Okay kidlets, it’s time for one of the best (and lengthiest written) features of this blog – Manga of the Month! This is one of the best mangas I’ve ever read. It’s up there on my all-time favourites, and because I’ve been more in touch with it recently, mostly because of Laura’s review on her blog, Heart of Manga (Which you can check out here) It’s an excellent review and I suggest you give it a read, really, because I really love the way she structures her reviews, gives different ratings and generally puts it all together.
When I read her review, I sat there thinking ‘I’ve seen this before – this is all way too familiar’. Once I got over my ditzy moment, I remembered that I’d already started reading this manga. I also remembered that I had adored it. I think this manga should be (and probably is) a shoujo classic. I suggest you read Laura’s review first. Tell you why… Her review is a REAL review. She summarizes the events and the feel of the manga wonderfully, giving you a synopsis and review separately. However, since this is Manga of the Month, what I’m doing is gushing about it – like the shoujo fangirl that I really am. So what are you waiting for! Click the link! :D
As for my bit, there’s more than enough gentleness, drama and passion put into this manga enough to develop into something amazing. I’d have to say, I’m quite biased when it comes to older manga. I’m not TOO fond of the art and usually shoujo back then was quite different. HOWEVER (and that’s a big however – even bigger than capital letters) I decided to stick it out, and once I got past the first couple of pages, I couldn’t care less. In fact, I enjoyed the wispy light feel that this manga has. I’m still not entirely happy with the artwork – sometimes Kira (the main character)’s eyes seem to be too big. Her expression in the first few chapters seemed pained – ALL THE TIME. It bugged me.
Wait, wait, wait. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘This is gushing?’ WELL, I’m taking my time. Working from the bottom up. I have a tendency to complain, remember? I’ll save what’s left of it for the next Ugly. This manga’s role as Manga of the Month will not fall short, trust me. By the way, what’s up with my unbearably long intros? I end up ranting about the manga without even talking about it properly. Isn’t that stupid? See? I’m doing it right now, too! I should shut up.
So on to the fawning over this excellent manga. This is four chapters of shoujo goodness, and a whole lot of drama. Something I loved was that the tension and suspense built up beautifully in this manga. It rises and falls, and there are moments that make you hold you breath.
I think the first meeting of Kira and Rei is quite lovely. She keeps pressing her dislike for Rei on you, and it’s interesting. I think she unpicks every single thing she doesn’t like about him. But being a certain way and having a certain mindset of her own, Kira makes assumptions about him. She probably has reason to, but I think it was the foundation for their relationship. There are all these stereotypes as to the kind of person Rei is, but he works pretty well at beating down any misconceptions about his personality.
But first off, let’s introduce them properly. Rei is your typical bad boy. Drives the bikes, plays the women, smokes the cigarettes and only goes to school because he’s promised his dad. Otherwise, he wants to be a professional motorcycle racer – and as he confesses later on in the series, you don’t need school for that. Kira is the quiet art student who doesn’t really show any emotion – not because she doesn’t care, but she doesn’t see the point. Something Kira says in the beginning of the manga strikes me as quite insightful. She says “This classroom is so strange to me. I’m just different. No one pays any attention to me. But that ‘s okay… It’s easier that way.” NOW. Tell me that’s not insightful. I think part of the reason that Kira resists Rei in the beginning and the way he seems to want to talk to her is because she feels that it’s drawing attention to herself. Being a person who’s kept quiet so she can stay in her own quiet space, this must be a big change to be hanging out with the one guy that gets the most attention.
The development of Kira’s outlook on Rei happens pretty quickly, if you ask me. By the end of the first chapter, she’s got feelings born inside her and she’s starting to see him differently. Rei’s the kind of personality that’s high on life – literally. Because of it he takes chances and pushes every boundary possible. I can see why someone like Kira would find him distasteful to begin with.
Notice I said “to begin with”. This is only the beginning! Of course! There are events that ensue, which I think are great. For starters, there’s your typical shoujo plotline here. Timid, quiet, different girl is getting attention from the most desired hottie in the class, and other people start noticing. Anyone want to take a guess? :D
She becomes the target of other girls’ jealousy, and they proceed to bully her. Now, I’ve read manga bullying. This is on a whole ‘nother level. NOT because it’s more extreme. I mean, what manga was it that they wanted to crush her hands with dumbbells? Oh, wait! It’s this one! :D So, it IS extreme. I’ve read mangas where they splash cold water on the girl or lock her somewhere or put ink on her clothes… Kira’s had her shoes incinerated and her fingers nearly broken by these girls.
Honestly, I don’t know what high schools these people go to. To be honest, when I read manga, I’d like to think that it teaches me something about Japanese culture. Like calling asking someone out “confessing” or karaoke or the nature of bentous and Valentine’s Day chocolates. I’m not sure I like what it’s teaching me about high school and dealing with girls that you don’t really like. I’d hate to think that it’s actually like that. Where I went to high school, it was more about whether you were lame or not. However, by the last 3 years of school people outgrew it, and it was more about personal feuds than hating someone for the sake of being a grade A bitch.
These girls are grade A bitches – signed and certified. Nonetheless, this stands out because it’s not just “Why are you hogging all the attention?” – but there’s actually something personal to it. The main bully actually had a thing for Rei, waited for him for ages (even when he had a girlfriend) and he didn’t do so much as breathe in her direction. Not that this justifies what she’s doing, but it just makes it much less of a cliché.
Okay, although I’ve already revealed things about the plot, this to me is considered a real spoiler, so either light your screen on fire (to avoid reading) if you don’t want spoilers. Or you can be boring and do the conventional thing of clicking on something else.
I think I didn’t completely understand the random exchange between Rei, Kira and Tatsuya, Rei’s best friend. It served a very strange purpose in contributing to Rei and Kira’s silent attraction to one another. In Kira’s case, it’s the early feelings of love creeping up on her to whack her over the head with a plank. Whatever happened to Cupid, right? That’s old-fashioned. Love walks with a new swagger now. Anyway – Rei… this is the part I didn’t get. Maybe it’s the fact that he didn’t exactly recognize his attachment to her (I don’t think he even fully gets grips on it in this volume) but what’s up with the whole setting her up with his best friend? Granted Tatsuya has a thing for her, but STILL. Aren’t her feelings coming out on the surface – even just a little? Or is it because we see her narration that it’s clearer to us? Because I think her growing feelings seemed increasingly obvious. She has a quiet dependency on him, which is sweet.
However! I think she doesn’t realize it yet, either, so there’s a balance. I don’t think it’s the cute naivety that Aozora Yell has, but in a sense, they share a common ground. How, you ask? Let me walk you through it. Without comparing this to another manga (in the sense of bringing up names and events) there’s the fact that both protagonists have become quite attached to each other without necessarily being an item, or being all fluffy and cute and blushing around one another. This is a good thing, really, because it makes for good development. Something Kira said about her feelings towards Rei blew me away. I think it was beautiful in the sense of admiring someone and having that kind of adoration, rather than being romantic feelings being involved. At one point, Tatsuya sort of confronts (in a non-aggressive way) Kira and asks her whether she’s in love with him. She says she isn’t (filthy LIAR) and that she just has a crush on him (That’ll do… for now). But it’s what she says next that super-inspirational to me. She says “I love Rei’s outlook, his strength. I probably would’ve felt the same way if Rei were a woman.”
THAT is what I loved. That’s what took this manga to a whole new level for me. There’s loving a manga, and then there’s loving a manga. Here we are, constantly breaking away from character clichés, plot clichés, and now: relationship clichés. Think of your warmest, fuzziest shoujo manga. This isn’t it. That’s the beauty of it. The fact that the mangaka can forge a relationship that isn’t entirely based on “oh em gee he gives me flutterz lol” is admirable – and refreshing. It makes me feel like I’m reading something real, and not the slightly unrealistic – and yes, admit it – superficial relationships that seem to be based on attraction that the majority of shoujo titles seem to flock to. Therefore, big ups to this manga. It gets major brownie points in my book.
Wow, this has turned out to be my longest post yet! Talk about lengthy. Which is why this review is coming to a close. Speaking of closes, the end of the volume, anyone?
Spoiler. Oh, yeah, you knew this was coming. How would I talk about the ending without some major spoiler being slapped into our faces? Moving on? :D
Some threats, Tatsuya letting go of Kira – blah blah. Do I care? Well, I probably WILL care about the threats later – because despite Rei sticking up for Kira, it’s not over. In my opinion, it was healthy (and such a relief) that Tatsuya forgot about her. Saves us all the time, doesn’t it? Yeah, there was all that random stuff, and the kiss and some boring dialogue and then it ends. WHAT THE HELL! :D
The kiss? Yes, the kiss! Oh wow, that was a breathtaking moment. And how they dealt with it later… that was even better. In the sweet scent of the night, swept up in the moment (this is BEFORE Tatsuya gave up, by the way) Rei kisses Kira. However, the next day he tells her to forget about it because it’s just some habit he picked up in the states – blah blah blah. What impressed me and REALLY made me smile was Kira’s response. Him just trying to (maybe) earnestly tell her not to take it the wrong way is one thing, but Kira’s cool and cheerful reaction was perfect. She’s totally in the zone, she gets it, she doesn’t get weepy or needy or insecure – she just smiles and goes “Yeah dude, it was totally in the moment. Don’t sweat it!”… but that’s just how it sounded in my head haha. But that’s more or less her reaction. And Rei is so surprised and probably very taken by her confident, open-minded and easygoing response. Well done, Kira – break the shoujo heroine cliché!
This turned more into a review of the manga than I expected! Rather than simply highlighting what I loved – which I think I did plenty of – I’ve given you a lovely review of the first volume at the same time. You know what that means, don’t you? That I’ll continue to review the volumes of this manga! I hope this has given you something to look forward too ^_^ Stay sharp, kidlets!
(Images © SOURYO Fuyumi. None of these images belong to me)