Archives for August 2017

Skip Beat! Vol. 39

Skip Beat! Volume 39 by Yoshiki Nakamura

This shortish storyline dealing with Kyoko’s mother is one of my least favorite Skip Beat! episodes, perhaps because Nakamura is so good at portraying Saena as cold and distant in a way that would damage anyone’s psyche, that the efforts to humanize her by detailing the events that led up to her abandonment of her daughter still fall short of making her a character that I feel any sympathy for. But part of what makes Skip Beat! so entertaining for so long is the way many of the characters have been emotionally damaged in different ways, and there’s no easy fix for getting over trauma.

As Kyoko progresses through the series it is fascinating to see how her reactions to setbacks both change and stay the same, but the end result is that she becomes a stronger person. Kyoko’s control and composure when confronting her mother demonstrates how much more resilient she’s become, and her response to the encounter is to dedicate herself to becoming successful with her own goals.

One of the reasons why I like Skip Beat! so much is that Ren Tsuruga often is placed in what is sometimes a more feminine position for shoujo manga tropes. In this volume in particular, he’s left waiting and worrying about a terse text from Kyoko, and he ends up pretending to casually drop by to check on her. Patient waiting is the best way to deal with Kyoko when she’s still so emotionally fragile, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens when they are both ready for a relationship.

While Kyoko has come pretty far, it is clear that maintaining her rage at Sho is her safe space. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that after the confrontation with her mother, she ends up in a confrontation with Sho. Seeing how gently Kyoko and Ren interact with each other is certainly a big contrast to all the yelling and shin kicks that occurs when Kyoko and Sho are in the same room. As the volume seems to be setting up another acting challenge for Kyoko, I’m looking forward to seeing what she is able to accomplish next with all the emotional turmoil behind her.

Yona of the Dawn Vol. 7

Yona of the Dawn Volume 7 by Mizuho Kusanagi

I knew when I first picked up Yona of the Dawn that the reader would eventually be getting awesome archery moments, but it has been quite a road getting there. Yona has been evolving into an action heroine for the previous six volumes and this is finally where all her practice sessions pay off, as Yona’s team along with benevolent pirates manages to stop some horrible human trafficking.

Yona and Yun manage to break away from the other captives and signal for help, but not before Yona endures some intense and scary moments. But when she finally gets a bow in her hands she assumes an intimidating power, suddenly her captors find themselves frightened by a girl they were dismissing casually just a few minutes before. The first chapter of this volume had some wonderful action moments, like when the Green Dragon swoops in to answer Yona’s summons at just the right moment. But one of the things that sets this manga apart from typical shoujo fare is that Yona ends up with the most heroic moments of the whole battle instead of her male companions. She comes into her own in a dramatic fashion, assuming a power and authority that the reader hasn’t seen before. It isn’t any of her companions who end up taking out Kum-Ji who is terrorizing the seaside town, it is Yona herself. I was struck by Kusanagi’s facility with facial expressions in this volume especially, as Yona shifts from righteous anger to resignation at having to take a human life.

I love the way this series focuses on the emotional connections between the characters as well. Yona has a chance encounter with Su-Won, and Hak is there to deal with the aftermath. Saying goodbye to the Pirate Captain is emotional both for the Green Dragon and Yona, and I have a feeling as the companions embark on their next adventure, they’ll be able to deal with whatever crisis they may encounter due to the strong bonds between them and Yona’s leadership. This is one of my favorite current series, Kusanagi always manages to pack in a ton of story and character development in each volume in a way that never seems forced.

Kaze Hikaru Vol. 25

Kaze Hikaru Volume 25 by Takeo Watanabe

Every August I’m always happy because another volume of Kaze Hikaru comes out, but I’m also a little bit sad because I wish it came out more frequently! But I’ll be happy with what I can get. As always, whenever I pick up a volume I am amazed at how well Watanabe combines romance, action, and intricate historical detail.

The first part of this volume continues with the flashback that was introduced in the previous volume, as the reader is treated to seeing the Shinsengumi leadership when they were young and struggling in a different way, not yet in the leadership positions they would later attain. Most of the volume is centered on a financial forensics detective story, as Sei is assigned to help out with the accounting division.

She discovers that 50 Ryo is missing, and the chief accountant Kisaburo begs her not to report the problem until he can send for more money from his parents. He notes that times are tough for the men in the Shinsengumi and they’ve tapped into the saved funds before. Sei isn’t happy about this, but wants to help out and tries to discover who the culprit is. As the slowly building romance between Sei and Soji continues, it is fun to see them growing more and more conscious of each other. Soji is worried because he thinks Sei is hiding a crush on Kisaburo, while Sei is being her usual intrepid self and trying to resolve the problem on her own.

As the secret gets out, the vice captain uses his trademark harsh methods for dealing with the theft, and Sei doesn’t understand his judgement and reasoning. As with most issues with the Shinsengumi, the resolution very much depends on the Bushido code, and consequences coming to people who aren’t acting in accordance with it. Kaze Hikaru is such a pleasure to read, I always enjoy the clarity of Watanabe’s art and how well she is able to handle such an extended cast of characters and the relationships between them. I wish it came out more often than once a year!