Daytime Shooting Star, Vol 3

Daytime Shooting Star by Mika Yamomori

I’m still enjoying this manga that focuses on the subgenre of teacher-student romance, even though I think the teacher in question has terrible boundaries and the only way for this story to end happily is for Suzume to actually date someone her own age. Perhaps an elaborate time jump where Suzume and Mr. Shishio get together after she has completed college and done a stint in the Peace Corps would also work.

Daytime Shooting Star 3

I was trying to pinpoint why I like this series so much when other Shojo Beat series are more seriously tackling the nature of grief (Ao Haru Ride) or delving into teenage introspection while juggling a love triangle (Shortcake Cake), and I came to the conclusion that for some reason I’m more affected by the art in Daytime Shooting Star. There’s something whimsical about the way that Yamamori designs her characters that just causes me to find practically everyone in the manga adorable and sympathetic.

Suzume deals with an onslaught of emotions as she confesses her feelings to Mr. Shishio when he is asleep, only to realize that he was actually awake. She endures a torrent of teenage embarrassment, and her emotional state isn’t helped all that much when Shishio’s super cool ex-girlfriend starts hanging around again. While Suzume starts researching hypnosis to discover if she will be able to erase someone’s memories, she is able to process her feelings more by talking to Nekota. Suzume decides to get things out into the open with Mr. Shishio, but then ends up running into Mamura who clearly still likes her. Will Suzume’s role as the one girl who Mamura doesn’t seem to be allergic to lead to a new, more age appropriate romance? Both the teenagers and youngish adults in Daytime Shooting Star all seem to be dealing with their own emotional issues due to a variety of reasons, and it is interesting to see Suzume evolve and take charge of her life, even though she’s aware that some of her actions are going to lead to disappointment.

Skip Beat 43

Skip Beat! Volume 43 by Yoshiki Nakamura

It says something about the enduring appeal of Skip Beat! that even though I have stacks of shoujo to read, whenever a new volume comes out it is my immediate priority. Kyoko has fought through an intense audition process to win the role of Momiji, but as usual in Skip Beat! this means that the drama is just beginning.

Skip Beat

Part of what made the most recent round of auditions so intense is that Kyoko and Moko had the possibility of working together. When Kyoko finds out that Moko isn’t cast, she has a torrent of emotions and anxiety about how her best friend might be feeling. It turns out that the producer has Moko in mind for a role in another project, and things get smoothed over. Kimiko does not accept losing the role of Momiji so gracefully, as she attempts to drug Kyoko and fling her off the roof of a building, only to be foiled by Erika putting a plan in motion to expose Kimiko’s insanity. This all seems like enough soap opera shenanigans for one volume of manga, but the story continues to unfold with Kyoko and Ren continuing to misunderstand each other, even though they’ve been able to acknowledge their feelings internally.

Kyoko’s quirkiness as a heroine is perfectly summed up when she calmly assesses her danger by concluding that she didn’t know how high up she was, and she probably would only have broken a couple of bones. There’s also a hilarious panel where Kyoko senses that Ren is looking at her and from her perspective his stare turns into the predatory glare of a snake, only for her to turn to look at him and be confronted by his usual pleasant expression. A innocuous picnic with a bento that Kyoko makes ends up turning into a prompt for some intense internal thoughts about budding romantic feelings. With the forced proximity element of Yashiro serving as manager to both Kyoko and Ren, I’m hoping that this story arc might move things forward a little bit. Then again, we are a good 43 volumes in to Skip Beat! and I’m entertained no matter what happens.

Ao Haru Ride Vol 7

Ao Haru Ride Volume 7 by Io Sakisaka

With both Shortcake Cake and Ao Haru Ride coming out at the same time, it feels like the Shojo Beat imprint is going full steam ahead with romance manga that is a bit more introspective than usual. I’m finding all the interior soliloquies more diverting than usual in this series. Is there any kind of tension worse than seeing the slowly moving train wreck of someone making the wrong decision for seemingly noble reasons? It is pretty clear that Kou likes Futuba, and yet his traumatic past and issues dealing with his own grief have led him to willingly step into the role of quasi boyfriend for Narumi, who is surely having her own issues but is also spinning them in order to ensnare Kou into a closer relationship.

Futuba is avoiding Kou and falling back into her overly boisterous behavior, but Kikuchi keeps showing up to talk with her, despite some hilarious glaring from Yuri whenever she is at Narumi’s side. The attempt to put distance between Futuba and Kou utterly fails when Mr. Tanaka sends her over to check on Kou when he is sick. Futuba decides to confront Narumi about her and Kou’s weird co-dependent relationship that has them both stewing in grief, and Narumi promptly admits her tactics and then turns things back around on Futuba by accusing her of being selfish herself for intervening. This of course sends Futuba into another bout of introspection where she questions her own motivations. The forbidden attraction between Mr. Tanaka and Shuko almost spills over into a genuine incident at the school, but Ao Haru Ride tends to keep moving forward through plot twists while preserving the points of tension with the character relationships that keep the larger story suspenseful. The exploration of grief contrasted with the romantic foibles of teenage characters continues to make this series a compelling read.

An Incurable Case of Love, Vol 1

An Incurable Case of Love Volume 1 by Maki Enjoji

I’ve been looking forward to this manga! I’m glad that the Shojo Beat imprint’s experiments in what I think of as “stealth josei” are successful enough that we reliably get titles like An Incurable Case of Love released here. Often for romance manga, I am irrationally fond of titles that embrace the ridiculousness of the genre with a touch of irony. After reading the first few pages of this manga, I was confident in Enjoji’s abilities to keep me entertained.

An Incurable Case of Love

The manga opens with a love confession going disastrously wrong, as a doctor with a grim look asks a newly minted nurse if “there is something wrong with your head.” The nurse in question is Nanase, who decided to study medicine after a fateful encounter years ago where she tried to help someone in medical distress on the street, only to attract the attention of the dangerously handsome yet kind Kairi Tendo. Of course after one brief meeting with Tendo, Nanase concludes that he is “THE PRINCE I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!” and builds her entire life and educational plans around the possibility of meeting him again. Nanase soon finds out that while Tendo has an exemplary bedside manner with patents, he’s harsh and exacting with the hospital staff and there are rumors that he’s a womanizer as well. Thoroughly disillusioned, Nanase tries to throw herself into her nursing orientation activities. There have been plenty of ridiculous premises like this to start off many romance manga, but one thing I found especially charming about An Incurable Case of Love is the fact that Nanase’s love confession provokes some supportive instead of malicious teasing from her new co-workers. Her new nickname is “Valiant One” and her co-workers take to calling Tendo “The Dark Lord” after Nanase refers to him with that phrase.

The hospital setting provides a twist on on office romance antics as Nanase attempts to put her schooling into practice. While she isn’t perfect all the time, she’s often effective in emergency situations and Tendo’s mannerisms towards her begin to change. I knew I would like this series after reading the first chapter, but I found the rest of the volume equally entertaining. Recommended if you are in need of a dose of josei romance.

Beastars, Vol. 1

Beastars Volume 1 by Paru Itagaki

I’m always curious to see what Viz will decide to publish in their Viz Signature line, and I wasn’t really aware of Beastars other than just knowing that the initial license announcement was greeted with plenty of enthusiasm. Beastars takes place in an anthropomorphic high school where carnivores and herbivores are thrown together in their classes and clubs, but generally seem to stick to their own kind for dormitory arrangements.

beastars vol 1

It is made very clear in the opening panels that not all is well in this high school as Tem, an alpaca student is hunted down and murdered by a mysterious carnivore in the opening panels. Suspicion lands on the grey wolf Legoshi, who was in drama club with Tem. The herbivores are mostly terrified and the carnivores are resentful at being under suspicion. A lot of the plot of Beastars seems fairly typical for any manga with a high school setting, but the animalistic nature of the students puts a bit of a spin on drama club shenanigans and random meetings across different animal families. Legoshi struggles with his own instincts and seems to be resigned to his status as an outcast. Seeing the twists of the animal nature of the students on fairly typical student roles can be amusing, as the imperious head of the drama club turns out to be the literal king of the forest in the form of Louis, a majestic red deer.

The art for Beastars is really well done, with somber grey tones that give the high school a bit of a dangerous noir vibe. In times of extreme emotion, Itagaki often fills the panel with just a character’s eyes surrounded by a dark background as a way of punctuating the intense instincts that the student body rarely acts on. The story sometimes shifts points of view, and it is interesting to learn more of the backstories of the student body. The idea of a “Beastsar,” an animal who is raised to have dominion over both carnivores and herbivores is raised briefly, and I expect the political jockying to be more intense in future volumes. I’m still a bit mystified as to why the students aren’t caught up more in an actual investigation of Tem’s murder, but I’m hoping this will be explored more in future volumes as well. The first volume of Beastars was very intriguing, and it capably set up Legoshi as a complex protagonist.