Skip Beat!, Vol. 29

By Yoshiki Nakamura. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.

I hope you enjoyed the Black Bird-esque cover art, as that’s really the closest thing Skip Beat gets to romance. Oh yes, there’s Kyoko and Ren teasing each other briefly, but the point of that scene is the same as it’s been before – when pressed, Kyoko freaks out completely and shows, as Lory lampshades in this volume, that she’s not remotely ready for love or romance. Which is one reason why Skip Beat is at Vol. 29 and things are still up in the air. Not that we’ve any doubt that the final pairing will be Ren and Kyoko – if Sho somehow manages to win her heart I’ll be mind-boggled (and I think angry fans would storm Hakusensha’s offices). But there’s simply demons in Kyoko’s past that really haven’t resolved yet.

Honestly, I wish we’d see more of Kyoko’s mother. Yes, she’s horrible, and I certainly don’t want to see more of her interactions with Kyoko. Except I totally do, because her emotional abuse at her mother’s hands is what continues to drive her story. Every single time she twitches or reacts poorly to someone getting angry with her – even when it’s obviously meant to be comedic – it reminds me that she’s hypersensitive to everyone’s reactions. And one reason she may be so good at method acting is that she grew up trying to be the good child – or, as she increasingly got pawned off on Sho’s family, the dutiful wife/sister figure. Kyoko’s ability to immediately sense when Ren is upset with her, and her over the top reactions, are incredibly funny, but they’re also built on a foundation that screams ‘trigger warning’.

In a way, Kyoko’s emotional maturity when it comes to love and romance (and even simple things such as friendship) is trying to catch up to the personas that she’s put on her entire life. Which is why she’s still so incredibly naive about love. Her discussion with her Bo costume about Ren’s ‘playboy’ ways show that Lory isn’t kidding about her being completely unable to love. He may glibly tell Ren to avoid taking ‘that final step’ with her, but there’s a reason behind it – if Kyoko is freaking out to the point of bolting across the room when Ren even suggests seducing her, she’s not ready for anything else.

As for the rest of the manga, despite the fact that we’re twenty-nine volumes in, not much time has passed within the manga itself, as we can see given that Dark Moon is only just wrapping up. Meanwhile, Cain Heel’s drama finally starts filming, and we meet one of his fellow actors, Murasame, who seems to be a combination of rival and tsukkomi, as he points out to himself all the weird things Cain and Setsu are doing, but is also clearly attracted to Setsu. Of course, he shows this attraction via his own emotional immaturity – after pondering the best way to introduce himself to her, he starts by insulting her brother. Kyoko’s not the only one with issues.

I love the fact that this cute, funny shoujo manga can make me write about serious things. It doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon, so here’s to more volumes (and perhaps Kyoko conquering her love and affection demons).

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