published by Viz
published by Del Rey Manga
Four-Eyed Prince Book 2
by Wataru Mizukami, Del Rey Manga, $10.99 US, due out January 26
As I get older, I’ve come to realize that there’s a place for light entertainment. Some have made fun of this series for its goofy concept, but I enjoyed this book even more than the first one.
They’re just silly shojo stories about having a crush on a guy who wears glasses, but there’s a reverse-Superman-style aspect to the way only Sachiko can recognize her step-brother regardless of whether he’s studious Akihiko or studly Akira. The opening scene, where she gets rid of two overly flirtatious strangers by distracting them and then slapping his glasses on him, after which they no longer recognize him (!), I found hilarious. It’s as though she knows the rules of the comic genre they’re in and is exploiting them for her own benefit (although she excuses it as protecting him).
He’s distant, she’s obsessed, but every so often he does something sweet to keep her hooked. It’s shojo with a sense of humor — especially once the “We Love Glasses” Team shows up. They want to make friends with Sachiko, since they all idolize Akihiko. Everyone’s behavior quickly becomes completely ridiculous, and the revelations tend to be outrageous, but it’s all to portray the emotions a young girl feels when she’s got a crush: jealousy, fear, hope.
Other stories feature the reappearance of Akihiko’s long-lost brother, who also is a hottie in his glasses, and Sachiko hoping for the perfect Christmas date, which goes wrong every way possible. There’s also an unrelated story about a girl who asks a boy to help her snag his friend. I had a fun time reading the book as an amusing little piece of escapism.
Rin-Ne Book 2
by Rumiko Takahashi, Viz, $9.99 US
I only gave this second volume a try, after finding the first book mediocre, because of the name attached. That means that the cartooning is solid, if old-fashioned, but I can’t cope with any more of these repetitive, unfunny stories. I don’t care if this was done by the modern god of manga, it’s horrible.
All the stories are the same: A student has ghost problems. Schoolgirl Sakura and weirdo Rinne try to help but usually make things worse before finally sending the spirit away. These tales are full of convenient characters we’ve never seen before and the endings come from nowhere. I think it’s supposed to be funny, but I find it tedious, especially the constant tin-ear jokes about money. Maybe if I knew more about Japanese folktales, I’d find the setups more familiar and thus the twists more creative. As it is, I had to force myself to finish this book. Everyone, even the ghosts, are stupid. Some might find that funny — I don’t.
Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Book 5
by Koji Kumeta, Del Rey Manga, $10.99 US, due out January 26
People keep complaining that this book is hard to understand because of all the cultural references, but I don’t see it. I think each volume is actually easier than the one before. What’s so cultural about making fun of white lies or the way time mutes people’s aggravation or things that are totally out of proportion or dream endings?
But along those lines, one thing has obviously changed this time, with fewer than half the number of endnotes there were in previous volumes. That’s likely due to the change in translators. The book is now being adapted by David Ury, who is no stranger to Japanese pop culture, since he previously worked on Genshiken. Instead of focusing on detail, on capturing every single possible reference (some even go unexplained), he’s paying more attention to the concepts.
Either way, it’s the clean, crisp design that keeps drawing me back, and it’s shown to particular advantage in the story about a girl who’s so mean-looking that everyone assumes she couldn’t actually behave that way. There’s another one where the characters worry about plagiarism, so the artist draws the most unusual layouts he can. For a conceptual comedy, there are plenty of funny pictures.
It impresses me how such complex ideas can be summed up and communicated through these short humor chapters. Such as “self-completion”, which is about the decision to stop caring about something that isn’t going to work out the way you want anyway. Kumeta makes fun of it, but there’s also something to admire about someone who does what makes them happy without worrying what anyone else thinks. The story where everyone (including a Black Jack cameo) detoxes, losing everything that’s negative about their personalities, is also pretty amusing in its aggressive normalcy.
All books are review copies provided by publishers.