Thursday, September 3, 2009

Beauty is the Beast, vol. 4

The story: "Cool Wanichin," aka Wanibuchi, makes an extra special appearance here when he repairs the electricity in his dorms before final exams and goes from last to second in the school rankings. As Satoshi notes, "He has no weaknesses." Of course, Eimi becomes more and more curious about his personal life, finding out about his family situation in bits and pieces. There's also an attempt at a redecoration of Eimi's and Misao's room and Eimi goes to Wanibuchi's girlfriend for interior decorating advice. This volume examines the relationships others have with Wanibuchi and Eimi—specifically, Wanibuchi's older hairdresser girlfriend and the long-suffering Satoshi, who's still pining for Eimi.

Reaction: I liked this volume quite a bit. I learned more about Wanibuchi and his girlfriend, including how they met and her life before she met him. I think it's supposed to come as a surprise, but Wanibuchi has the typical tsundere personality—he seems quite cold and callous on the outside, but inside, he's a caring individual. Of course, Eimi's dormmates intervention in her love life continues to be amusing, but I'm beginning to feel an awkward discomfort anytime the threesome of Eimi, Wanibuchi and Satoshi happens. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to just feel more pity for Satoshi and less amusement regarding his situation.

Deep thoughts: I liked the theme of love being a curse. Eimi notices it when she sees Wanibuchi's girlfriend and Satoshi feels it every time Wanibuchi takes Eimi away. They both want something that they can't have (or, in the case of Wanibuchi's girlfriend, something they can't keep). Eimi's and Wanibuchi's attraction to one another becomes more apparent here, mostly because there are more similarities shown. While Eimi's always compared to a small, cute animal, Wanibuchi is this wild beast. But, at heart, they're both just similarly animalistic in their desires (food for Eimi and sex, it seems, for Wanibuchi) and their personalities seem so complementary. While Eimi looks like someone who needs to be cared for in one way or another, Wanibuchi is the type to take care of people simply because they need it.

Artwork: In the first chapter, there's a funny throwback to a 1970s shojo style—showing surprise with a wide, iris-less eyes. It reminded me of Swan as soon as I saw it. Of course, it's fairly dramatic, but funny considering the situation (Eimi and Misao run out of heating oil in the midst of a cold winter). The rest of the volume plays up the humor, too, especially with the blushing cheeks and nosebleeds on Satoshi's part during his date with Eimi.

The verdict: Highly recommended. We're getting closer to the climax and end of Beauty is the Beast. How will Tomo Matsumoto end this series and how will she finally bring Wanibuchi and Eimi together? Will it be obvious and to the point like Eimi, or mysterious and underplayed like Wanibuchi? Beauty is the Beast is available in the U.S. from Viz.

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