Tag Archives: Shoujo Manga

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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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Graphic Novel, Humor, Romance, Shojo Manga, Young Adult Fiction

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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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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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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Othello (Volume 4)

Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 4 (2005). 192 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95

Previously: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3

The Story This Far…

Quiet and timid Yaya Higuchi doesn’t know it, but she has another personality– the outgoing and determined Nana. Unfortunately, quite a few people are very interested in the very noticeable Nana, most notably Shohei, Yaya’s idol.

So far, Nana has gotten Yaya into as many bad situations as she has gotten her out of. Sure, she got rid of Seri and Moe, but her attention-grabbing ways have brought her to Megumi Hano’s attention, and that may not be a good thing. Meanwhile, Moriyama has figured out that Nana and Yaya are the same girl, and does his part to try to protect the innocent Yaya from Nana’s mistakes.

At the end of volume 3, Megumi Hano asks Yaya to help her track down Nana, and Yaya agrees, wondering what she’s getting herself into. In volume 4, we find out.

In This Volume

Hano convinces Yaya to help her find Nana at their school, which is no mean feat, considering how many students there are.

Yaya gets a job with Hano’s father’s talent agency, which is not exactly what it seems, and may not be the good idea Yaya initially thought it was.

Nana gets Yaya out of some financial troubles.

And Hano gets suspicious of the relationship between Yaya and Nana.

Thoughts

I don’t really like the fake-friends that seem to make so many appearances in these series, I consistently think of Sae from Peach Girl when looking at Hano– who calls herself “Hano-chan” which is approximately the equivalent of speaking about yourself in third person constantly. Giving yourself honorifics just isn’t done, and Hano’s use of it is one of the more obvious displays of how unhinged she might be.

Yaya has more issues, and Nana seems to be getting her into a lot of trouble, even when she tries to protect her. The dynamics are interesting, and because this is the 4th book of 7, things are really beginning to build toward a climax.

This particular volume gets a 3.5/5, because I am so very annoyed by parts of it.

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