By Karuho Shiina. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Margaret (“Betsuma”). Released in North America by JManga.
I will admit, JManga is very good at planning their surprises. I had thought the big news for NYCC would be the Kodansha rescues, where they picked up several old Del Rey series that sold poorly enough that Kodansha Comics didn’t want to continue them, and are going to finish them off on the JManga site. And that is indeed very awesome news. But they followed it up with new, unreleased in North America titles from another of the ‘untouchable’ publishers that everyone assumed was supporting JManga quietly without actually giving them anything. Shueisha has added two older shoujo titles that Viz presumably doesn’t have an interest in, and I couldn’t be happier. Especially as one of them is an earlier series from the author of Kimi ni Todoke.
The first 3/4 of this volume is, quite simply, warm fuzzy fluffy shoujo romance. The heroine is Sachi, who is bright, bubbly, and eager to experience life, whatever it may be. She’s naive to a fault, but otherwise is quite different from Sawako, Shiina’s other heroine. Her more down-to-earth friend Akemi is arranging a get together so Sachi and her other friends can meet some guys Akemi’s boyfriend knows (the curse of all-girl schools). While there, she sees Yuki, a somewhat passive yet handsome guy, and falls almost instantly in love. The problem is that Yuki has issues. Will she be able to get through to his true self and show him her feelings? And is she really ready for love herself?
Sachi is an interesting heroine, at once incredibly naive and yet aware of her own naivete. At times in this volume she sets herself up to be hurt, knowing that even if she does it will be a good life experience and make her a stronger person. She’s also able to see that Yuki is a deeply wounded young man, though she’s unable to see exactly what those wounds are. After he initially rejects her (we suspect as she’s not the sort of girl he can casually date and drop), they become friends, but Sachi is still trying to show how much she cares for him. There’s a very awkward yet warm tone to their conversations that KnT fans will find familiar.
So, we get a cute bubbly girl and a quiet guy whose mask hides his loneliness and true feelings. We also have the cute beta couple of Akemi and her boyfriend, and another guy, Akahoshi, who is another shoujo cliche, the guy who initially is annoyed by the girl’s ditziness, but starts to fall for her as he realizes she has a truly good heart. It’s all very cute but slight. But this is six volumes long, not one, and we realize that something has to go wrong. The last 15 pages or so are a total mood swing, turning violent and dramatic, and end with a brutal cliffhanger. I suspect Volume 2 will be a lot less happy and fluffy.
(I actually liked the way all the players came together. Kimi ni Todoke’s main romantic pairings all tend to happen in parallel to each other, with no intersections (except maybe Kent). This is a giant messy pile of friendships and relationships.)
I’ve said this before about other titles, but again, this is what I want to see JManga doing. A nice, solid shoujo title that other publishers aren’t going to bother with. It doesn’t quite hit the heights of Kimi ni Todoke (the art, in particular, is less elegant and more typical shoujo), but it has a likeable heroine and an addictive plot. I want to know what happens next. Good thing Vol. 2 is also out now.