Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hinako Ashihara
Viz, $9.99, 192 pages (March 8, 2005)

SOS is a short story manga collection, of young loves.

I like short stories, because they tend to offer unique endings that longer series tend not to. Because if you are working with a limited space the author has to be especially creative in order to get to the end in time.

While with a series there is more room for tangents, yet it also means more responsibility to give the audience the end they need. Since you are asking them to commit to your story for a longer term of time. While in a short story, if the ending isn't popular the audience hasn't invested as much time or money.

SOS started off a bit too familiar though, not that familiarity is bad, but there was nothing to really remark on in its first storyline. Which involves three young teens who are great at making love matches for everyone but themselves. So the three form a dating agency to earn money, yet wind up finding something special among themselves.

The characters are likeable enough, and there is an odd bit about a teacher who has a dating problem that helps add a bit of spice to it all. Yet it was still a standard boy and girl must get past their own emotional baggage together story.

The second storyline is where the book starts earning its keep though. With a poignant tale of tragic love and time lost, that takes place both in the here and now and 1922.

The pacing on the story was very well done, slowly building and twisting until the ending that is one of the most emotional manga moments I've seen. It was one that I should have seen coming, but for some reason it completely took me by surprise.

The final story is about a girl whose boyfriend takes advantage of her devotion to him. She feels strongly for him but he just sees her as another means of making his life easier.

Typically this story would only go a certain way, with her dumping him and finding someone that is more deserving of her love. Yet the breakup is just the start of the story, and who turns out to be the right one for her was surprising.

It is surprising to see a young relationship portrayed that starts out black and white, but moves into many shades of gray. As the lesson is taught that real relationships take work on both sides, and that forgiveness can solve many problems.

I'm not sure if this volume is the first in a series or just a one shot. Yet Hinako Ashihara is certainly a talent who I'll be on the look out for.


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