THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A COMICS EMERGENCY
THE WALLFLOWER VOL.8-10
Written and Drawn by Tomoko Hayakawa
Translated and Adapted by David Ury
Published by Del Rey
Four hot guys keep earning free rent by trying to turn Goth girl Sunako into a proper lady as WALLFLOWER rolls on through a tenth volume. Fortunately, Tomoko-chan undertakes some proper story movement, as one of the boys begins to re-embrace his own dark side and draw a bit closer to perhaps entering a genuine relationship with Sunako.
Why? Because more than any other manga I’m currently reading, WALLFLOWER is as much about the creator working out some of her own fantasies on the page as anything else. Hayakawa is a Goth herself, and her author’s notes are always filled with her observations on attractive boys she’s seen and desired, though she never seems to do anything about it. The book then plays like a way for her to partially express some of her repressed feelings, never more obvious than when the most attractive of the boys becomes the one who develops a grudging attraction and respect for Sunako.
The other characters get solid screen time in these volumes as well, and the books are ultimately quite entertaining. Because of the author’s own issues, WALLFLOWER is a more unique read than most. Taken as a personal fantasy given life or as a simple story, this remains a top-of-the-stack read.
HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS VOL.1 and VOL.7
When you see a title like HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS shrink-wrapped on the shelf, your tendency would be to expect a crude, raunchy fanservice manga with little in the way of interesting characters or redeeming story qualities. But much to my surprise, this series is exactly the opposite; GIRLS is full of lively characters who feel very real, and even though it has its somewhat fanservice moments, they tend to be in areas that push the stories forward. And when you discover in the notes at the end of volume one that the author is basically creating a near roman a clef of her own high school years those scenes read as even more organic and natural on the page. These kids sound and act real.
As much as I enjoyed the characters and the humor that Towa-chan brings to the book, I almost appreciated watching her growth as an artist even more. The difference between her pages in volume one and volume seven is remarkable; you can see her confidence level in every panel. I’m not someone who leans towards being a completist in many cases, but I enjoyed HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS so much that I will be keeping an eye out for volumes 2-6. You should as well.
Written and Drawn by Kouji Seo
Translated and Adapted by David Ury
Published by Del Rey
Take one part LOVE HINA, add sports, and throw in the traditional young love story hijinx and you get SUZUKA, the second entry in Del Rey’s “mature readers” line of mangas. Yamato is 15 years old and looking for a way to change his life, so when his aunt invites him to leave his mountain area home and come live in her Tokyo boarding house he jumps at the chance. Of course, there are always complications in a situation like this; for one, it’s an all-female boarding house. For another, he immediately falls for the girl in the room next to his, the titular Suzuka. However, the path to love is never a smooth one, so Yamato is first going to have to survive the two drunken college girls who live in the house and delight in fucking up his life, his pervert of a best friend, and Suzuka’s natural gift for catching him the worst possible situations.
SUZUKA’s smuttier moments definitely earn the book’s shrink-wrapping, but they’re also pretty amusing, even against what might be your better judgment. Seo-san’s art is also quite lovely to behold, making this a solid winner all-around.
Written by Seimaru Amagi and Drawn by Tetsuya Koshiba
Translated by Haruko Furukawa and Adapted by Aaron Sparrow
Published by Tokyopop
REMOTE was one of those books that sucked me in from the very start, taking a premise that could have turned stale quickly and zapping it with a bolt or two of storytelling lightning. Young policewoman Kurumi Ayaki is assigned to the strangest beat in her district: assisting Detective Kozaburo Himuro. Himuro is the smartest, most effective crime solver the police have, but there’s just one problem: an unknown psychological problem has left him unable to leave the one single room of his house that he occupies. So Kurumi would be doing all of his legwork, facing all the danger, and putting her own personal life on hold (including the planning of her wedding to a spineless, horny wimp named Shingo) to be available by cell phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Of course, the one question that always lurked at the core of the book was what exactly had happened to Himuro to leave him in such a state, and this last story offers the answer. When a kidnapping takes place and credit is taken by an adversary thought dead, Himuro must face his past and his failings, and once again, Kurumi must put herself in harms way as the broken detective deals with his psychological impotence at the worst possible time. The resolution to it all is well executed, and delivers moment after moment that the reader who has been with the book all the way was dying to see. And the final scene, involving the resolution to whether or not Kurumi will reach the altar with Shingo, is worth the price of the book, laying out once and forever who the young woman has become and what her life is going to be.
REMOTE had its failings along the way, the creators indulging in a little too much fanservice here and there, but taken as a whole, I think it offered a rare look at a female heroine who went through genuine growth and change. These ten volumes are keepers.
Written and Drawn by Tomoko Ninimiya
Translated and Adapted by David and Eriko Walsh
Published by Del Rey
Noda Megumi and her friends race towards the end of the university year, with futures in the balance. The love of her life, Shinichi, is graduating and facing an uncertain future; he is phobic about both air and sea travel, meaning he cannot leave Japan to pursue music overseas, leaving him no career path. Nodame is working on a suite of songs meant for young children, as she wants to teach pre-school, but her teachers and mentors find her unsuitable for that job. Then the meanest piano teacher at the university decides he is going to become her mentor and mold her talent, even though she hates him. And amidst these troubles and more, the pair must travel to Shinichi’s family’s home, where he must face pressure to give up music altogether and try and explain that no matter how she feels about him, Nodame is not his girlfriend.
These plots and more dominate these two volumes of NODAME CANTABILE, and against all odds, this series seems to only get better and better. I’ve tried to dissect why I love this book so much, but there’s really no one single thing that makes it stand out; instead, there are a multitude of factors that make it brilliant. The characters actually grow and change, and progress occurs within the relationships between them. The supporting cast is stellar, from their fellow musicians to the families. Tomoko’s figure-work is simple but dynamic; there’s more of a realism to the look of NODAME than you find in most mangas. Whatever you want to point to, it works, and this is one of the best character dramas you’re going to find on the shelves.
In fact, getting ahead of myself, I’ll tell you this right now: NODAME CANTABILE will make my end-of-the-year top ten list of essential books. I would never have guessed that a book about orchestra musicians would become one of the books I await eagerly, but it is so. This is must reading; it’s funny, dramatic, and compelling. In short: the best and most consistent manga being published today.
Copyright 2006- 2010 Marc Mason/Comics Waiting Room. All rights reserved