’ll find in the next volume.

Final final thoughts?  I like Off*Beat, and might continue one day with Swan, but I’m sad the title I liked best was a one-shot.  I still have another 16 books or so waiting for me on the shelf, so after I do my recap, I’m going to move on to them.  I’d like to get them all read by the end of the month.  But sometimes I feel like my blog promises mean nothing. 😦

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