Saturday, August 29, 2009

Beauty is the Beast, vol. 3

The story: Eimi makes a new friend while trying to make a publicity video for the girls' dorm. Satoshi is also taping a video for his dorm, and teaches Eimi a few things about composing a good video. Unfortunately, Satoshi quickly realizes that he likes Eimi and that his main rival is Wanabuchi, although Eimi is totally unconcerned about him romantically. Even worse, Satoshi sees just how cool Wanabuchi is, making it hard for him to be a "true" rival. And Eimi finds out about Wanabuchi's older girlfriend, while Satoshi loses weight and sleep over his crush on Eimi.

Reaction: Things are getting tangled romantically for Eimi and Wanabuchi, with neither of them aware in the least of their unlikely attraction. In some ways, it's kind of annoying to see Eimi go around, all happy go lucky, especially when she's unknowingly torturing Satoshi. The poor guy's health is suffering because he likes Eimi! While I knew I should dislike this bubble-headed part of Eimi, I couldn't—she's endearing in her own odd way, making it hard to hold something like that against her. I also especially liked one of her lines in this volume, "They were kissing the other day. He was like a lion. Watching him, I thought it was so like Wanichin." It's like a perfect encapsulation of their relationship—she's more of a voyeur/fan of Wanibuchi and his seemingly beast-like personality.

Deep thoughts: There's a Christmas chapter in this volume. I find it interesting how, in Japan, Christmas is a holiday for lovers. Since there aren't many Christians in Japan, it's not surprising that they don't celebrate it as a religious holiday, but their transformation of it into a "date night" of sorts still follows the idea of spending Christmas with your loved ones. Of course, regardless of its religious affiliation, Christmas seems to be a highly commercial holiday in both Japan and the U.S. And I love that Christmas cakes are a big part of the Japanese tradition—after seeing the variety and tastiness of the cakes in Beauty is the Beast, I wish Christmas cakes were big here, too!

Artwork: I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I really like the design of all the side characters. From Satoshi to Eimi's dormmates, they're all given different characteristics, both artistically and in personality. I also liked the transformation that Eimi's dormmates put her through—she can be rather cute in the traditional sense when someone's there to guide her (especially when she's more apt to wear old, hole-filled lounge wear covered in crumbs!). Lastly, I loved how Tomo Matsumoto broke the "fourth wall" by openly admitting that Wanibuchi is the "eye candy" in the bonus section at the end.

The verdict: Highly recommended. While the introduction of a love triangle is an all-too-regular trope in shojo manga, Matsumoto freshens it with her approach—neither Wanibuchi or Eimi are actively in love with one another, but poor Satoshi is falling hopelessly in love with Eimi. While I hesitate to call this manga cute, its charm tugs on my heartstrings in a way that's somewhat indescribable. Beauty is the Beast is available in the U.S. from Viz.

1 comment:

  1. Hurrah! Someone is talking about Beauty and the Beast. I adored this series, Eimi is wacky in the most endearing way and I loved the dynamics between the characters. I wished more of Matsumoto's stuff were licensed.