Komomo Confiserie, Vols 4 and 5

Komomo Confiserie, Vols 4 and 5 by Maki Minami

This series was five volumes long, and it feels like exactly the right length to wrap everything up and not leave the readers hanging. It was pleasant enough, but I don’t see myself rereading it anytime soon. Still, this is the first Minami series that I’ve stuck with all the way to the end, so there’s something about cranky pasty chefs that I must find appealing! The last two volumes of the series work through a few barriers to Komomo and Natsu getting together.

This volume shows how Komomo deals with a psychotic girl who has decided to stalk Natsu in a dramatic fashion. Natsu starts ignoring Komomo for her own protection, because he doesn’t want Komomo to become a focus for Noelle’s wrath. Komomo doesn’t deal well with being ignored though, and since Natsu doesn’t openly discuss this problem with her at all (which is standard practice for shoujo heroes) the situation drags on far too long. While Komomo manages to fly under the radar for a little bit, Noelle becomes suspicious of Komomo and Natsu’s relationship and decides to take out her revenge on the Meli-Melo pastry shop. Here, Komomo’s sheer force of will and commanding nature comes out when she decides that she will not stand for Natsu’s livelihood being threatened, and she takes charge in a spectacular fashion, exhibiting some emotional maturity that she wouldn’t have been capable of at the start of the series.

Mitsuru, an old friend of Natsu starts to move in on the story. He’s fascinated with Komomo and figures out that Natsu must be in love with her. However, he has his own secret motivation for becoming involved with the odd pastry-obsessed couple, which is explored more fully in the next volume.

While Komomo starts to realize her feelings for Natsu when she begins to feel jealous of Noelle in the previous volume, the dynamic in the final volume is reversed as Natsu is forced to confront just how precious Komomo is to him once Mitsuru comes charging on the scene. Komomo has a choice to go back to her old life or stay devoted to Meli-Melo, and while her feelings aren’t in question, it takes a bit of time for Natsu to actually acknowledge what the reader has known has been going on since the very first volume.

Komomo Confiserie isn’t the most innovative shoujo manga, but I enjoyed the pastry-themed setting and Komomo’s imperious manner, expressive eyebrows, and occasional fits of rage. I While I don’t see myself rereading this manga anytime soon, it was the first Maki Minami series that I actually read from start to finish. Even though I had a very clear idea where the story would conclude after reading the first volume, I still enjoyed reading the whole series.


Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 2

Yona of the Dawn Volume 2 by Mizuho Kusanagi

I’m enjoying the way this story seems to is moving along at a fairly fast clip, but still seems to have plenty of time for character development and world building. In the last volume Princess Yona’s world was utterly shattered and she has to go on the run with her trusty protector Hak. He takes her to the home village of the wind tribe in order to seek refuge for a short time. I was happy to see that in this volume, Yona’s resolute spirit is highlighted, since she was mostly silly, sassy, and incredibly depressed in the first volume.

As they reach the Wind Tribe, there’s a little bit of comic relief as Hak meets up with some fellow warriors. Yona is exhausted, but living among the Wind Tribe helps her gain back some resiliency as she’s surrounded by a warm family. Hak continues to tease Yona somewhat relentlessly in such a way that I’m assuming that he’s just trying to cover up for his feelings for her. Yona has an opportunity to stay and live a quiet live with the Wind Tribe, but when it becomes clear that Su-Won isn’t going to stop trying to track her down. Yona is still a valuable political pawn.

What I most enjoyed about this volume is that I was able to see some flashes of the heroine I’m sure Yona is going to become. When Hak tries to leave her behind, she cuts through his joking demeanor and demands his fealty, and they strike out on their own again. Su Won’s soldiers are determined to capture Yona, and she stands up to the enemy, demonstrating that she isn’t the broken princess they were assuming they would find.


Idol Dreams, Vol. 3

Idol Dreams Volume 3 by Arina Tanemura

Well, I spent the first two volumes really hoping that Tanemura would be able to pull off the inherently problematic premise of a 30 year old heroine with arrested development suddenly being given the chance to relive her teen years through magic teen idol pills, but as the various love triangles start to develop with Chikage’s two personas I found myself wishing that the series would wrap up quickly before it starts to head into some uncomfortable territory.

One part of this volume that I liked very much is more time spent with Chikage as an adult. She runs into her long-lost crush Haru and they start to reconnect. Tokita keeps interfering in any situation where Haru and Chikage might become more intimate, even though he doesn’t really have a logical excuse for his actions. Haru has been a bit too mysterious so far, so it was good to get some of his backstory filled in, and see how it is clear that he really did care for Chikage when they were teenagers and he still has feelings for her. It was fun to see the teenage bonds of friendship resurface between Chikage and the two men as they hang out as a trio for the first time in years. Haru is very observant, and seeing how Tokita keeps reacting to Chikage, he decides to step back, but this is only temporary. What is more problematic is that Chikage really can’t relate to anyone intimately as an adult, and she reacts like a flustered teenager to Haru’s overtures. At this point, I’m convinced that she needs therapy more than magic teen idol pills.

Chikage’s adventures as Akari in this volume were a bit more dynamic as she has to manage babysitting duties and breaking into a school in disguise. However, what I was hoping wouldn’t happen in this series happened, as Akari decides to date a 16 year old. I find this more creepy than anything, and I hope this is really short-lived. I’ve enjoyed Arina Tanemura series so much in the past, but now I’m wondering if I should just fill in some of the gaps in my Sakura Hime manga collection and going back and reading that instead. I’m still firmly team Tokita, as he’s clearly the only man that Chikage can actually relax around and be herself with. I hope that the romance swings more that way in future volumes.


Skip Beat!, Vol 37

Skip Beat! Volume 37, by Yoshiki Nakamura

I always do a mental happy dance whenever a new volume of Skip Beat! comes out, because it is just so consistently good. This volume brings the pain, as Kyoko has to deal with her mother. Kyoko’s family has always been consistently absent from this series, and now the reader knows why. There was a bit of a reference to family difficulties when Kyoko had to get her mother’s permission to sign with a talent agency, but she hasn’t appeared in person in the manga before. Kyoko’s mom appears to be a cold-hearted lawyer who doesn’t want to be inconvenienced by her own daughter.

Coming off of the Heel Siblings arc, Kyoko is back in Japan, working as a Love Me section member again while the first few episodes of her new drama are airing. She runs into her mother by an elevator, but she only displays a few hostile micro-expressions before walking by her daughter, utterly ignoring her. Later, it turns out that Saena Mogami is filling in for another lawyer on a variety show and when responding to questions about her cold demeanor, she replies that she’s never had children. Both Ren and Sho witness this moment, and they think about Kyoko’s feelings, rushing to be by her side.

Sho arrives first, right after Kyoko sees her mother deny her existence. Kyoko’s response to this event is to utterly shut down her emotions. Nakamura does such a great job with Kyoko’s facial expressions in this scene. Kyoko is usually so animated, swinging from one emotional extreme to another that to see her be both beyond sad and blank at the same time is shocking. Kyoko’s eyes are shadowed in grey, and the aftermath of her mother’s interview settles on Kyoko like a physical weight. Sho being Sho, his response is to try to provoke some sort of emotion out of her, and he fails miserably.

Skip Beat! has that rare combination of gripping plots and lovely art, even though the characters might have the leg proportions of giraffes. There are always several pages in each volume where I stop to appreciate the art, like the panels that show Kyoko’s devastation, a photo shoot with Ren that shows the charisma he has that has made him a star, and the moment where Kyoko finally finds some comfort.

Kyoko goes on the run and finds Ren, but she thinks he’s Corn! Oh the tangled web we weave, etc! Still, no mater what side of himself Ren may be portraying, he’s the refuge that Kyoko needs at the time. I can see this storyline spinning out over several volumes, and as usual when Skip Beat! embarks on new direction I can’t wait to see what happens next.


Everyone’s Getting Married, Vol. 2

Everyone’s Getting Married, Volume 2 by Izumi Miyazono

I’m always a happy camper when Viz is putting out a josei title, and with two volumes so far in the Everyone’s Getting Married series, I’m very much enjoying a periodic escape into adult romance trials and tribulations as a nice contrast from all the shoujo I usually read.

One of the things I liked very much about the first volume was that the main couple Asuka and Ryu are so clearly attracted to each other and yet their respective goals of becoming a housewife and never getting married are clearly going to come into conflict. Even when they might have attempted to avoid each other, they find themselves getting closer and closer and in a relationship that is going to have a sudden expiration date if neither of them are going to change.

While Asuka and Ryu are more emotionally connected than ever, they find that their hectic work schedules prevents them from seeing each other very often, causing a bit of tension. Ryu also finds himself enjoying some of the extra homemaker type things that Asuka does a little too much, as she’s able to whip up dinner at short notice and do some extra things to help him through an extra demanding time with his news anchor job.

They manage to navigate their first big fight and end up stronger than ever, but one of the things that I enjoy about this manga is that both characters are sympathetic, their points of view about life are intrinsically opposed, and I’m left rooting for a solution but I can’t picture how they’re going to pull it off. This ends up amping up my curiosity about what is going to happen in the story quite a bit, so I’m eager to see how everything progresses.