published by Viz; $8.99 US
All books, Shojo Beat titles priced at $8.99, were provided by the publisher, Viz, for review.
by Satoru Takamiya
20 pages in, we’ve met a shy girl who sees ghosts and is scared of the opposite sex; a gorgeous cross-dressing boy who hangs out in a haunted house; and a tall, quiet, good-looking boy who happens to be a vampire werewolf. Tall boy saves shy girl from the demons who haunt her. I can’t read any further for fear of suffering cliche overload.
I can see why some teens would be gripped by such a story; it’s reminiscent of current pop culture phenom Twilight in its goth exploration of beginning romance. But it’s much too generic and overstuffed for me. It’s complete in this book, at least.
Mixed Vegetables Book 1
by Ayumi Komura
This premise should have been right up my alley. Hanayu is supposed to be a pastry chef, since that’s what her family does, but she wants to make sushi instead. She’s got the skills, but she’s convinced that to make her dreams happen, she has to marry Hyuga, a fellow student at cooking school. He wants to make pastry, but his family runs a sushi restaurant.
Everything would be simpler if Hanayu would just tell her parents the truth about her goals, but that would mean no story (tortured as it is). I had a very hard time getting into a premise where a person’s career depended on their family and/or their spouse. It seemed very old-fashioned, not at all suited for a modern girl.
The various mood changes among the characters seemed to come out of nowhere and didn’t make a lot of sense. Quickly, he’s in love with her (I still don’t understand why), and then she has to deal with her guilt over using him to get the job she wants.
I think it’s supposed to be funny that Hanayu is very bad at interpersonal relations. She thinks Hyuga will be impressed by her fish-cutting knife skills, but she doesn’t think at all about how she treats him or how scary it is when she comes on intensely. I didn’t laugh, though, at how pathetic she was. I wanted to sit her down for a good talking-to instead.
I wish there had been a lot more cooking or sushi preparation, instead of the unconvincing relationships. There are notes at the back to explain the Japanese-specific foods and techniques.
Sugar Princess Books 1 and 2
by Hisaya Nakajo
This two-volume series is by the creator of Hana-Kimi, but it’s not as weird as that cross-dressing sports romance. Like the candy that the heroine shares with her friends, this story is a sweet temporary treat, light but enjoyable.
Maya goes skating for the first time and discovers she has natural talent on ice. She decides to pursue figure skating when she sees Shun, an older schoolmate, practicing. Their coach wants to pair them up, but Shun only wants to skate single for unexplained reasons.
The coach tells Shun to teach her, but it’s only her determination that finally convinces him to bother. As she continues to struggle with the art of figure skating, she learns more about Shun’s past and develops many friendships.
I like the good feeling that surrounds Maya. She’s a nice girl, trying her best, and as she learns more about the world of skating, so does the reader. Of course, there’s a competition at the end, but before that, there’s good friends helping each other out and wonderful family support and funny bits about daily life.
It’s a well-meaning modern fairy tale that many girls can dream of. Figure skating is lovely, romantic, and feminine, making for a great background for a tale about discovering schoolgirl love, both for a boy and for a sport. This short series was a refreshing change of pace from lengthy tortured soap operas, much as I enjoy them too. I’d read it again.