Skip Beat Volume 26

Skip Beat! Volume 26 by Yoshiki Nakamura

I’ve been in a bit of a post holiday blogging malaise, what with going on vacation, getting sick, coming back from vacation, still being sick, and just dealing with work. But there isn’t any better way to snap yourself out of a manga blogging funk than to pick up a fresh volume of Skip Beat! The plot arc introduced in this volume looks like it will be really fun, and this volume would be a good jumping on point for anyone who has read a few volumes of the series but hasn’t kept up with recent developments.

One of the ways Nakamura excels as a manga artist is that she’s great at drawing someone in the grip of absolute rage. We get treated to several panels of anger in the early section of the drama, where Kyoko and her fellow LoveMe Section members are dealing with the emotional fallout from their Valentine’s Days. The president of LME Lory asks how everybody’s day went and a dark cloud descends over Kyoko and Moko. Kyoko yells “It was a nightmareish evil day that threatened my peace and quiet!” Moko fiercely proclaims “It was a day that polluted society…a day that made idiots even more stupid!” Lory is disappointed in everybody’s progress and hands out new assignments with the word describing Kyoko’s as “Dangerous.”

Kyoko is told that she has to pick up a new actor named Cain Heel who apparently resembles a member of the yakuza. When she sees a man dressed in dark clothes, radiating such a hostile aura that all the other people in his vicinity are stepping away and staring at him, she walks up and says “Mr Tsuruga?” The man stands up without saying anything, Kyoko falls to the ground and he stalks off, stepping over her. Kyoko is mystified because she thought that the man was Ren based on his proportions. As she’s walking down the street trying to process her experience, a long dark arm snakes out from an alley and pats her on the head. It is Ren after all, and he’s portraying a new actor in order to further his career. Lory announces that Kyoko is going to be Cain Heel’s lucky charm, his treasured sister Setsuka. Kyoko gets a gothy-makover and the Heel siblings are ready to launch Cain’s new career. This means that Kyoko and Ren are going to be forced to be in close quarters, with plenty of agonizing moments and crazy fashion to look forward to. What more could any fan of Skip Beat! want?

Lory speculates that forcing his two actors together will result in great things, and he takes particular note of the fact that Kyoko must have been observing Ren very closely in order to penetrate his disguise. Kyoko gets to work thinking through the character of Setsuka, hoping that her acting will get Ren’s approval. In the meantime Ren is being tortured by the mini-skirts Kyoko has to wear as Setsuka. Skip Beat! is always entertaining, but I’m really excited to see what Ren and Kyoko will get up to as the Heel siblings.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Skip Beat 25 and Seiho Boys' High School 8

Skip Beat Volume 25 by Yoshiki Nakamura

Skip Beat is so great. For all the gangly limbs and oddly proportioned characters that Nakamura draws she is an absolute master at nuanced facial expressions, as evidenced in a series of confrontational scenes in this volume of Skip Beat!. I was happy to see some events happen to propel the slowly developing relationship between Ren and Kyoko forward at last. Sho, the evil pop idol and former target of Kyoko’s obsession and revenge shows up with an elaborate bouquet and engineers a dramatic kiss right in front of Ren and some of Kyoko’s co-workers. Since Sho is a spoiled brat who can’t abide not being the focus of Kyoko’s attention, he has decided to steal her first kiss and act obnoxious in the hopes that she’ll start thinking about him again. Ren goes from amazed, to annoyed, to dangerously furious as he watches this scene play out. Kyoko is left in hysterics about not getting her first kiss back and Ren chooses to deal with the situation in the best way possible; he appeals to her professionalism. When he notices her unglued he points out that it isn’t anything to get wrapped up over and that “What feels like your first kiss counts as your real first kiss.” He can’t maintain his impartial facade for long and warns her that he doesn’t want to see a repeat of the situation and Kyoko’s response is “I shall risk my life to preserve my purity!”

Kyoko and Ren dance around their emotions, not willing to admit anything to each other yet. Ren’s reactions and the way he behaves towards Kyoko are carefully calculated, not because he’s manipulative but because he doesn’t want to cause her any more emotional damage. His measured approach and awareness of her emotional fragility stands in stark contrast to Sho, whose innate selfishness ensures that he’s never going to be a good match for her. Kyoko has Ren on such a high pedestal, that she isn’t capable of entertaining the thought that he has feelings for her. It is a rare series that manages to rack up so many volumes and still keep me entertained when the romantic protagonists have barely kissed, but Skip Beat always manages to be both fun and interesting in the way the relationships between the characters continue to play out.

Seiho Boys’ High School Volume 8 by Kaneyoshi Izumi

This was a not-so-guilty-pleasure series for me, because it was much better than I expected a shoujo manga set in an all boys high school to be. The romantic issues of the main characters get a certain amount of resolution in this final volume, but the well worn plot device of misunderstandings serving to drive some of the couples apart makes me glad that the series stopped when it did. Maki is hearing that his girlfriend Takano has been hanging out with school heartthrob Kamiki. At first he resolutely denies the possibility, but then runs into Takano and Kamiki on the beach. Kamiki and Takano are only talking. She’s going through some changes in her life that she’s hiding from Maki and Kamiki warns her “Once you figure out that I can’t make you less lonely, talk to Maki.” Maki sees them together and abruptly breaks up, but Takano was hiding the fact that she’s headed overseas from him. Maki and Takano manage to get a little bit of resolution, but Kamiki is left to deal with his own problems.

Kamiki’s white knight tendencies are coming in the way of him actually getting to develop a real relationship with Miaji. She calls him out on this personality trait, saying “I don’t want your pity, I want your love.” She rejects his help and enters into a stressful project – taking care of a stray dog with Maki. Kamiki ends up helping anyway, saying “I wanted an excuse to talk to you, Miaji. Pretty sneaky of me, huh?” The series ends with the general sense that the main characters are all going to be ok. Having a shoujo series with a more male centric point of view was refreshing, and Izumi’s art has an element of clarity that ensures it is easy to read. The one thing that threw off my enjoyment of this manga was the back-up story called “Reverse Guilt” that has an extremely icky twist ending that contrasted with the more peaceful conclusions of the main story.

Review copies provided by the publisher.