by Miho Obana; adaptation by Sarah Dyer
published by Tokyopop; $9.99 US
This series has grown up with its characters. It started as a light comedy about a child star, but as Sana learns more about life, her stories deal with more complex material. She and her friends are maturing both physically and emotionally.
This volume opens with Sana’s plans to throw a party. She’s got so many reasons to celebrate: her boyfriend Akito is just out of the hospital after a serious injury; it’s the birthday of his former girlfriend and her current best friend; it’s a kind of anniversary in their relationship; and it’s Christmas Eve.
She’s stunned by others’ reactions to her plans. They tell her they can’t come and wonder why she doesn’t want to spend some time alone with Akito. Sana’s still young enough to be confused about what dating means. She’s more comfortable thinking of Akito as a close special friend. The anticipation of their first real date send Sana into a series of mood swings, alternating between typically girly behavior (“I’ll bake!”) and paralyzing uncertainty. She’s an accomplished, talented performer, but that doesn’t protect her from insecurity in her personal life.
The kids are three-dimensional characters with hobbies, interests, a variety of family backgrounds, and complicated emotions. They’re only in junior high, but they admirably face struggles adults would have trouble with. Obana captures well the telling little moments that make up a relationship.
The characters’ faces are central to telling the story through reaction and expression. Sometimes happy, sometimes serious, sometimes exaggerated, they’re all cute, creating a friendship with the reader that makes their struggles more involving. We want the best for them, because they care so much.
This volume ends on a cliffhanger that creates anticipation for the next and last book in the series. It’s nearly the perfect shôjo sampler series, since it includes relationship comedy, teen drama, romantic interactions, and matters of life and death.
The story of Sana’s first love and her growing understanding of what it means to care deeply for someone ties it all together. At the same time, she’s learning what it means to be responsible when dealing with obligations, whether emotional or professional. Overall, it’s a story of the transforming power of love.
I have previously reviewed Book 4.