by Mai Nishikata; adapted by Sheldon Drzka
published by DC/CMX Manga; $9.99 US
The odd couple of Takami and Akira continue negotiating their relationship, as Takami takes a job as a waitress/hostess at the club where Akira plays piano. Even though he’s younger, he’s ridiculously protective of her, insisting that a teenager shouldn’t work that late, even though he does.
I’m not sure whether some of their interactions are intended as parodies of stereotypical male/female roles, or if we’re supposed to take them more seriously, as signs of their feelings for each other. I have more fun reading if I choose the former, because poor Akira strikes me as trying too hard in order to overcome Takami’s goofiness. And that’s why I like them. They’re silly in their extremes, but they’re teenagers, they’re allowed to be.
Akira requests the same shifts as Takami, in order to avoid worrying about her. That demonstrates his feelings at the same time it brings them into contact more often, allowing for both comedy and touching revelation. Takami alternates between finding Akira annoying in his concern and impressed by how others see him when he’s performing.
The job situation only lasts for a chapter, though, with most of the rest of the book set at piano school. Their teacher quit to raise her coming child, and the new instructor, Oda, taught Akira as a child. Oda is a little too free with what he thinks, which annoys Akira, who bears a grudge from their days past. That Oda is hitting on Takami doesn’t help. Akira’s jealousy is explained by Oda being like him, but older, more experienced, and more talented. Akira fears that Takami won’t see anything in him when Oda’s around. The inclusion of a competitor, even though he really isn’t, reveals more about how Takami and Akira interact.
(American readers may be a little put off by how freely Oda flirts with his student, to the point of touching her teasingly. It’s completely inappropriate behavior, but no one even mentions it beyond Akira being jealous.)
There’s also an upcoming performance competition. Takami is encouraged by Oda to enter, in order to refine her skills, while Akira has stopped participating in such because of unpleasant experiences when he was younger. His family drove him to win, in contrast to Takami’s, who accepted her whatever the results. Even though he knows better, Akira fears that Takami will also pay attention to him only if he comes in first. It’s these moments of vulnerability that make his protectiveness tolerable.
I don’t know if it’s the reproduction used in the book or an intentional effect, but many of the pages here look more like sketches than finished art, with lines fading out and colors being more grey than black. There are some odd balloon placements that make me think the translation from Japanese to English caused some spacing/size issues. There aren’t many backgrounds, and supporting characters are sketched in instead of being formed with firm lines. Sometimes the pages appear to be cut off too closely on the outside edge. But this didn’t really bother me, since I read for the character interaction, not the art.
Most all of the book’s premise, by the way, is re-explained in the first four pages of this volume, so don’t be concerned about having to find book one to start reading this “opposites attract” teen romantic comedy.