Behind the Scenes!! Volumes 1-2
Bisco Hatori (best known for Ouran High School Host Club) brings out a rollicking story of a shy young man finding room for his talents when he meets the right group of college friends in Behind the Scenes!!. The twist in this series is the media connection — the Art Squad handles props, costumes, and special effects for all the campus groups who want to make movies.
Ranmaru is your typical manga protagonist. He’s an unassuming but high-strung country boy, just trying to stay out of the way and not make waves, until he’s run over by a bride fleeing a crowd of zombies. The Film Studies Club is shooting, and he’s gotten in the way, so he’s scooped up by the Art Squad to help them. They’re trying to put out professional results with no budget, using their creativity and visual tricks to, as the charismatic leader puts it, “strive for high quality with short funds and even shorter time… based on what the script requires!”
The art is crowded and energetic, with plenty happening at all times. The personalities are exaggerated, which adds to the humor. Ranmaru is looking for a place to belong, and with the creative types here, he’s found it, since he has unexpected artistic talent.
The structure allows for a variety of types to float in and out, as productions assemble and complete. The first director Ranmaru meets, for example, is full of himself, with women constantly hanging on him, even though his idea is lowest-common-denominator cheese. I liked the tips and tricks worked into the story, about how to make things look natural or aged or warm, as well as the chapter plots. Someone’s sabotaging a production in one story, while in another, a director is taking revenge on the costume designer, who wouldn’t date him, by never approving anything. In all cases, the Art Squad sticks to their commitment to achievement, an admirable goal.
Volume 2 opens with the need to dress a set as a fanboy’s room, which means clever ways to obtain props and location. Attention to detail is a virtue, an aspect that pleases my obsessive heart. More to the point, every element has been thought through in terms of what each component says about the movie’s character.
We also find out more about Maasa, the horror fan and zombie freak who does special effects makeup. She wants a boyfriend, but her interests tend to turn off the usual guys. She won’t compromise what she’s passionate about, though. Another club member helps Ranmaru study and reveals his own love of antiquities and self-sacrificing consideration for others.
Although using familiar character beats, Behind the Scenes!! entertained me with its movie-making trivia and the wild but relatable personalities. It’s a welcome fantasy of finding a group of people you belong with and can achieve with.