Friday, August 7, 2009

Venus Capriccio, vol. 1

The story: Takami is a tomboyish high school girl who has gotten dumped, yet again, by another jerk. When she goes to her childhood friend Akira for some cheering up via his piano playing, he calls her out on her poor choice in men. While Akira likes Takami, she's only ever thought of him as a little sister, since he's two years younger than her and is rather beautiful for a guy. Of course, everything changes when Akira kisses Takami. While Takami is unsure of how to take Akira's affections, she does know that she likes being by his side.

Reaction: I loved the relationship between Akira and Takami, and the tension created by Akira unexpectedly kissing Takami. The dynamic between them doesn't change overnight, though, and they amble through an awkward series of events with one another. It's both simultaneously endearing and humorous, especially since Akira is such a straight man for Takami's inherent goofiness. The evolution of their relationship isn't forced, though, and comes off as very natural and organic.

Deep thoughts: I like the role the piano plays here, as the connection between Akira and Takami. It not only gives background to the characters, but also sets a tone for this story. While it's not nearly as overt, it is reminiscent of Nodame Cantabile, where the music indicates the type of mood the reader should be in. It also gives another dimension to Akira and Takami; in the first few scenes between them, Akira plays jazz tunes. It's a hard style of music to play and, like the blues, takes far more than technical skill to master. The spontaneous nature of jazz also parallels Akira's and Takami's changing relationship—they're improvising as they go along and, because of their inexperience, aren't sure what to make of their budding romance.

Artwork: While Takami does look like a tomboy with her track suits and baseball caps, she's still quite beautiful. But, Akira is gorgeous, too, especially with the exotic look he possesses (he's half Caucasian and half Japanese). While the scenery is usually unimpressive—it does mostly take place in the pair's piano school—the real delight is all of the facial expressions. Takami often looks exaggerated but it's a great juxtaposition to Akira's cool looks; it's not easy to ruffle his feathers! It's a nice balance that really works, especially since it's played to such comedic effect.

The verdict: Highly recommended. This is a non-traditional high school romance. There are so many reasons for Akira and Takami to not get together—he's younger, effeminate and graceful; she's klutzy and a total spitfire—but I couldn't stop myself from cheering on their unlikely relationship. So, I'll be waiting to see just what becomes of these two. Venus Capriccio is available in the U.S. from CMX.

Review copy provided by CMX.

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