Ran the Peerless Beauty, Vol. 1

By Ammitsu. Released in Japan as “Takane no Ran-san” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Friend. Released in North America digitally by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Nate Derr.

One of the running themes of this blog has been about how a manga can be good even if it is not original. Trying to describe Ran the Peerless Beauty simply by the plot and characters alone might have a reader who’s very familiar with shoujo rolling their eyes and moving on, or at least asking how much it felt like reading a secret, 31st volume of Kimi ni Todoke. (Answer: a whole lot.) It’s true that the premise does not really surprise. But I enjoyed this first volume immensely. The romance was sweet, both leads are nice people who get along with a minimum of teasing. Ran is introverted without being a shrinking violet. Akira is ‘the popular guy’ but lacks the ego that frequently goes with it (I’m looking at you, Hatsu*Haru.) It’s also frequently funny without actually being a comedy. It’s kind of like finding a new burger place. It’s still a burger and fries, but man, it’s tasty. You want to come back.

We are introduced to the titular Ran, who is tall, gorgeous, gets great grades, is good in sports, family is well-off, etc. She’s so maxed out on perfect attributes, in fact, that most guys never even try to approach her. It doesn’t help that she’s fairly stoic and introverted. She’s on the school’s gardening committee, but that’s more to fill out its ranks than anything else. One day, while watering flowers and thinking about other things, she accidentally soaks one of her classmates, Akira. He’s a popular guy in her class, nice, talks to everyone… grades not so great, but hey. He thinks she’s cute. He also has a dark secret. OK, not so dark. His family runs a florist shop, and he’s very good with flowers! Ran discovers this, and the two gradually become closer.

I like these two a lot. Ran is sort of like a less intense Sawako, as she soon comes to appreciate things around her and open up to Akira. Akira is the sort of boy you’d call ‘refreshing’. The rest of the cast hasn’t quite opened up yet (Ran’s best friend is there to be the extrovert to her introvert, but we know little about her except that she had a boyfriend, then broke up with him.) Mostly, though, I enjoyed this so much as I did because of the little stylistic things. The artist has lots of side comments and funny background events that reminded me of the old cluttered Hana to Yume manga. It’s not a comedy per se, but there’s lots of funny bits that come from this, and I like that Ran’s family is a normal goofy shoujo family. Best of all may be the portrayal of the Student Council, who are all, men and women, the complete cliche of the “student council member”, as if they were chosen based entirely on their looks.

So yes, the plot is “cute buy meets cute girl and they cute together”, but that’s fine by me, and I found a great deal to enjoy here. There’s far too many Kodansha series that are digital only for me to keep up with, but this is going to be one I’ll definitely make an effort on.

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