Limit by Keiko Suenobu volume 1
After reading Limit, I could totally see why Vertical chose to publish this series about high school girls reenacting Lord of the Flies, because the combination of social commentary and horror totally fits into Vertical’s tendency to go for artistic and edgy manga to add to their catalog. Mizuki Konno is a popular girl. Not the most popular girl in her class, but just popular enough to enjoy a social life in high school as one of the anointed ones. Mizuki is part of the inner circle headed up by Sakura, the most popular girl in school. Mizuki’s calculated goal is to just float along on the surface, never doing anything that might stand out and attract undesirable attention. Mizuki’s foil is one of the unpopular girls named Kamiya who seems to possess more than average intelligence and self-awareness for a high school girl. More importantly, Kamiya is actually willing to speak up against the injustices perpetuated by high school cliques. Mizuki’s orderly world abruptly changes when a bus crash during a class trip kills most of her classmates and strands her in the wilderness. Suddenly the scapegoat of the class, Morishige has the upper hand because she scavenged a scythe. She’s also become seriously unhinged, drawing pentagrams and consulting tarot cards to determine the likelihood of rescue. Kamiya goes along with Morishige but Mizuki seems unwilling or unable to adjust to her suddenly changed circumstances. Food is running out, and Morishige’s memory of past wrongs makes her all too willing to get back at her past tormentors.
Limit is like a refreshing sorbet of violence and societal critique for people who might be weary of too much romance in their shojo. Limit would also be an excellent crossover title for people who don’t tend to read much manga targeted at girls. Suenobu does a great job showing Mizuki’s inner life and contrasting her thoughts with the growing horror and tension of the hopeless situation she’s found herself in. The dynamics of high school friendships when they become stressed beyond endurance are explored, and so much drama was packed into this first volume that I’m very intrigued about what might happen next. This manga is published at the same size as Japanese manga and I must say it is awfully cute even though my inner cheapskate quails a bit at a $10.95 sticker price on a 4.5 by 7 inch volume. Character designs are a strength in this title, as it is very easy to distinguish between the cast members. Suenobu’s art is very clear and doesn’t suffer from being printed at a smaller size from what I’m used to seeing in North American manga editions.
Paradise Kiss Part 1 by Ai Yazawa
Paradise Kiss is a manga that is so good, I don’t mind buying it twice. While I’ve read the entire series and collected all but one volume of the Tokyopop edition, I was very excited to see that Vertical is releasing the series in an omnibus, large-size format. Paradise Kiss is the story of an ordinary girl named Yukari whose life revolves around school, cram school, and the occasional chance to muse upon her crush Tokumori. She doesn’t have much purpose in life, but her psyche is shaken up when she has a random encounter with a group of art-school students headed by the enigmatic George. He’s looking for a muse and model for his capstone collection from art school and while Yukari at first thinks that the punk Arashi, cross-dressing Isabella, perpetually cute Miwako, and maddeningly attractive George are all crazy, she begins to be drawn into their world due to their commitment and shared sense of purpose. Yukari has just been working to get into a good college because that’s what’s expected of her, but when she sees the group of teens her same age working with a true passion for fashion, she decides she will join them as a model.
Yukari quickly starts leading a double life, ditching cram school to learn how to sew beads on a dress. She develops a growing attraction to George, and it is fascinating to see her personality start to shift. She’s no longer able to maintain her cool exterior at school and Tokumori starts to notice her more as she displays occasional moments of goofiness. The art in Paradise Kiss is fabulous. The series originally ran in a fashion magazine and the characters all look like walking, talking fashion illustrations. Even better than the style displayed in the art is the way the fashion in the manga is so perfectly set up to showcase the differences in personality between the characters. I could easily look at outfits designed for Arashi, Isabella, and Miwako and know who was going to end up wearing them. George’s more malleable style signals his changing nature as he shifts from suits to glam cowboy to mod with almost too much ease. I enjoyed revisiting this series in this updated, more deluxe edition. Manga Bookshelf covered some of the differences in translation between the old and new editions. I’m going to buy this new edition from Vertical because I love this series, but I’m probably going to keep the old Tokyopop edition as well. I hope that this does well enough for Vertical that we could see some other work by Ai Yazawa translated, like Gokinjo Monogatari. In any case, Paradise Kiss is a series that I think deserves to be in print, and I am happy that Vertical is reissuing it.