by Machiko Sakurai; adaptation by Athena and Alethea Nibley
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Volume two picks up at the moment volume one ended; Nicori and Midori have run off to rescue Ame. Through a bizarre twist of circumstances, Ame is released by her captors. The rest of volume two, and all of volume three, focus on Nicori learning more about complexities of human relationships. He is trying to understanding what it means to be in love with someone and what being part of a family entails.
Since one of the central characters in Minima! is a talking stuffed animal, it’s easy to believe that the series will be a light-hearted comedy. However, Minima! is actually a comedic drama that focuses on feelings of alienation.
Ame struggles with a self-imposed alienation that comes from her shyness. Nicori’s alienation first comes from his being a toy of a little-known character. He later experiences isolation as the consequence of being the only talking toy. Sasaki, Ame’s friend and love interest, feels estrangement because he knows he is moving at the end of the school year. There is a hint in volume three that Midori might be struggling with feelings of alienation, too, despite all his bombast.
Sakurai does a good job of capturing the chaos of emotions you feel when you’re junior-high-school age. Characters in this series yell and fight, then later sheepishly apologize. They deeply care about each other, but they don’t know how to properly handle, much less express, what they feel. They’re impulsive and trying not to be reckless. It’s an awkward time in life, and having a talking toy in the center of it isn’t helping much.
My two favorite characters are still Nicori and Midori. Nicori is such a wonderful innocent. He fits in so perfectly with the humans. He’s new to all these emotions that he’s feeling, and he’s learning how to navigate all these different relationships. His lack of experience with humans allows him some unique insights. Since he doesn’t have any preconceived notions or emotional baggage, he’s often able to see to the heart of the matter. For example, he asked a simple question and changed the dynamics of Ame’s kidnapping. He believes in addressing problems directly and is a great catalyst for reconciliation among the other characters. He tries to so hard to do right by everyone that you can’t help but love him.
Like Nicori, Midori is filled with sincerity and good intentions. He wears his passion for his friends on his sleeve. I like him as a male role model because he’s not about being macho, but instead, he focuses on relationships and compassion. We find out that he essentially lives alone. His parents are rarely home. This helps us to understand why his friendships are so important to him and why he wants his friends to be happy. I get the feeling that volume four will take us behind Midori’s bravado to let us see what his struggles truly are.
The art continues to be something of a let-down. Sakurai is excellent with facial expressions and capturing emotions, but that’s all. The art tends to have a flat look. I do see some potential to be much better, since the basic figure work, page composition, and backgrounds are solid if not impressive. There are a few outstanding splash pages in these two books that point to what Sakurai is truly capable of.
Overall, I’m enjoying Minima! Even though it has some heavy emotional content, it’s not a dark and brooding series. It’s short, with the forthcoming volume four being the last book. Perfect to take on vacation or as a break from a longer, more intense series. (Complimentary copies for this review were provided by the publisher.)