by Ema Toyama
published by Kodansha Comics; $10.99 US
I really shouldn’t read Missions of Love while I still have a volume of Strobe Edge in my mind. The two series are superficially similar — everyday girl has to choose between a cool guy everyone wants and the nice guy who’s like a brother/cousin to her while coping with a rival who’s determined to get the cool guy — but Strobe Edge is so much more realistic in emotion that Missions of Love comes off badly.
I’m not complaining that they have similar premises. Of course, it’s a typical shojo manga plot, one that its young female audience presumably dreams about. Although at first glance, Missions of Love has the more interesting heroine, with her profession of cell-phone novelist, that device just makes everything in the series seem more artificial, as author Ema Toyama seems to forget about it until she needs a heavy-handed plot device to move the story along.
The art is undistinguished, stereotypical in effect, and Yukina has lost the glasses that made her cuter and different-looking. There’s so little going on that’s visually outstanding that the book is a quick read. I don’t normally pay much attention to the pinups (chapter start images, covers, and so on) in a manga, but the ones used in Missions of Love are so cheesy, so trying too hard to be sexy and winding up laughable, that I must mention them. They’re full of cleavage and come-hither looks completely out of character for the cast, particularly the lead.
It’s almost like the Japanese version of Archie, a series supposedly for high schoolers that is really read by younger kids dreaming of being that age. There are sometimes sexy images, but they’re never going to be followed up on.
In this volume, we have Yukina getting sick, so the boys fight over taking care of her. That’s complicated by her being in bed, so they wind up laying down with her, for that teasing aspect. The last two chapters are one big drawn-out joke at the reader’s expense, where Yukina can’t figure out how Shigure proposes to make an everlasting bond with her, and it turns out to be nothing like one would expect.
It’s hard to believe that someone who’s supposedly so successful at writing is so naive and at times, dumb about human nature. I know, that’s the premise, that she needs to learn about life and real love to make her stories more realistic, but she’s so unaware about why she or anyone else makes the choices they do that it’s ridiculous she could ever had had the achievement in the first place. It’s hard to believe that this is 13 volumes and still going in Japan. (The publisher provided a review copy.)