published by Viz; $8.99 US
I’m reviewing these two series together because both have titillating premises that are mostly ignored in the execution. Books were provided by the publisher, Viz, for review and are priced at $8.99 each.
Magic Touch Book 1
by Izumi Tsubaki
Chiaki is a massage student who falls in love with a boy’s back she sees every morning on the bus. When they meet at school, Yosuke agrees to let her massage him, her fondest desire, only if she can make him fall in love with her. Yes, it’s an “only in fiction” plot, with the excuse that he’s such a player that all the other girls bore him.
As expected, she falls for him instead, especially since she’s not used to anyone being nice to her. Her family consists of a twin sister who uses Chiaki to take the blame for her frequent indiscretions and their mother, who distrusts Chiaki and blames her for all the sister’s bad business. These are unpleasant, unbelievable characters that give the impression of being there just to make Chiaki seem more virtuous.
The author’s note mentions how this is her first manga. That might explain why the anatomy can be off, a terrible flaw in a book focusing on the physical body. In his introduction scene, Yosuke is a mix of brick wall torso, giraffe neck, tiny little head, and freaky cat eyes. The panels also don’t have either the easy-reading flow or distinctive look of more accomplished artists.
The biggest problem, though, is that the book ignores its premise. Instead of Chiaki using her skills of touch to capture Yosuke’s heart, the book becomes a more typical romance, with a revenge plot against the twin sister, who’s two-dimensionally evil. Why set up such a promising visual idea as massage if you’re not going to use it effectively? Also, the key scene, when he decides to let her touch him after all, is missing from the book. Instead, in the middle, we get a short story set at the school’s massage club involving someone I think is Chiaki’s older brother. He doesn’t live at home, which I guess is the excuse for not having him do something about the evil sister.
Captive Hearts Book 3
by Matsuri Hino
Long ago, members of Megumi’s family were cursed to serve Suzuka’s, whether they wanted to or not. In spite of this magical slavery, he’s in love with her, which makes his bondage sweet. Even though his obedience is compelled, he wants to protect her anyway.
For something with all this subtext — the premise lends a whole new meaning to “love has made me your unwilling slave” — the book is surprisingly boring. They talk a lot about all this, and there are recaps that made it easy for me to start here. But in actuality, this isn’t much different from any other shojo. It would have been nice if there was any conflict to drive plot. Instead, everyone wants the same things, which makes the curse almost irrelevant.
Until Megumi leaves Suzuka’s physical presence, when he finds out he’ll get sick away from her. The families are searching for a way to break the curse, in order for them to be together out of free will. In the second half of the book, a new maid is introduced into Suzuka’s home who has a crush on Megumi, in order to provide something happening. However, it’s not very effective — Megumi isn’t attracted to her in any way, and the views of Suzuka fighting with her maid are unattractive because the imbalance is so great. The book also has a lengthy flashback to how the curse began.