Writing Rewind #13: Wings of Fate Chapter 8 Part 2

*I will only be making Friday posts for the month of December. Regular Monday and Friday posting will resume in January.*

WOW, it’s been a while since my last post. Not because I’ve been avoiding it this time, but because I’ve been swamped with work and other things, but now I’m ready to re-embark on the S.S. Cringe-fest and wrap up chapter 8 of this travesty.

Last time on the UNMEI, Matthias was being a robot to everyone, per usual, though slightly more jerk-ish than usual. And we’re going to find out why! What is it about the “hated day” that makes Matthias behave in such a way? Well, strap yourselves in… it’s going to be quite a ride, with a lamentable romance on the horizon.

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe
Green highlight – switch/move

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This first selection is a nice warm up. Minna and Tango chatting about the General and his prickly behavior, and there’s a mysterious gift involved… though with more detail and description than is needed. So how are we going to fix that? *unscrews highlighter cap*

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Trim and chop, trim a chop… it’s becoming quite a theme. Altogether, though, this passage is not totally horrendous. No, no… that is yet to come, don’t fret.

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The superfluous bits have been shaved away, and the meat of the story remains. The dialogue tends to get repetitive because I like to make absolutely sure my message gets across, but I’ve come to realize the reader can put the pieces together without me beating them over the head with it.

Next up, their conversation strays to a different officer… one who is not so cold.

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And there we have it. Tango, for as of yet unknown reasons, has feelings for Matthias. And though this piece is riddled with grammatical errors, this is a glaring issue with the plot/content. I was 1000000% on-board for this pairing when I wrote this story a decade ago, but now, I see it for what it is, which will become clear in upcoming chapters.

But first, we have to fix some of the grammar and syntax.

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The eye references continue. And they shall be eliminated.

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Oh, what messy romantic entanglements we will have to navigate in upcoming chapters? The seeds have been planted, but will they sprout into weeds, or flowers? *clears throat* ANYWAY,  with some of the fluff cut out, this portion flows better and the conversation gets wrapped up sooner. So, let’s move on…

Cut to, UNMEI exterior deck, with our favorite frigid general and perky brunette major, as Matthias begins to reflect on his life and his relationships…

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*eye twitch* THIS NEEDS TO BE SLIMMED DOWN, PRONTO. Now we know a bit of Matthias’s history with his father and his turmoil about Tango, but it’s still too much. WAY too much.

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Whoo, boy. This may even take a bit more chopping once the sentences are restructured a bit. I can probably cut this portion in half and not lose anything of real substance.

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AHHHHHHHHHHHHH, so much better. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

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Of course, it’s his birthday. Don’t think I hinted at it nearly enough, to be honest.

Content-wise… I actually don’t think this part is that bad. I mean, the conflict between them in this chapter isn’t the main issue I have with their relationship. No, that will become clearer later on, don’t you worry. But this passage still suffers from the usual issues, which need to be addressed.

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Lots to trim, lots to axe, lots to rework. AND THAT EYE REFERENCE MUST BURN, AND DIE.

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There; a bit better, and not so bogged down with description and clunky phrases.

Now… this was going to be the last segment. But I feel like I need to address something else, because reading it back, ten years after I wrote it, I’ve realized that I had some… erroneous view points on romance. So, here is the gift that Tango got for Matthias…

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WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK. She made him a scrapbook about his life. THAT IS SO STALKERY!!! They aren’t even dating, and he’s almost twice her age! She needs to CHILL. That is not romance, it’s creepy. End of story.

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The entire segment needs to go. It makes Tango look obsessed more than anything else, and that’s not okay, and it is not a positive attribute.

Her feelings for Matthias aren’t invalid or anything, but the way she expressed them is way too intense for someone she isn’t even dating, and that kind of behavior should not be projected in a positive light. I have actually experienced something similar in my life (as in, someone gave me an overly-intimate gift) and it was not okay to the point where it profoundly altered the way I behave around men in both a friendly and potentially-interested dynamic. So, maybe that experience is coloring my perception of Tango’s behavior, but I truly believe it is unhealthy and I 10000% don’t want to convey the message that acting like this is okay, so I’m changing it now.

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So, she got him a sweater instead. So. Much. Better. It has Tango’s humor, still seems heartfelt and personal without being too intense, and it’s definitely not stalkery. Sorry that I soapboxed for a minute there, but I think it’s important to show how my current mindset and the experiences I have had since I was fifteen have changed the way that I approach my writing, both past and present.

NEXT TIME, we have a power outage… which can only mean one thing! DRAMA!!! Not sure when it will go up, but in the next post, we will explore Chapter 9: The Blackout. Until then!

~~~~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, or want to get someone a book for the holidays, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

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Manga Monday #8: Sugar Princess by Hisaya Nakajo

Hisaya Nakajo’s shojo manga Hana-Kimi is, at this moment, my favorite manga series of all time. When I first finished it, I binged the Taiwanese drama adaptation (loved it) and eagerly picked up her next series, Sugar Princess, when it was released.

And, though it’s been a while since I read it, I remember two things about Sugar Princess.

1.) It’s about figure skating.

2.) IT WAS TOO SHORT.

Needless to say, #2 enraged me, because I recall being charmed by this series and drawn in by its potential, and was so disappointed to discover that it ended at 2 volumes and was left feeling incomplete. So, let’s see if I still feel that way, shall we?

~Reading break~

20171030_100702899317592.jpgYEP, STILL ENRAGED. I do understand that sometimes, creators no longer feel the allure of a particular story and decide not to force themselves to continue, and perhaps that was the case with this series. However, I really wish this series had a solid ending… even now, so many years later, I want to know what happened to these characters!

Sugar Princess follows determined eighth grader Maya Kuroniki as she embarks on a journey to become a capable figure skater with her reluctant partner/coach, tenth-grader Shun Kano. Will the pair be able to work together to soar to new heights, or fall flat on the ice?

Much like Hana-Kimi, this series has a bright, happy protagonist who is very dedicated to her goal, and cheerful almost to a fault. Maya definitely puts the “sugar” in Sugar Princess, but does so without being too grating or obnoxious. Her counterpart, the gloomy but meticulous Shun, is the typical “brooding” hero without being too morose or cruel. Their chemistry as a pair is evident, despite the series ultimately tapping out at 2 volumes, though there’s very little romance besides a few hints here and there. The supporting cast come across as somewhat underdeveloped – but, considering the length of the series, that’s not much of a surprise, though it is a bummer.

The plot is pretty unique, as it focuses on ice/figure skating and even attempts to teach some terminology about the sport, though it also features some standard staples for a shojo title. Boy/girl don’t get along at first, but discover they must work together to reach a common goal. Lead boy has mysterious past. Sabotage threatens to take down an ice-skating rink. You know… the usual drama. Nakajo does an excellent job of balancing the humor with the drama, making for a well-rounded story… well, other than the fact that is is unfinished. It’s especially a shame because I was really drawn in by Shun and Maya – they are similar to other shojo protagonists in their personalities and mannerisms, but each of them also felt incredibly distinct, and I’m still bummed that readers don’t get to see them grow as a pair both on and off the ice except for a 2-volume glimpse.

I remember that Nakajo’s artwork changed pretty noticeably over the course of Hana-Kimi, but the difference never bothered me. I’m a big fan of her art style and the way she draws characters and their expressions, and that rings true for this series as well. She also does an excellent job showing subtle moments via artwork – a portion of the story shows Shun hesitating outside the door to his sister’s bedroom, with no dialogue bubbles, and the atmosphere of the scene is portrayed clearly through the art. The skating segments are also drawn very well, showing shades of moves I’ve seen from skaters in the Olympics.

Honestly, this series is great for what it is, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless someone is a fan of Nakajo’s other works or has an interest in figure skating. Volume 2 does end on a note that feels as though it could be the end, though I’ve read that this series was, in fact, discontinued. There are a lot of dangling threads never tied up by the end, and several avenues left unexplored. Though Sugar Princess features a promising premise, a compelling lead duo, great artwork, and a balanced blend of humor and plot, it’s probably not worth getting invested in a short, if charming, 2-volume series that does not have a satisfying conclusion.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

 

Manga Monday #7: Tokyo Mew Mew by Mia Ikumi and Reiko Yoshida (vol. 4-7)

*Warning! This post will contain spoilers!*

Looking at the covers of the latter volumes triggered some memories for me, from back when this series was first released in English. Since Tokyo Mew Mew was the first manga I collected to completion and I started my collection as the series was being released, I would eagerly scan the manga shelves of my local Borders (good ol’ Borders! I MISS IT SO!) every few weeks, waiting for the new volume to come out. That’s definitely one of my first and fondest memories from my weeaboo years!

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Following the set-up of volumes 1-3, volumes 4-7 wrap up our story with more much more action, drama, romance, some cake and pastries, and a refreshing dose of comedy that almost vanishes completely in favor of a more serious tone for the last 2 volumes as the plot reaches the climax. All in all, there are many twists and turns as this story draws to a close – secret identities are revealed, double secret identities are revealed, romances are secured, mew aquas are found, and jokes are made, often at Ichigo’s expense.

I do feel that the story needed a bit more time to breathe as it barreled toward a conclusion. The big Masaya/”Deep Blue” reveal takes place within the span of a single volume, so it feels a bit rushed, as it gets resolved in short order and the final fight – while the art is fantastic and the battle is well-depicted – feels short. I actually think this series could have benefited from a couple more volumes, which is not a sentiment I feel very often, especially with shojo manga. There’s not even that much filler in Tokyo Mew Mew, which is nice… just about every chapter has a purpose that is tied into the overall narrative and the major arcs of the characters/story, it still feels as though the resolution comes a little too quick. But ultimately, the conclusion is satisfying and just about all of the loose ends get wrapped up in a way that should please most readers.

Also, my hatred of Kish continues (and builds!) in the latter volumes, but I’ll chalk it up to underwhelming character development. He switches sides and suddenly becomes a “good guy” because he “loves” Ichigo, but it’s tough for me to take his motivations at face value because he barely knows her, the only times he ever interacted with her he was attacking her and her friends, and he is just so whiny I wanted to punt him across numerous panels and off the page. Also Tart is OBNOXIOUS. Pie was the only villain that I could stand, only because he has very limited panel time. However, our friendly heroines are all pleasant to follow, and though Ichigo makes some boneheaded decisions sometimes (she’s twelve, she gets some slack) it’s easy to root for the Mew Mews as they fight to protect and preserve the world. Keiichiro is an understated hero, and Ryou is not my fave, but getting a peek into his tragic backstory makes him easier to understand and empathize with. Could have done without the Alto bit, though. And Masaya’s arc was intriguing, though a deeper glimpse into his history might have been beneficial, considering he’s been the ultimate villain all along.

However, any manga that ends with a mock wedding between two 12-year-olds is a bit much for me on the saccharine-scale. It makes me feel like a huge killjoy to say it, but, while I find the Ichigo/Masaya romance cute and all, it’s sooooooo dramatic and there are so many love declarations and angsting that it starts to feel forced and disingenuous. Plus, they are children. I get that it’s manga and isn’t to be taken so seriously, I just have a tough time taking it seriously. Then again, I’ve aged out of the target demo for this series, and I’m sure I thought differently when I was younger. I will admit, though, that Masaya has the patience of a SAINT. Someday, I hope I can land a man who is totally fine with consistent lateness and flakiness and me randomly disappearing while out on dates.

If you’re looking for a cute magical-girl series that is significantly shorter than Sailor Moon or Fushigi Yugi, then Tokyo Mew Mew is a great outlet to satisfy your need for cute mottos, cute motifs, and cute characters… did I mention it’s cute? Overall, there’s enough sugar in this series to please even the fiercest sweet-tooths.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

Manga Monday #6: Tokyo Mew Mew by Reiko Yoshida and Mia Ikumi (vol. 1-3)

I’ve been looking forward to this one, because Tokyo Mew Mew was the very first manga series I collected and read to completion. I was pretty young when I read it (probably early teens), but I have fond memories of the characters and stories, and I look forward to riding the wave of nostalgia.

~Reading Break~

20171009_085423290452330.jpgTokyo Mew Mew (written by Reiko Yoshida, additional writing and art by Mia Ikumi) follows Ichigo Momomiya, a twelve-year-old girl who, after being infused with the genes of an endangered breed of wild cat, must save the earth from the threat of aliens who seek to conquer it. With four other girls, Ichigo must navigate the difficulties of saving the world with the perils of maintaining her personal life and keeping her superhero identity hidden from those she cares about – especially her crush, Masaya. This series ran from 2000-2003 and was complete at 7 volumes.

I think my early adoration for Sailor Moon sparked an appreciation for Magical Girl stories in general, and that’s probably what drew me to this title in the first place… and so many years later, though I’ve aged out of the targeted demographic, I still enjoy it!

For the first three volumes, the story walks familiar ground – girls magically become superheroes and find themselves thrust into dangerous situations where they must fight to save the city from extraterrestrial forces – but contains the right balance of humor, action, and drama to weave a compelling narrative. It’s more lighthearted than similar titles, but has a decent share of serious moments, and juggles the “save the world!” message with the “OMG DOES HE LIKE ME OR NOT??” teenage drama in a way that doesn’t seem particularly stale or overdone. Now that the story is pretty much all set up, I’m looking forward to some more action in volumes 4-7; my memory of what happens next is spotty.

Ichigo is a likable heroine, and though she’s the main focus, her teammates are well-developed and get their own bits of page-time, and each member of the Mew Mew squad has a distinct personality, so no one really fades into the background. It’s tough to devote enough time to each character in manga with a pretty sizable ensemble cast, but all of the supporting Mew Mews – Mint, Lettuce, Pudding, and Zakuro – have their psyche explored at least a little bit in the first three volumes. Masaya is also a quirky, and somewhat unusual love interest for Ichigo; he’s dense (as all twelve-year-old boys are), but shows signs of a deeper awareness and just seems like an overall decent, honest fellow thus far. My least favorite character way back when I read this the first time was the alien Kish, and that remains true today – I still want to punch him in the face. Some things never change, I guess. Only now I also kind of want to punch Ryou, as well.

The art leans more to the “cute” style, but it’s pleasing to the eye, and the costumes and character designs for the girls are well done and aids their development as characters. The whole “fruit and pastry” theme is interesting and the design of the villains and the aliens are neat. I have never understood why 12-year-olds need to wear revealing costumes in manga like this, but in the case of Tokyo Mew Mew, it’s not as bad as others.

The main thing that stuck out to me is the way the story presents a message about literally “saving the world” – by caring for the environment, and treating the earth and all of its inhabitants with respect – as Ichigo and the girls battle the Chimera Animas and Kish and his goons. There’s even a bit of background to the aliens that alludes to their motives in a more sympathetic light, which is . It’s a unique way to spread the message of environmental preservation and the importance of aiding endangered species, and it does not feel as though it’s shoehorned in – it flows as a natural part of the story, and hopefully, when new young readers discover this series, the idea of caring for our earth will resonate with them.

Tokyo Mew Mew presents a fairly standard Magical Girl story with a unique, environmentally-conscious flair – a sweet pastry with a tart twist – and I look forward to delving into the last 4 volumes to see if the series maintains its charm throughout.

Manga Monday #5: Absolute Boyfriend (vol. 4-6)

*Warning! This post will contain MAJOR spoilers!*

Last week, I re-examined volumes 1-3 of Yuu Watase’s shojo manga Absolute Boyfriend, and this week, I’ll be tackling the end, volumes 4-6!

I went into the tail end of this series expecting to be blown away, and in all honesty, I wasn’t – I kept both feet planted firmly on the ground. But a few key points still stuck out, and I still find this series just as charming and funny on the second go-round as I did on the first. I do, however, now realize why a part of me prefers the Jdrama to the manga, when the opposite is usually true.

20171001_2145091421252900.jpgFirst of all, I am immensely glad that the series retains the humor factor the entire way through. The little bits of comedy, especially regarding Gaku and his “job,” and Night’s tendency to nearly expose his secret to others, make for a nice break from the more dramatic portions of the story, especially as the main narrative barrels toward the end and the emotional scenes become a priority. The art remains fantastic as well; totally pleasing to the eye and continually engrossing.

Of all 6 volumes, I think volume 4 is the weakest. First of all, I TOTALLY FORGOT about the “Mini-Night” story-line. While some meaningful revelations and interactions occur during that particular plot, it still feels like “filler.” Even the side-plot that occurs concerning Miyabe, one of Riiko’s friends, during this time didn’t strike me as vital to the plot. I understand the genre of this manga and what the standards are for this type of story, but I think the latter half of the plot seems to fall victim to the preoccupation with the love triangle, and it’s more of a detriment than a strength. It’s present in the first half of the series, but as the story builds and the love-triangle plot starts to take center stage, it began to bug me. And, as I said in the last post, I am all for a good love kerfuffle, but this one started to grate on my nerves. I mean, at least Riiko straight up admits she doesn’t know who she “really loves,” since she has feelings for both, but the pettiness between Night and Soshi and Riiko’s constant, “I don’t know” mentality gets a little stale after a while.

The pacing suffers a bit in the latter volumes; certain parts, like the finale, feel rushed, while others seem aimless. I didn’t realize volume 6 takes up only half the tankobon, and the other half is two little one-shot stories totally unrelated to Absolute Boyfriend. BUT, they are both pretty cute, and well worth a read!

My biggest beef on this read-through is Soshi’s character. I hated the way Soshi behaved when he found out about Night’s “figure” status, as he amped up the jealous/forceful factor to about a 9 on the “he needs to calm the eff down” scale. It’s understandable for him to be frustrated, of course – the girl he loves is torn between him and a man who is not technically “real,” and if that were me, I’d feel like a grade-A loser – and his reaction is… less than pleasant, to the point where it does teeter a bit over the “too intense” line. And while Riiko can be a bit of a waffle sometimes, and wishy-washy like a lot of heroines tend to be, I think Soshi genuinely needed to chill. He does, eventually – but my opinion on his character really soured in the latter half of this series. Especially when he kisses Riiko while she’s sleeping. Not cute, Soshi. Not. Cute. And the “YOU DON’T DESERVE HER… no wait, I don’t deserve her… BUT YOU DON’T DESERVE HER EITHER” got old real quick.

Though I’m older now, and some of the events and decisions made in this manga no longer resonate with me or stand out as something I can relate to, I do still massively appreciate the way this manga ends. Even when I was a teenager, I didn’t expect Riiko/Night to be endgame. It was just not realistic, and I applaud the mangaka for not taking some absurd, Pinocchio-esque “I’m a real boy!” twist to make it so that Night will be able to remain in Riiko’s life permanently, without consequence. And I will admit, I got a little choked up when Night’s body fails and Riiko desperately tries to wake him, only to realize that he’s gone forever. I remember openly sobbing over it when I read it the first time, so I’m not surprised it still yanked at the ol’ heartstrings. Boy, that pummeled me right in the feels, even so many years later. Their relationship was never going to last, but that doesn’t make the ending any less significant, and by the end, I felt as though I had witnessed real growth in Riiko (and, to some extent, Soshi ) thanks in large part to her relationship with Night, and her experiences with him seemed to make her a better person overall. It’s a bittersweet ending that is handled exceptionally well, which seems difficult to pull off for a series of this nature.

All in all, Absolute Boyfriend doesn’t hold quite the same allure for me as it did when I was a teen, but it still contains messages and stories that are relevant today and it is an entertaining read all the way through, despite some parts that gnawed at my nerves. Through a tedious love triangle and a bit of inconsequential “filler,” Absolute Boyfriend still nails the comedy and packs an emotional wallop where it really matters.

Next Monday, we’ll tackle either Tokyo Mew Mew by Reiko Yoshida and Mia Ikumi, or Tsubasa: Those With Wings by Natsuki Takaya. Until then!

Manga Monday #4: Absolute Boyfriend by Yuu Watase (vol. 1-3)

*Warning, this post contains minor spoilers!*

I’m not going to lie, I was initially leery of this series because of the “scandalous” cover of the first volume, which features a mostly naked man. I didn’t want to buy it in stores because I didn’t want the cashier at Borders to judge me, so I ended up buying the entire series online. Bear in mind, I was an awkward teenage girl at that time.

However, I do remember loving this manga, because I also binged both the Japanese and Taiwanese drama adaptations (Japanese first – the Taiwanese one wasn’t out yet). I also splurged on another of Yuu Watase’s works, Alice 19th, which I will be revisiting later for this blog series. But will Absolute Boyfriend stand the test of my growing cynicism and jaded view of the world?

~Reading Break~

Absolute Boyfriend follows Riiko Izawa, a 16-year-old girl who yearns for a boyfriend. After a string of rejections and a chance meeting with a mysterious salesman, Riiko ends up in over her head when a boyfriend is delivered right to her door. The problem is… he’s a cybernetic doll, and he’s determined to prove to Riiko that he can be her “ideal boyfriend,” which causes mayhem in Riiko’s life. But can Riiko develop a real relationship with a man who isn’t?  Absolute Boyfriend ran from 2003-2005 and was completed at 6 volumes.

After re-reading the first 3 volumes, the points that appealed to me on my first read-through continued to resonate. Absolute Boyfriend is a series that relies on familiar tropes, but presents those elements in a fresh, and sometimes unexpected, way.

Riiko is an understandable heroine and a believable teenage girl. She’s sixteen, she makes mistakes, she’s awkward, and she struggles with her budding feelings for Night as well as her confusion over her interactions with childhood friend, Soshi. She also has a (somewhat hilarious) violent streak, and she grapples with money problems, jealousy, betrayal, and the stresses of high school. Night, the “absolute boyfriend” of the title, is a combination of chivalrous, hilarious, and frustratingly naive, as his actions and his stalwart dedication to Riiko constantly cause trouble for her and threaten to expose his true identity. He’s an enjoyable and charming lead, although his outbreaks of jealousy and occasional violence are a drawback. However, since he’s programmed to Riiko’s tastes, his possessiveness serves a dual purpose; it shows both Riiko and the reader what can happen when a boyfriend acts that way. Soshi, the last lead, is a typical “boy next door,” but he shows some unique traits that separate him from the stereotype. He’s loyal and sure of his feelings for Riiko, but also shy and uncertain when he compares himself to Night.

Though the “love triangle” bit is a common trope in shojo manga (and the YA genre in general), Absolute Boyfriend goes about it in a way that doesn’t feel overused. I know they’ve been beaten into the ground, but honestly, I love a good love triangle if it’s done well or done in a unique fashion, and this one does strive to separate itself from the pack, especially since one member of the triangle is an AI. All three sides of the triangle – Riiko, Soshi, and Night – also function independently of one another, so their complex romantic entanglements, despite serving as the crux of the story, don’t become the sole focus. There’s plenty of other issues and story-lines going on in this manga, so the love triangle doesn’t feel like a stale addition to a tired plot.

Also, this is the first shojo manga I read that really delves into the topic of sex in a relationship, and it’s handled very well. Riiko must sleep with Night in order to make him “permanently” hers, so he can never be claimed by another, but she says she doesn’t want to take a step like that until she’s truly in love and is ready for it. Despite constant pressure by Gaku – the Kronos Heaven employee who helps her out with Night – she doesn’t relent in her decision to wait until she’s certain she wants to progress the intimate nature of her relationship with Night, and I think it’s a good message to send. The manga isn’t “sex negative” or anything – in fact, it comes across as positive – but stresses the idea of people being ready for such a step at different times, which is nice to see acknowledged. There’s some other progressive ideas inserted into the story as well, which I didn’t remember from my first read-through, but appreciated seeing on a reread.

There’s also a nice blend of humor and drama/romance in the plot over the first 3 volumes. Riiko battles with recognizable issues, often with comedic setbacks and dramatic conclusions, and the story’s pacing is well-balanced. The serious parts don’t overwhelm and drown out the comedy and vice versa. The narrative explores a unique question about artificial intelligence, genuine emotion, self worth, and the potential drawbacks and positives of building romance, and it does so in a way that feels fresh and new, even though the series is over a decade old.

Yuu Watase’s art is also excellent; I love her character designs, as it’s clear that a ton of effort has gone into them. The different textures and inking is also very impressive, and I remember being just as struck by it back when I read it the first time as I was on this reread. The art style also lends itself well to humorous parts of the story; the facial expressions and reactions are on point, and I actually chuckled out loud during a few panels, which is due to the art as well as the content.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed my reread of Absolute Boyfriend so far – it’s definitely one that should not be judged by the cover, as I’ve found it more compelling than the brief summary and a glimpse of the cover art would imply. I look forward to re-experiencing volumes 4-6, and see if my reaction to the conclusion will change!

 

 

Manga Monday #3: Full Moon o Sagashite by Arina Tanemura (vol. 4-7)

WARNING! This post will contain SPOILERS!

The previous post, which discusses volumes 1-3, can be found here!

Now, after starting the series several years ago and failing to finish it, I have finally read all of Full Moon o Sagashite!

It’s a unique feeling to read a manga like this now, in my twenties, as opposed to in my teens. My mentality on certain matters has changed a lot over the last few years, so while I’m sure 15-year-old Allie would be squealing with joy over how adorable this manga is, 25-year-old Allie is less enthusiastic. However, I will say that the manga comes to a pretty satisfying conclusion without any glaring loose ends, which is a major plus.

While I’m glad the story picked up a lot of traction as opposed to the early volumes, I did find some of the story-lines rushed during the latter portion of this series. I personally felt that Takuto’s emerging love for Mitsuki went from “I might have feelings for this girl” to “I AM DEEPLY, PASSIONATELY IN LOVE WITH HER” in an extremely short amount of time, and Takuto became pretty one-dimensional afterward, except for a moment where he asserted his partnership with Meroko in the final volume. I realize that this is a recurring theme in many shojo manga, but in case of Full Moon, I did find it to be a detriment. Takuto also gets a little forceful with Mitsuki at times, which I did not like. The inclusion of Hikari as a wrench in Mitsuki and Takuto’s blooming relationship also struck an off-note with me, as she felt more like a device than a full-fledged character, especially since that thread of the story was brief.

I mentioned in my last post that I disliked how young Mitsuki was while grappling with such intense emotions, but I do think that improved in volumes 4-7, as the reasoning behind her feelings gets explored more thoroughly. She knew that Eichi was dead, but was unwilling to let go of him, and that stirs up a mess of confusing emotions once Takuto throws himself into the ring and expresses his love for her. Mitsuki’s reluctance to move on felt very real, and like a very plausible reaction for a girl her age to have when experiencing such complex emotions, especially considering the other problems she’s dealing with, such as running away from home, handling her Fullmoon alter ego, etc. Over volumes 4-7, Mitsuki really grew on me; she retains her sugar-sweet personality throughout the series, but she also shows her vulnerabilities and a much more viable anger than she expresses early on. And watching her learn and adapt to difficult emotions, and puzzle out her warring feelings for Takuto and persistent dedication to Eichi, made her a much more likable and relatable heroine.

Also in a complete reversal from last time, I enjoyed Meroko’s story-line a lot more than I did during volumes 1-3. Finally getting the backstory as to why she acts the way she does and why she struggles so much with her insecurities and feelings of  “love” provided a greater insight into her character, and I loved the interaction she had with Fuzuki. As her motivations became clear, her character grew much more likable, and I appreciated the insight into Izumi’s former life as well. Izumi starts off as a “darker” character than Meroko and Takuto, so that peek into his past and his relationship with his mother created a more sympathetic view of his character, especially when he shows vulnerability to Mitsuki. The shinigami are so cute with their outfits and animal alter-egos, it’s easy to forget how they got to that point – they are only shinigami because they committed suicide. So seeing their tragic backstories unfold and having them work together to convince Mitsuki to choose life gains a much more powerful meaning, considering they know better than anyone what it means not to have one.

Also, side-note, not a fan of the Madoka/Nachi plot in general. FIRST OF ALL, where did Nachi come from? Did I miss his introduction somehow? He like, appeared in volume 4 but I had no memory of him prior to that, though that might be an error on my end. But just the idea that plastic surgery is what brought them together really rubs me the wrong way. It’s like “look at me, I changed my face to be good enough for you!” I really disliked the delivery of that message, and felt the plot-line could have been tweaked a bit so it wouldn’t come across as so shallow. I also thought the romance between Ms. Oshige and Dr. Wakaoji started off at a nice pace, then sprinted to a resolution; it more or less jumped from getting together to getting super serious in a pretty short amount of time. I would have liked to see more exploration into their developing feelings for one another, rather than surface-level observations.

Plot-wise, Iloved the Jonathan twist, as I did NOT see it coming. Also, I thought the introduction of Sheldan (the shinigami’s boss) was handled pretty smoothly, as he remained fairly mysterious throughout, but Mystere was kind of forgettable. They didn’t get much page-time, but their character designs were excellent.

And, just a suggestion… if you’re someone who skips the little mini-comics at the end of most volumes, I recommend reading the ones in this series. They are hilarious.

The ending is predictable, but it’s still nice to see all of the character development and the various stories get tied up in a nice, neat bow at the close of volume 7. there’s something oddly refreshing about a happy, if a little bittersweet, ending, and seeing the characters you’ve grown to love come to a solid resolution by the final pages.

Despite my gripes, Full Moon o Sagashite provides a compelling balance of romance, drama, comedy, and a sprinkle of magical girl tropes that may continue to draw new readers, even though the initial run of the series ended long ago. Despite some leaps in logic and a few cliche bits of narrative, and a few portions of the story that struggle to hit the high notes, this charming series is a must read for shojo manga fans, if only just to appreciate Tanemura’s great artwork. Though I’ve become a cynic in my old age, I imagine teenage manga fans might find themselves more engrossed and drawn into the story than I was.

Shameless plug: My book tour for my YA novel, I’m With You, is still ongoing! Check it out here: LINK! Plus, the ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) on Amazon Amazon UK.