by Miki Aihara; adaptation by Shaenon Garrity
published by Viz; $8.99 US
When I reviewed Book 1, I called this series “enjoyable high school soap opera”. By this installment, though, it’s closer to family drama. Mimori’s still trying to date Haruta even though Kazukita keeps interfering. The latest source of confusion occurs when Mimori thinks the lonely Kazukita is sick. She rushes over to his apartment to take care of him, because she’s that kind of young-mother-in-training, and Haruta finds her there.
The real conflict, though, is driven by Mimori’s family secret. Her father is being demoted to a job outside of Tokyo. She, her mother, and her sister don’t want to leave their home and family, so Dad decides to go alone, precipitating a severe rift between her parents. Plus, Mom thinks Haruta’s a hoodlum because of his bleached hair and pierced ear, temporarily troubling Mimori with the possibility of having to choose between family and boyfriend.
I found the subplot between Mimori’s friend Nana and Kazukita’s friend Ran intriguing — he likes her, but she likes his best friend, yet the two have an unexpected encounter — but it was quickly forgotten in favor of more family issues. There’s also an aborted storyline involving a boy pressuring a girl to have sex to prove her love, but not much is done with it.
If the copyright date didn’t say 2004, I’d swear that this was a much earlier work, perhaps dating from the 80s. It’s not just the clothes (fashions do come around again) and hair — it’s the simpler attitudes and plots that are more labored than layered. I expect more nuanced complications from my favorite shôjo series than we get here, and many promising elements are forgotten or handwaved away.
It seems to me that the author doesn’t know quite what to do with these characters, so she’s trying different things, thrashing around in search of a direction, but not much clicks. If this was a TV soap opera, it’d be one where the actors are more concerned with getting on to their next project than with their current performance, as though they were walking through the scenes and reciting whatever lines they’re given without much enthusiasm. I don’t believe in the characters; there’s no sense of involvement, no three-dimensionality. The series ends next volume, so I’ll stay with it, but it’s not nearly as good as I hoped, given that the author wrote one of my favorite mangas, Hot Gimmick.