Yukarism, Vol 4

Yukarism Volume 4 by Chika Shiomi

I’ve always liked manga by Chika Shiomi, and even though my favorite of her works is the older title Night of the Beasts, her art and storytelling skills have progressed greatly over the years. Yukarism’s final volume is a great way to wrap up the series, coming to a conclusion with a few nice plot twists that make it not at all like a standard supernatural shoujo manga.

As this series unfolded, we’ve seen the present day characters grow more and more affected by the past. Yukari is starting to show symptoms of illness that mirror the sickness of the courtesan Yumurasaki, while Mahoro is taking on the supernatural powers of Takamura. Edo bodyguard’s protectiveness is manifested in Satomi in the modern day. Not only are personality traits crossing over to the present day, as the volume progresses the past is physically manifesting in the present. While it seems like the present day trio is doomed to repeat the tragedy from the past, Shiomi manages to wrap things up in a much more satisfying and hopeful way.

I don’t want to give too much away of the resolution of the manga, but I thought it was very nice that the inevitable love triangle in most shouojo manga was sidestepped. Most of the problems of the past centered around the trio not communicating clearly with each other and making assumptions, and in the present day the high school students manage to work things out both in their own lives and for the spirits that possess them briefly. Even situations that seem very threatening get resolved, but not without enough of a struggle that the happy ending feels unearned.

Shiomi’s art is always clear and easy to follow, but the level of detail in the flashbacks to the Edo period, combined with the way the past is portrayed as bleeding into the present in this volume makes the illustrations stand out. In the hands of a lessor artist, the events could easily be a muddled mess, but both spirit possession and the physical struggles are portrayed with clear techniques that never confuse the reader. I honestly would have been happy if this series were stretched out over another volume or two, but by the end there is resolution for each character, both past and present. There’s a depth of emotion in this concluding volume that shows how Shiomi is able to be so precise in planning out her story, it never feels unearned. Yukarism is a series that I’m going to keep on the shelves for a long time, and I’m going to look forward to reading it again.


Idol Dreams, Vol 1

Idol Dreams Volume 1 by Arina Tanemura

I was curious to check out this manga, mostly due to the fact that it is a slightly older skewing shoujo title. Also, the premise, about a 31 year-old office lady going back in time to relive her youth seemed interesting.

The hapless office lady in question is Chikage Deguchi, who is bullied at work. She’s let her 20s pass her by while she’s stuck in a style rut, repressed, and unable to find a boyfriend. Her humiliation is complete when she goes to a high school reunion. She’s humiliated even more at a high school reunion. She manages to make incidental conversation with a classmate named Tokita who happens to be a pharmaceutical rep, but her encounter with her high school crush doesn’t go well at all. Chikage is depressed and determined to end her life, when Tokita rescues her and tells her all about an experimental medication that will allow her to replay her wasted teenage years.

Chikage clearly operates under different human subjects rules than most people in the pharmaceutical industry, as he supplies Chikage with pills that transform her into a 15 year old and then sends her on her way, with instructions to check in often so he can gather data. Of course, as soon as teenage Chikage steps foot on the street, she’s recruited to be a stand-in model opposite the most popular member of a boy band, and thus her career as a budding teen idol begins!

Teen idol Hibiki looks a lot like Chikage’s old crush from her high school days, and she finds herself getting swept up in the life of a teen idol. She’s determined to master the social skills that she didn’t pay attention to as a young teen. The situation of a 31 year old woman in a 15 year old’s body and a 15 year old boy being paired up has the potential for a great deal of creepiness. I wasn’t taking this romance very seriously though, because it is clear that Tokita has an unexpressed crush on Chikage, and he seems to be one of the few men her own age that she can actually talk to without becoming self-conscious. So, even though there might be a bit of a wacky love triangle developing (like the original Amethyst Princess of Gemworld with reverse aging) I’m fairly confident that the romantic resolution to this manga will be non-squicky. We’ll see what happens in the next volume though.

Tanemura is always at her best when drawing super cute people, and the contrast between older Chikage and young idol version Akari is pronounced. I enjoyed seeing the friendship develop between Akari and the other boy band members, but I thought that Chikage’s occasional encounters with Tokita were much more promising in terms of any romance developing. Overall, I thought that this was a promising start to a new series, with the potential for the romance plots to derail and become off-putting. I generally enjoy Tanemura’s manga, and a series set in the world of teen idols is the perfect excuse for her to break out all the stops with the flourishes and detailed costumes that she does so well.


My Love Story!! Vol 6

My Love Story Volume 6 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

It is nice to have a go-to manga series to read when one feels stressed out, and My Love Story!! never fails to make me happy.

This volume focuses more on the arrival of Takeo’s new sibling, and the reader gets the treat of seeing a little bit of his parents’ courtship. Takeo’s mom is portrayed as unflappingly capable in her younger years, and his dad exhibits the same ridiculous amount of enthusiasm that Takeo often channels. When something goes a little wrong with the pregnancy, Takeo starts exclaiming “I’ve got to be reliable!” as he tries to take care of everything for his family. He’s supported all the way by Suna and Yamato.

The old valentine’s day storyline has got to be one of the most overused cliches in shoujo manga, but My Love Story!! pulls off one of the most adorable examples of this storyline, as Takeo is so excited to be receiving “true love’s chocolate from his girlfriend, he finds himself striking random celebratory poses as he walks along and discusses his relationship with Suna. I was glad to see that there are hints Suna might actually become involved with a girl at last. He’s deliberately aloof, and shuns any girl who speaks badly of Takeo, so he hasn’t experienced romance yet either. I’m really looking forward to the next volume now, where more of the focus will be on him.


QQ Sweeper Vol. 1

QQ Sweeper Volume 1 by Kyousuke Motomi

I’m generally excited for any debut series in the Shojo Beat line, but I was particularly interested in reading the first volume of QQ Sweeper because I enjoyed Dengeki Daisy so much. Motomi’s slightly offbeat and cynical sense of humor makes her series stand out, and I was curious to see how the paranormal and cleaning would come together in this title.

Motomi does cranky heroes well, so I thought the male lead of the series was quite promising. Kyutaro Horikita is a member of the beautification committee at his school, and he’s introduced in the first chapter as a bit of a loner who is obsessed with cleaning. He comes across a girl sleeping in an abandoned room in his school. Fumi Nishioka is a new transfer student who is homeless, trying to hide evidence of how poor she is, and on a mission to become a real life Cinderella by snagging a rich guy. This doesn’t sound like the most flattering character description, but Motomi also is able to easily create sympathetic yet quirky heroines. Motomi’s slightly offbeat humor is on display in the first few panels, when Kyutaro seems to rely on threatening people with cucumbers a bit too much, and Fumi enters into a dangerous fugue state when she’s assessing the material possessions of a male student/mark.

I don’t even find shoujo cliches all that annoying when Motomi is executing them. In very quick order, Fumi finds herself interviewing for and getting a position as housekeeper for her school principal, who just happens to be Kyutaro’s older brother. Fumi quickly discovers that Kyutaro’s obsession with cleaning extends to cleansing the spiritual plane, and she also has the ability to help him. Motomi packs a great deal of plot and character development into this single volume, setting up the relationships between the characters, and establishing the background for the supernatural aspects of the manga. This is a very solid addition to the Shojo Beat lineup, and I’m very much looking forward to Motomi’s slightly twisted take on the supernatural romance genre in future volumes.


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.