by Aya Nakahara; adapted by Shaenon K. Garrity
published by Viz; $8.99 US
The high school kids’ search for their futures continues. Otani’s waiting to hear if he passed his exams, and thanks to a friend’s suggestion, Risa has some idea of a career she might be good at.
It’s fashion-related, adding that touch of glamor so necessary for shojo dreams, but it’s also nicely balanced with the practical. This chapter works well as a mostly stand-alone story to remind the reader of the characters and their interaction — a help with a long-running series like this one.
Of course, there’s plenty of humor, too. Risa’s having nightmares because of her concerns over Otani. She dreams of him disappearing, or becoming a kappa, a mystical creature who loves cucumbers. It’s wacky, but it has deep feeling underneath, and that blend is what keeps me coming back to this series. (Plus, I learned that “kappa maki”, cucumber rolls, are named after these sprites.)
The art helps a great deal, too, since the characters are so entertaining to watch. They’re exaggerated, but not too much, and their open, happy faces are a pleasure to read. I enjoy spending time with these characters. There are plenty of misunderstandings and missed signals, but that’s what being a teen in love is all about.
There’s drama as well — the lead characters have plenty of friends who have the more disturbing events happen to them, a balance that widens the subjects the stories can cover without losing the essential premise. In this case, another couple finds college exams separating them. One got into their target school, the other didn’t, and the group (and the reader) watch them work through what that means.
This book also has a backup story with other characters, about a dead girl haunting her fraidy-cat boyfriend. Best line, when the jealous ghost is griping about a new girl the boy is talking to: “Guess she can’t see me over that rack.” It’s typical of Nakahara’s characters, that even as ghosts, they’re caught up in the small realisms of the everyday.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)