Manga First Impressions 2: B.O.D.Y, Monkey High, Haruka
Here are some more first volumes of shoujo series coming out:
I’d never heard of this title but I was taken with it from the first page. The drawing is clear, sharp, and expressive, the characters modern, attractive and easily distinguished, the storyline cute, funny and lively.
Ryoko has a crush on a silent studious type in her class that everyone else thinks is creepy because he’s so morose. But she likes a guy who’s so conscientious about his work, and can’t stop thinking about him. She decides she’s in love and dons her battle armor (mascara, curls, accessories, and courage).
Then she finds out he’s working as a host (a male escort affiliated with a host club, sex not necessarily included) because he likes playing around and getting paid for it, and he has a completely different personality outside school. She rightfully knocks him on his ass and tells him she would absolutely never fall for him. He takes it as a challenge and tells her he’ll win her heart. The fight is on. He starts by ignoring her. Some of this was very funny.
I love Ryoko because she’s kind of serious but not too much, has normal friends, doesn’t let people walk on her, and she goes for what she wants even though she has as many doubts and periods of freaking out as the rest of us do about relationships. And I can’t wait for Ryunosuke, the hero, to fall for her as hard as I have. This looks like a great title and I can’t wait to read more of it. I’ll just pray it doesn’t fall into the pit full of clichés that often sustain longer shoujo series. So far it hasn’t. B+
On the other hand, Monkey High didn’t appeal to me at all. The art is pretty good, but the characters seem younger to me. The hero is a immature energetic good guy that reminds the upper class heroine of a monkey. That doesn’t spell the kind of romance I’m interested in. The cover copy describes the conflict as this: “Will Haruna remain jaded and distance herself from everyone around her? Or will Matcharu win her over with his monkey magic?” Um, no. Just no.
The main problem to me is that the hero doesn’t seem to have hit puberty yet, and while I know kids can fall in love too, it’s not really something that appeals to me. I like romances where I can enjoy and appreciate the attraction between the h/h without feeling like I’m doing something illegal.
In reading parts here and there, I’d have to say this is one for the young ‘uns, 12-13 or so. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish it, so DNF for me.
I have to admit up front, I’m a fan of this franchise. I have Harukanaru Toki no Naka de wallpaper for my computer. I’ve played the Japanese dating sim that goes with this version of the manga. I lust after one of the main characters. (Thank god he’s not a monkey boy, but a full-grown sexually active male.) So it’s a little strange that I’ve never read this manga.
Then again, maybe not. My attraction to Haruka is largely based on the very popular seiyuu (Japanese voice actors) who give life to the characters. So how does the story hold up without them?
I’m sad to say, not as well.
First, the story. Remember Fushigi Yuugi (FY)? If you’d managed to forget, sorry I reminded you. But this series owes a lot to that one, to be kind about it. Girl transported into Japan’s Heian era where men wear the loveliest costumes. She, Akane, turns out to be that world’s savior, a priestess with special powers to defeat demons, the leader of whom is pretty darned hot. She’s not as stupid as the FY heroine, but she does do some TSTL things.
Akane has the help of 8 prime males, one of each “sort”: sensitive pretty musician, proud silent gorgeous warrior, fiery street fighter, quiet handsome scholar, powerful coolly-attractive magician, sexy flirt of a general, and two friends from home who get pulled into the past with her, the kid brother type and the childhood friend she ends up loving. Maybe. There are several versions of this story where she ends up with other guys, consistent with the dating sim mentality.
So what sets this apart from FY and the rest of its ilk? I’ll be blunt. I like this purely for the eye-candy. The guys are prettier. In the anime they have charisma. They’re conveniently paired up with each other for those who like slashing things. They all have their sad back stories so you can pick the angst of your choice. Frankly, Akane and the plot are just something to brush aside while you pick the man you want. What girl wouldn’t enjoy that? We all need a harem from time to time.
But do I recommend buying it? Well. Bandai Visual is going to start releasing the anime this month. They’re too expensive to buy, especially for subs and no dubs. But you should be able to rent it. I’d say if you’re going for the harem, get the full effect. But the manga isn’t bad. I liked it better than Monkey Boy, though not quite as much as B.O.D.Y. I’ll probably buy books later in the series that focus on characters I like. B-.