Monday, June 1, 2009

Skip♦Beat!, vol. 1

The story: Sweet, helpful Kyoko Mogami ran off to Tokyo with the love of her life, Sho, who is following his dream of becoming a pop singer. Sho finds success quickly, dumping Kyoko in the process. But, instead of just taking it, Kyoko vows revenge on Sho, promising to become a bigger celebrity than he is. She sets her sights on LME, a rival agency of Sho's, and unsuccessfully auditions.

Reaction: This is one crazy and funny manga! In the first chapter, the reader gets a real feel for just how devoted Kyoko is to Sho; it's hard not to feel sorry for her. But, once Sho reveals his motivations for bringing Kyoko with him on his road to celebrity, she loses it. The evil spirits that surround her and her now-black aura are played to great comedic effect and really make this a shojo manga that stands out against the rest.

Deep thoughts: Of course, when the "box with many, many locks" within Kyoko's heart is unchained by Sho's callous claims, I couldn't help but think of Pandora's box. In the Greek myth, when the box was opened, Pandora unleashed a host of ills upon the world. But, at the very bottom of the box lay "hope." By the end of this volume, I sincerely wanted Kyoko to find hope and to persevere.

Artwork: Okay, this isn't particularly beautiful artwork. The males are of the wide-shouldered bishonen variety and the women often have the stereotypical big eyes, pointy chin look. However, the chibis and evil spirits infuse this tale with some much-needed visual variety and are entertaining to boot. The uncommon panel composition also keeps the eye moving along quickly, pulling the reader along for the roller coaster ride of Kyoko's experiences and emotions.

The verdict: Highly recommended. This volume gets down to the point quickly, showing Kyoko's unwavering support and unrepentant need for vengeance. She's a character of extremes, but it's ultimately a pleasure to read along. Lastly, this comedic story alludes to some darker themes, providing some dramatic elements as well. Skip♦Beat! is available in the U.S. from Viz.

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