by Mihona Fujii; adaptation by Sheldon Drzka
published by DC/CMX Manga; $9.99 US
I’m catching up on the series with the latest volume, Book 8, after last talking about Book 4. Given the time that’s passed, Ran is now a high school senior, and her little sister, Sayo the wannabe detective, is attending the same school. Ran’s supposed to be focusing on planning her adult life, and Dad is still encouraging her to prepare for the upcoming test to become a police officer, but she’s not letting expectations change her activities.
Her current challenge is surviving without her cell phone for a month after her bill became overdue. Of course, this is major drama, expressed through energetic art and crowded panels. It’s more painful because everyone at school is collecting the equivalent of electronic pen pals on their phones. Particularly popular is someone called “Heart”, who sends out gossip.
Meanwhile, Sayo is trying to befriend a quiet girl in her class who spends all her time on her phone. (Given the frenzy of most of the book, the way the quiet girl is framed, by herself with minimal backgrounds, really brings home her separation.) The two storylines coincide in a way that’s not unexpected to the alert reader, turning this volume into a light-hearted version of Confidential Confessions.
It’s impressive how many threads are tied together and how the characters are kept involved in the various goings-on. Because of her declining popularity, Heart sends out gossip about Ran stealing the boyfriend of Ran’s friend Aya. That calls back to a plotline from an earlier volume where Aya finds out that the boy she’s in love with is willing to say he’s dating her but he clearly doesn’t feel about her the way she does about him. Sayo and her buddy set out to detect who Heart really is.
Meanwhile, Sayo’s quiet friend is under pressure because her father is a math teacher at their school, and like Ran, she isn’t coping well with the expectations placed on her. (Unlike Ran, she internalizes it all. Ran doesn’t seem to have an internal life, which is what makes her so entertaining.) There’s a lot going on, and it’s masterfully brought together with more serious elements grounding the fluffier entertainment, just like teen life.
Communication is a fruitful topic, and this volume tackles it in several different ways: the older generation not understanding why the kids depend on their cell phones, the nature of online communication and how it can be taken both more and less seriously than it deserves, how nice it can be to write an actual letter, and how Ran and her supposed boyfriend rarely talk on more than a superficial level.
About the only thing I didn’t like about the book was the paper quality. CMX titles appear to have switched to using newsprint, which makes their volumes feel lighter and less substantial than their competitors and provide for a lesser reading experience.