by Kaoru Tada
published by Digital Manga; $16.95 US
Digital Manga is promoting this new series, released in chunky (300+ pages) volumes, as a classic shojo manga, trumpeting how it has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. But will English speakers take to it?
“Classic” is the right word — the art style is firmly old-school shojo. Huge eyes, sharp chins, and plenty of hair are accompanied by 80s fashion, including patterned shirts and t-shirts with shoulder pads. But the characters are universal: average schoolgirl Kotoko has a crush on Naoki, the boy at the top of the class. He’s a natural genius, and he refuses her because she’s stupid, part of the lowest grouping in their grade.
The plot is also typical shojo. Kotoko at least has the guts to tell Naoki how she feels, but he abruptly rejects her. Then it turns out that she’s going to be living with him. Her father’s new house has collapsed, and they move in with an old friend of his… who happens to be Naoki’s father.
Some of this will seem unusual to American readers. The idea of falling in love with the top achiever of the class, for example, or the way Kotoko thinks she’s in love with him because she liked the way he gave the class address to the school. I also sometimes had trouble believing in Naoki as so handsome, since his face can change between panels and his chin is incredibly sharp.
Still, I enjoyed reading the book because of the charm of the characters. Kotoko I found myself liking almost in spite of myself because of her good humor and determination. Kotoko’s father and his buddy are quite funny when plotting to bring their kids together, while Naoki’s mother is obsessive now that she finally has someone to play daughter for her. The other child, Yuuki, is just adorable, especially when he starts journaling how stupid Kotoko is as his school research project. He’s a miniature Naoki, egotistical in his intelligence and idolizing his big brother.
The relationship between the two teens ends up changing them for the better, as expected. He teaches her how to study, and she learns secrets from his mother that humanize him. The extended length gives plenty of room to get to know the two, as well as the supporting cast. If you enjoy schoolgirl romance, you should definitely check this series out. According to Wikipedia, there are a total of 12 volumes planned, but the manga was ultimately unfinished, due to the author’s accidental death in 1999. (The publisher provided a review copy.)