Monthly Archives: December 2010

Does My Head Look Big In This?

Abdel-Fattah, Randa. Does My Head Look Big in This? (2005). 360 Pages. Scholastic. $16.99

Previously, I reviewed Ten Things I Hate About Me, which has turned out to be my most popular blog post (ever), with an average of 10+ hits a day. It’s unexpected, and surprising, and I wish I knew what the readers were looking for when they came across that post. Regardless, it was a brilliant, funny book which was really enjoyable to read, so right after getting through it, I opted to find her debut novel; Does My Head Look Big in This?. I’m glad I did.

Synopsis

Amal Mohamed Nasrullah Abdel-Hakim, a sixteen year-old Australian-Palestinian-Muslim has decided to go “full time” and wear the hijab. She’s not sure what made her choose to do something so dramatic; high school is hard enough without wearing your stigma on your head. It’s not an easy decision, rather, she’s spent a long time thinking about it, and has finally decided that it’s the right step for her.

As Amal dons the scarf, she learns a lot about herself, her friends, and her family. She doesn’t learn so much about her enemies, she already knew they sucked, after all. With the scarf comes an intensified devotion to her religion; previously, she had skipped midday prayers, since she was at school, but with the hijab comes the extra prayers.

With the increased devotion, Amal sticks closer to some other rules, most notably those about dating. She’s got a strict drool but don’t touch policy about guys, which gets harder and harder to follow as she realizes just how much she likes Adam, her science partner. Somehow, Amal will get through it all, and when she does, she’ll be stronger than ever.

First Lines

It hit me when I was power walking on the treadmill at home, watching a Friends rerun for about the ninetieth time.

It’s that scene when Jennifer Aniston is dressed in a hideous bridesmaid’s outfit at her ex’s wedding. Everyone’s making fun of her and she wants to run away and hide. Then she suddenly gets the guts to jump onstage and sing some song called “Copacabana,” whatever that means. I’m telling you, this rush of absolute power and conviction surged through me.

Thoughts

Amal is exactly the smart, sassy, determined narrator that a story like this needs. She knows what she wants, and will do what it takes to get there, even when the going is tough, and someone with a lesser will would have already given up. She worries a bit about being a walking stereotype, the weak girl in the hijab whose parents have forced her (though not as much as Jamilah, despite sharing the post-9/11 setting).

There’s a lot going on, there’s Amal’s story, but also the stories of her friends, especially  Leila, the daughter whose parents are more interested in marrying her off than her education, and Simone, whose parents call her fat, and who has major body issues. Her other female friends, Yasmeen and Eileen are quieter, their stories never come to the forefront. Then there is Adam– Amal’s crush– and Josh– Simone’s crush– who add another interesting dimension to the high-school drama and angst which Amal struggles with.

Amal manages to be deeply and securely religious without it being a barrier between her and the reader, because at the heart of everything, she’s a normal teenager dealing with normal struggles, and that makes her so perfectly relatable and human that you can’t help liking her. You want her to succeed, because she wants to succeed, and you want her to be happy, and to find herself on this journey she’s undertaken.

While reading it, at one point, Amal’s father says he will “dial 911. Not your cell phone. 911” (83), which immediately made me wonder how much they had Americanized in this edition. Does she really talk about Friends, and Survivor, and Big Brother, or does she talk about Australian equivalents which got replaced when they were brought to the US?

This book gets a 5/5.

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Further Thoughts…

There is mention of 9/11, and then there is mention of the October 2002 attack in Bali, which added an extra depth to the book. Amal gets looked to as a Muslim, and is therefore considered to be a representative of her entire religion and culture, which of course made me think of The Sunflower.  How often do we look to one person as a representative of their race, their culture, their religion? How often do we say “Well, he’s ____, so he knows ___’s view on the matter,” as if it’s acceptable or reasonable? Looking at it, I realize that I have been on both sides of that; I’ve been “The Catholic” or “The Girl” or “The White Girl” and I’ve been the person going “Well, you’re Jewish, what’s [the Jewish] opinion on the matter?”

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Otomen (Volume 4)

Kanno, Aya. Otomen Volume 4 (2009). 200 Pages. Viz (Shoujo Beat) $8.99

The hardest part about reading series which are incomplete is that they are incomplete. You have to wait for each volume to be released, which can be difficult (at best) once they start dragging into the high double digits*. Otomen is an ongoing series, unlike Othello or Doubt!! which were both complete before I started reviewing them. Even more difficult is the fact that until they are licensed by US Distributors, many good manga can be found fan-translated, so you’re simultaneously hoping they do get licensed (so you can buy it) and they don’t get licensed (so you can read them online, instead of having to wait).

This all relates to Otomen because I had read a few chapters online before Viz published it, and had really liked it, but now I have to wait for it to publish on their schedule.

The Story So Far…

Asuka was the ultimate representation of masculinity until he met Ryo. Something about having a crush on her brought back all his long-repressed feminine habits; he cooks, he cleans, he crafts, and he adores Ryo. Of course, Ryo was fairly clueless, being oblivious to Asuka’s feelings for her (even if she is his perfect match). Juta, meanwhile, has been observing the two and secretly basing his manga on them.

Finally, Asuka got up the courage to ask Ryo out, and now they’re dating, which would be great, if anything had changed. We got to know a lot more about Juta and his family, and a little bit about Asuka’s rivalries, and status in the martial arts world. Tonomine especially is an interesting contrast to Asuka, making things extra fun.

In This Volume…

Asuka prepares to celebrate Ryo’s birthday, and spends some time with Ryo’s father (Takeshi Miyakozuka).

Asuka discovers a hidden flower garden, and makes a new friend (Kitora Kurokawa).

Yamato returns, and drags Asuka, Ryo, Juta, and Kitora off on a summertime beach adventure. Then Tonomine gets involved and it becomes a battle for honor.

Thoughts…

Otomen is a fun story, and part of what makes it so fun is the semi-cluelessness which plagues Ryo and Asuka. Another part of the fun is the way that nothing quite happens the way you expect, or the characters get excited over something which doesn’t go how they expected it to.

The “summertime beach trip” is a manga classic which is done well in this series, managing to be fun and unique while still staying true to the series/characters. I think this volume deserves a 5/5 for being my favorite so far.

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* I’m looking at you, Ranma 1/2 & Inu Yasha. You and I have a love-hate relationship. I hate you for taking so long to tell a story, but I love you for being so brilliant and for being my first manga.

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Trickster’s Queen

Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Queen (2004). 444 Pages. Random House. $8.95

Daughter of the Lioness Book 2

I actually own two copies of this book; a hardcover copy, because I could not wait for it to come out in paperback, and a paperback copy, because I hate having part of a series in paperback, and part in hardcover. It has to be all the same, for the sake of my shelving system; hardcovers go on the top shelf, paperbacks go on the lower shelves and series are grouped, so when I have to either put paperbacks on the hardcover shelf, or hardcovers on the paperback shelf, I get a bit grumpy.

Anyway, Trickster’s Queen is a continuation of Trickster’s Choice,which opens in Spring, with Aly and the Balitangs returning to Rajmuat, the capital of the Copper Isles. With the death of Duke Mequen Balitang, as well as King Oron and Prince Bronau at the end of the preceding volume, the political environment of the Copper Isles has been transformed. It is a country on the verge of revolution, or civil war, a country ready for a new queen from an old royal family; Sarai Balitang.

Alianne Cooper, daughter of legends, spymistress for the Balitang household, Duani of the raka revolution has come into her own. She is done living in her parent’s shadow, and has become irreversibly entangled in the conflict in the Copper Isles. This book takes off, with rapid pacing, drama, conflict, surprises, and battle. It is the climax which Trickster’s Choice was building toward, and sets up a very interesting finale.

First Lines

As the ship Gwenna glided through the entrance of Rajmuat harbor, a young woman of seventeen years leaned against the bow rail, taking in her surroundings through green-hazel eyes. Despite her white skin, she was dressed like a native raka in sarong, sash, and wrapped jacket.

Thoughts

In the first volume, each chapter was preceded by an excerpt from things Aly read, or conversations Aly had with family members while growing up. For example, Chapter 10 is prefaced with:

Assassins approach a problem differently from soldiers, you see. They can’t lay siege, they can’t offer an honorable fight. In their trade numbers are dangerous. An assassin’s advantage lies in folk missing him when he’s about. He hits hard and fast, then goes. Once you’ve tried to kill the first time, the target has the wind up. Failure the first time means it’ll be that much harder to get close a second time. – Told to Aly when she was eleven, in a conversation with her father*

These excerpts from Aly’s life made it more acceptable for her to know so much about spy work, because she had been trained from childhood. Having an idea of where she had received her knowledge (from her father, grandfather, mother, etc.) made a difference as well. It was a nice touch, which helped to ground Aly, and round out her story. These bits are lacking from Trickster’s Queen, which is unfortunate, because I really appreciated them.

This volume takes off, picking up speed rapidly, and racing toward the conclusion. Aly has grown up quite a bit since she left Pirate’s Swoop in a huff. She is not alone, others have grown, and are growing up with her, though much of it happens off-page. There is some unexpected character development, and a few unpleasant surprises for Aly. (There are pleasant surprises, too.)

It is almost a pity to leave Aly and the Copper Isles; there is still a lot to be said about the islands and their new queen. (Though it has been said that there will be a set of books dedicated to her, later.) It is also very, very fun to get to read about the children of some old favorites (Daine and Numair’s new baby, for example), and it is clear that Pierce has grown as a story teller since she first put Alanna’s story on paper.

The volume gets a 4.5/5, and the series gets a 5/5. If you are a fan of Tortall, you will most likely enjoy this series.

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* From Trickster’s Choice, Page 232.

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Othello (Volume 7)

Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 7 (2006). 192 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95

Previously: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5, Volume 6

The Story This Far…

Yaya Higuchi is your typical Japanese teenager; she goes to school, hangs out with friends, and tries to fit in. Unfortunately, in her efforts to fit in, Yaya has taken it too far, and has become an incredibly quiet, timid girl who gets picked on because she takes it.

Enter Nana, a loud-mouthed opinionated girl who thrives on violence and will enforce Justice upon those who deserve it. She confronts school bullies of varying calibers; from Yaya’s “friends” Seri and Moe to the Hano the pimp, Nana cleans the school. But Nana’s work is never done; there are gropers and molesters and perverts and all sorts of icky people for Nana to beat.

However, there’s more going on for Nana than just Justice; she longs to be a singer, a real rock-star. When an opportunity presents itself (in the form of an invite from Shohei himself) Nana takes it, determined to follow through, no matter what.

Yaya, meanwhile, has withdrawn, unable to comprehend everything which has been going on in her life; she cannot handle the turmoil, and reality is just too upsetting. This leaves Nana in charge of their body until further notice. Will Yaya ever come back? And if Yaya does come back, what will happen to Nana?

In This Volume

Moriyama is worried that Yaya will never come back to him, can he do anything to coax her out? Nana, meanwhile, is pursuing her dream, and wondering what will happen to her if Yaya never returns. Everything comes to a not-so-surprising conclusion.

Thoughts

The series as a whole is very interesting; Nana and Yaya are opposites, completely different people stuck in the same body, yet they need each other. Without Yaya, Nana wouldn’t have restraint, and without Nana, Yaya would lack the courage to do nearly anything. Having been forced to abruptly come to terms with the fact that there she has another personality which she is not aware of is difficult, at best.

Interestingly, the two share the same dream, though Nana pursues music with a more single-minded determination than Yaya, who would not go against her father’s wishes to chase her dream.

There are some issues; characters fade in and out as convenient, setting is frequently established in one frame, and then the characters float in empty panels for a while, and sometimes the story doesn’t seem to know where it’s going. However, the story still fights on through all this, and ends up being a very fun, interesting approach to discovering your identity.

This volume gets a 3.5, because it was a bit rushed, and got a little too cheesy right at the end. However, the series gets a 4/5.

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Trickster’s Choice

Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Choice (2003). 403 Pages. Random House. $8.95

The Daughter of the Lioness Book 1

I told myself I’d review the Tortall books  in order, but clearly that’s not happening. Alianne Cooper’s books (Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen) are the last books set in “present” Tortall; after this, they revert to Beka’s story, which is the Tortall of the past. The reason? Pierce couldn’t bear to think about a world after Alanna’s generation was gone, or even when they were old. I understand completely. However, if you are thinking of just picking up Tamora Pierce books, these are not the ones to start with; they spoil an awful lot of plot points from earlier sets, because these come much later. If you read Tortall, it is best to start with The Song of the Lioness and move forward from there.

Synopsis

It’s not easy being the daughter of legends; her mother is the Lioness, Champion of Tortall, and her father is The Whisper Man, the Tortallan spy-master. Aly’s twin, Alan, is a knight-in training, her older brother, Thom, is a student mage, her adoptive uncles and aunts are the most powerful, and influential people of their generation. It’s no wonder that Aly feels a little lost, and unsure of what she’s going to do with her life. Frustrated by arguments with her parents, Alianne sets out from Pirate’s Swoop to Port Legann, but she never makes it. She is caught by slavers, and shipped off to the Copper Isles.

Determined to make the best of a bad situation, and survive until she can escape, and get home to her family, Aly endures her time as a slave. When she arrives in the Copper Isles, she is purchased by the Balitang family, and then approached by the Trickster, her father’s patron  god, and the deposed patron of the Copper Isles. He proposes a wager with Aly,  one which will give her a direction, and a goal (at least for the summer), and which will help him. All she has to do is keep the two Balitang daughters alive… how hard could that be?

First Lines

George Cooper, Baron of Pirate’s Swoop, second in command of his realm’s spies, put his documents aside and surveyed his only daughter as sh e paused by his study door. Alianne– known as Aly to her family and friends– posed there, arms raised in a Player’s dramatic flourish. It seemed that she had enjoyed her month’s stay with her Corus relatives.

Thoughts

I remember reading that the reason Tamora Pierce switched from quartets to pairs was that JK Rowling’s Harry Potter had proven that kids will read long books, so rather than having to force Aly’s story into four separate volumes, it could be split into just two. I am eternally grateful for this, though smaller volumes are much easier to carry around in purses or backpacks.

Aly is disappointingly perfect*. Admittedly, most of the Tortallan women are nearly perfect, but Alianne takes it a step further. Even when raised by brilliant, talented, and gifted parents, it is a little much to accept that she could be as brilliant as she is. The girl is basically a walking spy handbook. It doesn’t get any better, but as you get used to it, it’s possible to focus on other things.

Aly’s story, however, and her supporting cast are interesting enough that she can be forgiven for being too perfect. The Balitang family, and their servants, and the relationship the two have with each other is interesting, given that the context of the Copper Isles is that the two groups (the natives and the colonizers) largely hate each other. The raka— the natives– are thought of as lesser, and are largely subordinates to luarin— the colonizers– with very few exceptions. As an outsider, Aly has no attachment to either group, which both weakens and strengthens her position in the country.

When all is said and done, I do like this series (though it isn’t my favorite), and I think it is worth reading. Trickster’s Choice, the first volume, scores a 4/5.

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* I’ve heard people call her a “Mary Sue” and I don’t think I can really argue with that.

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Othello (Volume 6)

Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 6 (2005). 192 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95

Previously: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5

The Story This Far…

Yaya Higuchi is so painfully shy and timid that she cannot stand up for herself, which is why Nana– her alternate personality– exists; to deal with the situations which Yaya cannot cope with.

Of course Shoujo Manga just wouldn’t be Shoujo Manga if there weren’t a dozen obstacles between every potential couple ever. Just as Hano-chan is taken care of, a new competitor emerges; Shuuko. How will Nana and Yaya deal with this latest problem?

In This Volume

Moriyama decides that it may be time to tell Yaya what’s going on, though he may not get the chance.

Shuuko– Moriyama’s ex girlfriend– shows up unannounced and throws Moriyama and Yaya’s delicate relationship into turmoil.

Thoughts

With only one volume left, it’s not surprising that Yaya finds out that she is Nana, but what is surprising is her reaction. It’s a little unexpected (though not completely) and it promises to complicate her life even further. There are a few ways to go with this– it will be interesting to see which path it goes down.

As with the other volumes, I really appreciated the cultural notes at the end– even when I already “get it”, it’s nice to have a refresher.

This volume gets a 4.5/5.

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Rose Daughter

McKinley, Robin. Rose Daughter (1998). 287 Pages. Ace. $6.99

Robin McKinley is known for her fairytale retellings; Beauty and Rose Daughter both retell Beauty & the Beast, while Spindle’s End retells Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin retells Donkey Skin, which is a lesser known tale, I believe. All of her books exist in worlds steeped in magic, full of amazing things, which is part of why they (and the characters who inhabit them) are so very interesting.

It’s always hard to know what to say about fairytale retellings; everyone knows the basic story, the beginning, and the end. Beauty is taken from her family, and eventually she falls in love with the Beast. It’s that middle part, the part that can vary, the way they get from A to B that really makes the story unique.

Rose Daughter is about Beauty, Jeweltongue, and Lionheart, three sisters who were not very close while they lived in the city– there were too many other things to do. Each girl comes into her own when they move out to Longchance– and Rose Cottage. Jeweltongue learns to sew, and make beautiful clothing, Lionheart disguises herself as a boy and tends to horses, and Beauty gardens. When their father gets a message saying that one of his long lost ships has arrived, he departs, and it is upon his return that he encounters the Beast.

Beauty’s time at the castle is special, and a bit unique. Every day when she wakes up, there are more animals, moving back in thanks to her. There is a mystery– revolving around cheese, though it is not a silly mystery as that statement makes it sound– and some danger. The Beast has hidden depths, and ultimately, Beauty must make a very important choice which changes the course of their life together.

First Lines:

Her earliest memory was of waking up from the dram. It was also her only clear memory of her mother. Her mother was beautiful, dashing, the toast of the town. Her youngest daughter remembered the blur of activity, friends and hangers-on, soothsayers, and staff, the bad-tempered pet dragon on a leash– bad tempered on account of the ocarunda leaves in his food … — the constant glamour and motion which was her mother and her mother’s world.

Thoughts

Rose Daughter may be another Beauty & the Beast retelling, but it is very different from Beauty, this story’s predecessor.

Beauty is, in fact, a beautiful girl, whose talents are mostly of the quiet variety; she is good with plants, roses will grow for her, and she seems to radiate calm and peace, helping her entire family stay together through the worst of it all. Her sisters are flashier, and more vibrant; Jeweltongue is known for her wit and cleverness, Lionheart for her temper and bravery (though each discover more traits which lead to greater happiness), but without Beauty, they would have been lost. Even Beauty’s father discovers a quieter sort of happiness, and his own talent.

The time Beauty spends at the castle is interesting; she is overwhelmed by the silence of the place, and tries to understand (at least a little) the magic which keeps the place running. Her relationship with the Beast is complicated from the start, which somehow makes it easier to accept her feelings for him; she sees early on that there is some humanity in him. Even more interesting is the idea that the Beast is not a Beast because of an enchantress’s curse, but rather because of something else.

Most of the book is very good; we get a lot about Beauty and her family, which makes them feel real. We get less about the Beast, but we still get a fair amount of his story. We lack a lot about the residents of Longchance, which is mostly ok, because the story isn’t about them, but they do play a major role in plot development. There is a difference in chronology between the Beast’s castle and the mundane world, and it is never questioned or explained, just allowed to be. There are a few more things which could have strengthened the story, but it is not bad because they are lacking.

Despite its flaws, it is a good book with a solid story, and is well worth reading. (It also stands up to multiple reads, which is important, as I am known to re-read favorites.) It gets a 4/5.

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Otomen (Volume 3)

Kanno, Aya. Otomen Volume 3 (2007) 200 Pages. Viz (Shoujo Beat) $8.99

When I first got hooked on manga over a decade ago (which makes me feel old, when I say it that way) there were really only a couple series, and they were hard to find. Even big-name retailers like Borders and Barnes & Noble had maybe one or two shelves with manga and comics. I would spend ages looking for the latest volumes to the series which I was reading, and I spent $10+ per volume.

Now, even the local library has manga (though I have to use Link+ for some of them) and suddenly my manga habit is much cheaper to sustain. I love that it has become so main-stream, and that it is now so easy to get fun, cute stories like Otomen.

The Story So Far…

Asuka Masamune lives a double life; he loves cute, sweet, girly things, he’s a great cook, and a talented crafter, he’s an Otomen, a girly-guy. Yet, he’s also the captain of the Kendo club, and is ranked nationally. In his day-to-day life, he strives to be the perfect man, and he mostly succeeds, at great personal expense.

Seemingly by accident, Asuka ends up making friends with Ryo Miyakozuka and Juta Tachibana. This is partially because Asuka has a major crush on Ryo, and partially because Juta has decided to base his manga on their story.* Asuka and Ryo seem destined to be together; Ryo is a manly girl** who fails at anything womanly, and so Asuka completes her.

In This Volume

Asuka helps Ryo out at a friend’s daycare. They finally go on a successful date to an amusement park, and finally, we meet Hajime Tonomine, Asuka’s kendo rival.

Thoughts

Having gotten the cliche “arranged marriage” story out of the way in volume 2, the rest of the series seems ready to move on to original (or at least more original) stories. Asuka is an endearing character who you can’t help rooting for, even when his only problem is his own fear.

The first story in this volume was very cute, as Asuka tried to help out at Ryo’s daycare, and found himself struggling, because he simultaneously wanted to be a good, fun sensei, and an ideal man, two concepts which he could not balance. Ultimately, things end up working out (as they always do) and Asuka seems to learn a bit from it.

As a whole, I like this series a lot, and I thought that this volume was very good. It gets a 4.5/5

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* Juta is apparently an established manga-ka, and is, in fact, the author of Asuka’s favorite series.

** Interesting that there is a name for a girly-boy, but no name for a boyish-girl.

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Othello (Volume 5)

Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 5 (2005). 192 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95

Previously: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4

The Story This Far…

Nana exists for the sole purpose of protecting timid Yaya Higuchi, though Yaya doesn’t know that yet. It’s probably a good thing that Nana is there to save Yaya, because she is in over her head with Hano-chan.

Having figured out that Hano’s “jobs” to help pay for “talent school” are little more than prostitution, Nana gets Yaya out of it, which unfortunately leads to Hano figuring out that Nana is Yaya. Armed with this knowledge, and determined to make Nana and Yaya suffer, Hano will be a formidable foe.

In This Volume

Hano makes Yaya work for her freedom, offering her a chance to get out of her contract if she will just play a game.

Yaya faces a subway groper– a Chikan— and with the help of Nana, justice is done.

Nana and Yaya meet a mysterious new girl.

Thoughts

Hijinks abound in the beginning of the volume, which is a slightly silly story. Unfortunately, the tone of the next section takes a sudden twist, and the closeness of the two does them both a disservice.

The second portion of the book– the part with the subway rapist– manages to touch on a serious Japanese problem* without being too heavy-handed. The story, however, dances away rapidly having poked at the topic a little bit.

Volume 5 ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, which is frustrating, to say the least. However, this volume gets a 4/5.

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* Unfortunately, much of the world still believes in the idea that “she was asking for it” or any other permutation of victim-blame. In a society like Japan’s, where standing out is considered shameful, and victims are blamed, it’s a wonder that any women speak out at all. However, it is something which has been getting somewhat better; every year more girls and women know that they can and should speak out against this. I won’t get too much more into it, because my goal was not to go off on too much of a tangent/rant, but victim-blaming is the least-productive, most hurtful practice possible.

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Doubt!! (Volume 1)

Izumi, Kaneyoshi. Doubt!! volume 1 (2005). 192 Pages. Viz. $9.99

Ai Maekawa has always been plain, and studious– a Jimi— and has dreamed of being one of the pretty, popular girls. When a classmate embarrasses her, Ai decides that it’s time to make a change; it’s the last year of middle school, so when she starts high school, she will make a fresh start.

Ai intentionally picks a high school which has nobody she knows, and takes advantage of the time between middle- and high-school to transform herself. She diets, she uses zit cream, and does everything she thinks necessary to become a pretty girl; the popularity will follow, she is sure.

Because this is a manga, Ai is right; she immediately gains the interest of Sou Ichinose, one of the most handsome and popular freshmen, as well as his friend Yuchiro Kato*. Unfortunately, this also makes her a target for all the spiteful girls who have crushes on Yuchiro and So.

In This Volume

We meet our dramatis personae; Ai, Sou, Yuchiro, and Mina**. Mina and Ai get off on the wrong foot, but eventually come to an understanding. Ai has a stalker. There is a school festival, and Yumi appears to torment Ai. Finally, Chiharu arrives, and stirs things up even more.

Thoughts

Doubt!! is very much about self-discovery and self-creation. Ai is an interesting character, because she is clever, and uses this to her advantage. Of course, stories like this often end with characters realizing that what they want and what they need are two different things, or what they thought they wanted is not what they actually want, but I’m not sure which way this one will go (it’s been a long time since I read this manga.)

For all its apparent shallowness, Doubt!! promises to be a relatively thoughtful manga with a side of hijinks. It’s got good art (even if the characters do look like they’re crying in closeups) and a winning story.

It gets a 5/5.

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* There are a lot of ways to “romanize” Japanese characters, I’ve chosen to spell these the way I am most familiar with, rather than adding the accent marks the translator chose.

** Mina is a ko-gal, which is one of those crazy Japanese trends which was super popular mid-90s and then began to decline. It involves over-tanned skin, light makeup around the eyes, and light lipstick with bleach-blond hair. (It is worth googling, if you are interested and unfamiliar with it.)

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