So Cute it Hurts! Vol 3

So Cute it Hurts! Volume 3 by Go Ikeyamada

This is an excessively silly series, but I’ve been enjoying it, mostly because of the amount of plot twists that get resolved in each volume, so more goofy subplots can promptly develop. Also, I feel like Shojo Beat should always be publishing at least one title where the heroine cross dresses just on principle.

I feel like in many shoujo series, the fraternal twins’ cross dressing antics would fuel plot lines for 4-5 volumes, but in So Cute it Hurts! their true identities were unmasked at the end of the second volume. Aoi, the delinquent boy with a crippling physical aversion to female contact is surprised when the boy he’s been hanging out with is unmasked as Mitsuru’s sister Megumu. At the same time, Mitsuru’s masquerade is uncovered by mean girl Azuza. Aoi deals with the psychological impact of being around a girl unknowingly, and Azuza blurts out a confession of her crush to Mitsuru instead of revealing his secret. Meanwhile, Mitsuru is struggling with his feelings for Shino, but doesn’t want to ruin their friendship by telling her that he’s actually a boy. Oh, the tangled storylines of cross dressing shoujo romance!

When the week-long switch ends after Megumu has taken Mitsuru’s tests for him, there’s still plenty of emotional fall-out as Megumu pines for Aoi, and he begins to come to terms with his own feelings. Aoi’s allergy to girls causes some hilarious reactions when he and Megumu get closer, although they have to stay a certain distance apart to avoid triggering him. Their budding romance is indeed ridiculously cute, and while this manga in no way approaches both the hilarity and emotional depth of My Love Story!!, it is still entertaining. Ikeyamada ratchets up all the emotional reactions of her characters for added hilarity. While this volume focused a bit more on Megumu, I can see how the next volume is going to be focusing more with the love triangle Mitsuru is in since the object of his affections does not even know him as a boy while Azuza continues to have a violent crush on him. So Cute it Hurts! continues to be a fun read for those who enjoy romance with broad comedy.


Requiem of the Rose King Vol 2

Requiem of the Rose King Volume 2 by Aya Kanno

This has been one of the manga series that I’ve been anticipating very impatiently, I enjoyed the first volume very much, and was eager to see how the story would develop in the second volume. Kanno is still in the initial stages of developing the story, but this volume provides more insight into the psychological pressures afflicting the people who rule during the Wars of the Roses.

If Richard didn’t have enough to deal with in the first volume, his situation grows even more unbearable when his beloved father is captured by the House of Lancaster and tortured horribly. Richard is left behind by his family’s army, left alone to deal with the torment of knowing his father has been captured. He crosses a line when he realizes that murder is the only way for him to gain the disguise and weapons he needs to journey behind enemy lines. Richard encounters Henry again when he’s struggling with the emotional aftermath of his actions. While Richard deals with his problems by enduring horrible visions and taking violent action, Henry’s passivity and desire to escape his responsibilities serves as a strong contrast to Richard’s more decisive nature. While Richard is clearly heading down a path of madness and despair, it also seems like his actions are going to have a strong impact on the world around him. Henry just wants to withdraw and allow his insane wife Margaret to make all his decisions for him.


When Richard discovers his father’s fate, Kanno’s paneling decisions underscore the emotional impact. Richard’s face is shown with a blank expression with his eyes hidden to underscore the shock he initially feels, followed by single panels showing his whole face, zooming in on his surprised eyes and clenched mouth as he confronts his father’s death. Richard begins a transformation into the monster that people have labeled him as before, as he’s absolutely consumed by the need for vengeance. As the events later in the volume unfold, Richard is portrayed in a more and more stylized fashion, becoming a living embodiment of a curse and less like the tortured human the reader encountered in the first volume.

The emotional stakes have certainly been raised in this volume, and Kanno’s illustration style is really stretched way beyond what I expected from the author of Otomen. There’s certainly more and more tragedy ahead, but Kanno’s take on the story of Richard the Third is a fresh and incredibly interesting adaptation. The tragedy and emotional trauma feels entirely justified and in service to the plot Kanno is developing. If you haven’t checked out this series yet, now is a great time to jump on and read two volumes with no waiting.

Maid-sama! Vols 1 and 2

Maid-sama! Volumes 1 and 2 by Hiro Fujiwara

It has been some time since I’ve read this series. I think I read around 4 or 5 volumes or so of the Tokyopop release, so the new omnibus from Viz provided a good excuse to give the series a second try. I totally understand why Maid-sama! would be a strong title to re-release since it has an anime adaptation too. However, a tiny part of me will still hope in vain for some reissues of some of the other less commercial series that got cut off when Toykopop went under.

The maid in this title is Misaki Ayuzawa, a high achieving girl who has become president of a school that has only recently gone co-ed. She’s uncomfortable around boys and has made it her mission to clean up the school and abolish delinquent behaviors in order to protect the small female population. She’s super stern and has great physical prowess when it comes to beating up her fellow students. While she’s a perfect student at school, Misaki has to make ends meet by working as a waitress at a maid cafe as her part-time job. In the first few pages of the manga, Misaki’s secret is discovered by Takumi Usui, a popular and somewhat cynical boy who attends her school. He promptly decides to hold Misaki’s secret over her head and begins to pop up now and then whenever something might go wrong.

Misaki navigates issues with student-council relations, dealing with a rival school, and navigating random cross-dressing events at her part-time job. Aside from the relationship between Misaki and Usui, the manga is pretty entertaining, as Misaki’s outsize reactions to everything gradually begin to mellow out a bit as she begins to relate to all the students at her school as human beings, not just the girls. I had also totally forgotten about the idiot trio, a group of background characters that also discover Misaki’s secret identity as a maid and mostly function to gaze at her adoringly and act occasionally like a slapstick Greek chorus. Fujiwara’s art is clear and easy to follow, and very dynamic when Misaki is leaping into action to defend womanhood or juggling a ton of customers at her part-time job.

The part of this manga that bugs me and I think contributed to my decision to stop reading it before, is that Usui is utterly unappealing as a shoujo male lead to me. His general mode of interaction is to randomly show up, invade Misaki’s space, and make her feel confused and flustered. He also keeps forcing physical affection on Misaki when she’s not a willing participant, as some sort of power game. Also, Fujiwara goes to great length to demonstrate Misaki’s physical prowess when her being strong is funny or over the top, but Misaki suddenly becomes weak and incapable when it serves the purpose of the plot to have Usui rescue her from herself. He’s also constantly reminding Misaki that she’s a girl who needs help, and it only serves to make it appear like the main message of this manga is that a girl with strong type A tendencies needs a man to help her out. For folks who aren’t put off by this relationship dynamic, I do think that Maid-sama! is plenty entertaining. I just find series like Oresama Teacher or My Love Story! much more amusing if I’m looking for something fun to read in the shoujo comedy genre.


Komomo Confiserie Vol 1

Komomo Confiserie, Volume 1 by Maki Minami

So far, Maki Minami’s shoujo series haven’t totally connected with me as a reader. I didn’t care for Special A very much, and while I liked the first couple volumes of Voice Over!: Seiyu Academy, I haven’t gone on to read the entire series. Maybe Komomo Confiserie will finally be the Minami series that I actually finish!

The series starts out with a flashback, as the incredibly spoiled and rich little girl Komomo picks on a young boy named Natsu. He’s the son of her family’s chef, and Komomo only likes the sweets that Natsu prepares for her. Komomo is ungracious and bossy, but she has an emotional connection to Natsu’s food, it serving as a substitute for companionship as she lives in a huge mansion abandoned by her parents. In just a few panels, this rich yet emotionally empty life is overturned, as Komomo’s father announces that he’s lost their fortune, and Komomo has to work to support herself with a part time job. Life as a rich heiress hasn’t prepared Komomo with the social graces or work ethic to be able to handle any type of employment and she keeps getting fired over and over again.

It wouldn’t be a shoujo manga if Natsu wasn’t about to return to Japan a triumphant celebrity from studying pastry abroad, determined to seek out his old “friend” to exact revenge, only to find that their positions have been reversed in an ironic twist of fate! Natsu has an exceedingly charming pastry shop to run, and he runs in to Komomo just as she is tossed out into the street from her latest misadventure in employment.

If Komomo was absolutely unrepentant and spoiled, this manga wouldn’t work very well, but what I enjoyed most about this series were the cracks in the facades for both Natsu and Komomo. Komomo gradually begins to realize how superficial her previous life was, when none of her old friends come to her aid. While Natsu initially appears to be slightly psychotic in his pursuit of revenge, he is actually moved a few times when seeing Komomo eat his food and try to adjust to her new life. Komomo’s rich girl attitudes come in handy when she’s faced with a new high school. Mean girl bullying just slides off of her, and she sails through unaffected. Komomo is gradually learning to be a real human being, and as her personality changes, Natsu begins to find her more and more adorable.

Minami is a solid shoujo artist, and I particularly appreciated her being able to dramatize facial expressions that are a bit off, for example when Natsu’s kindness is a facade for his evil plans. I’m hoping that Komomo will become more and more adept with dealing with the real world, changing the power dynamic between her and Natsu more in the next few volumes.

Cosplay Basics

Cosplay Basics by by Yuki Takasou, Rumine, and Kashiko Kurobuchi

This is an English translation of a Japanese book that provides an introduction to cosplay with chapters on tips, shopping, and costume construction, interspersed with short manga chapters showing a seasoned cosplayer showing a newbie the ropes. A magical girl character is used as the focus for the whole book, so this will be most useful for folks who are interested in feminine cosplay.

I don’t think anyone would really be able to construct a costume from start to finish with only the information given in this book, as there’s not enough detailed information given about measuring yourself, making patterns, adjusting fit, etc. There are several sections with step-by-step instructions, but I think someone making pattern pieces based on the information in the book would need to do a bit of experimenting on their own to come up with something usable. But like the title suggests, it does provide a basic overview of the topic, and a reader would be able to take the terminology in the book and then look up a more detailed youtube tutorial about placing darts, for example. There are sections dedicated to cosplay specific topics like wig styling, photographing etiquette, posing like your character, and now to retouch your own photos of your cosplay before you post them online.

Cosplay Basics would be a good addition to library collections for libraries that have active anime clubs or other similar programming like ToshoCons. If I had a young teen newbie cosplayer to hand a book to, I would probably combine this volume with another book that had more of a general focus on sewing and construction principles. The short chapters combined with manga make it easy to dip in and out of the book while exploring different aspects of cosplay.