Thursday, November 5, 2009

Oh! My Brother, vol. 1

The story: Unremarkably normal Masago is the younger sister of fun and charismatic class president Shiro. One day, tragedy strikes and Shiro dies while rescuing Masago from an oncoming truck. While everyone mourns the loss of Shiro, his spirit pays an unexpected visit to Masago and she ends up "possessed" by him. While they try figuring out why Shiro's spirit is still on Earth, the two siblings find themselves closer than they've ever been!

Reaction: Honestly, I shouldn't have tried reading this while waiting for the train the other morning -- my eyes welled up pretty terribly as I read the first few pages. This isn't a happy story, but it does have its comedic moments and a certain wistfulness to it. Masago is so plain that it's a little sad to see her enveloped in her brother's shadow; she's known more as Shiro's sister than anything else. But, I'll admit it's particularly interesting to see her character grow under the influence of her brother's spirit.

Deep thoughts: High school cultural festivals seem like such a big part of Japanese culture, especially since its practically obligatory for every high school manga or anime to dedicate a chapter, episode or volume to the annual event. Besides showcasing students' hard work, these festivals allow prospective students and their parents to check out the school. For some interesting insight into this traditional event, be sure to check out the blog of Japanese "wacky product" importer Peter Payne.

Artwork: The art here is much like Ken Saito's other series, The Name of the Flower. But, I was most struck by the difference in his visual pacing and nontraditional panel structure between this and his other series. Shojo manga often doesn't have actual motion to pull a story along, so pacing is more important. Saito's panels are unexpectedly jagged and of different sizes, emphasizing frequent dialog bubbles that lead the reader along.

The verdict: If only... Saito does another surprisingly well job with this unexpected shojo manga, but I wonder how long Shiro can possess his sister and still keep this story interesting. While he is helping his sister's character growth, is there a point where Shiro's presence will only hinder Masago? While I had mixed feelings about this story, I'm willing to give it another chance since it's a shorter series (it's a total of four volumes). Oh! My Brother is available in the U.S. from CMX.

Review copy provided by CMX.

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