Friday, October 30, 2009

March on Earth, vol. 1

The story: When she was younger, Yuzu's parents passed away and her older sister Tsubaki, then a high school student, raised her sister alone. When Tsubaki became pregant, things got tougher, but the small family of three got along as best they could with help from their neighbor and landlady, Ms. Kurano. One day, Tsubaki dies in a car accident, leaving 16-year-old Yuzu alone to raise her toddler-aged nephew, Shou. Will Yuzu be able to rise to the challenge of paying back her sister's kindness by raising Shou by herself?

Reaction: This is a cute, if not somewhat depressing, story. There are laughs here and there, oftentimes involving Yuzu's neighbor, Seita, who has a huge crush on the oblivious teenage girl. While Yuzu is fairly resilient considering her situation, she has weaknesses, too, like a fear of riding in cars following the automobile crash she was in that also killed her sister. Because of her honest emotions -- which range from guilt and self-doubt to optimism and hope -- and the situation she's in, Yuzu's an immediately likable character. While it would be easy to pity her, or find the storyline too dramatic and unrealistic, as a reader, I found myself wanting to help her.

Deep thoughts: If Yuzu and Shou lived in the United States, it's fairly likely that they would be in foster care. As of Sept. 6, 2006, there were 510,000 children in foster care in the U.S., with about half spending less than one year in the system. Unfortunately, many of those children who emerge from the system at 18 face many difficulties as newly minted adults.

Artwork: When I first opened this volume up, I had to check the cover for the mangaka's name -- it's very reminiscent of Natsuna Kawase's works, especially Tale of an Unknown Country. Of course, with toddler Shou in the mix, I was also reminded of the Shojo Beat series Baby and Me. Otherwise, this is a pretty straightforward shojo story with abundant screentone, non-traditional paneling and emotional facial expressions.

The verdict: Highly recommended. Yuzu is the kind of character you want to root for. And even though she's really mature for her age, she still has some growing up to do. Hopefully, there's still a happy ending for Yuzu and Shou in the second and final volume. March on Earth is available in the U.S. from CMX.

Review copy provided by CMX.

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