Friday, November 05, 2004

Two Manga Hits

Quick comments on two great manga titles I found this week.

Othello Volume 1
Created by Satomi Ikezawa
Del Rey 208 pages $10.95 (October 12, 2004)

Every manga publisher need that one true hit to make their mark, and I think Othello could be Del Rey's real breakout hit.

16-year-old Yaya Higuchi at first seems like many others in the "shy young girl meets cool guy who will help her find happiness" genre does. She's shy, overly nice and helpful to those who don't deserve her kindness, and lacks a feeling of self worth.

Her only "friends" are Seri and Moe, who she goes shopping with and is someone they confide in about their infatuation with cute boys and pop stars. Yet their favorite "sport" is making fun of Yaya, because it makes them feel better about themselves and their inability to attract boys.

When Moriyama, a cute boy who is a Led Zeppelin fan and lead singer of his own band, takes an interest in her. Things start to change for Yaya in a very big way.

With Seri and Moe's jealousy of such a cute guy taking an interest in Yaya, and Yaya's inability to deal with her feelings. An alter ego known as Nana takes over, exhibiting a confidence, sexuality and martial arts knowledge that is almost the reverse of how Yaya usually acts with those that know her.

Nana doesn't back down from Seri and Moe's bullying, and she is aggressive in pursuing Moriyama's affections. Yet Yaya doesn't remember her actions as Nana, even though the persona is really just an extension of Yaya's "cosplay" activity with a group of fans who dress in goth-rock costumes every weekend. Causing her to get in even more hot water with Seri and Moe, but leading to peculiar interactions with Moriyama as well.

I think the big draw of this series for me is the positive energy it provides. The situations Yaya finds herself in are things many young people probably go through at some point in their life. Her Nana persona is a very wish fulfillment fantasy, who can say and do things that we always wish we could or would do when faced with the same situations.

It is just an amazing book, and joins my list of "must follow" manga titles after just the first volume alone.

Boys Be Volume 1
by Itabashi Masahiro & Tamakoshi Hiroyuki

I'm not sure if the book lives up to its claim on the back cover of "Whether you're a guy looking for tips on how to impress the girl of your dreams, or you're a girl trying to understand what makes guys tick, you'll find all the answers inside."

Yet the book is a fun ride through some wacky young love relationship storylines.

From the jock who is introduced to a whole new world of possibilities by a "party girl" after she runs him over and thus knocking him out of sports for a bit. To a sweet story about a shy young guy and an overly tall girl who stumble through the first steps of love together.

There is a sweetness and just sense of fun that I hadn't seen in quite a while. There are a couple of real loony stories too, like a girl who gets a little too into Cos Playing or a couple of stories which seemed to show that women have and are more fun when they are drunk.

Yet even in the stories where the pandering made me roll my eyes, there was a level of humor and almost innocence that shined through. Which made me take even some of the obvious "fan service" elements with a grain of salt. Since at heart each story was people finding happiness with others, in various forms.

After a crappy week of comics from the "main stays" of the comic industry. Finding these two new books made my lousy and incredibly busy week a little bit brighter. Because it was nice to see series that realized making the reader laugh and seeing good things happen can make for a fun reading experience.


Shawn Fumo said...

Yeah, I actually got the anime version a while back (there is legit region-0 release in Singapore with ok subtitles). I believe the anime is off of the first manga series, while the manga currently in the US is the sequel series, but it doesn't really matter since it is so episodic in general.

I agree with the sense of innocence in a lot of the stories. It is nice that there can be some romance stories aimed at guys that aren't some sort of harem storyline...

As for Othello, that's one I need to pick up. Sounds like it'd be pretty fun. I doubt it'd manage to unseat some of Del Ray's Clamp titles for sheer sales popularity, though.

James Schee said...

You know, I sort of wondered why it was called Season 2 at that. It was fun, a lot of attention to womens bodies, but then that's what many teen boys focus on.

I was very surprised by Othello, as you say it won't unseat the CLAMP books in terms of sales. Yet it is the first Del Rey title that I've gone "wow, I can't wait to see #2" after finishing it.