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Dec 08

Manga review #3: Absolute Boyfriend; I Won’t Let You Become A Star!; and Aromatics

FT + The Brown Wedge5 comments • 1,121 views

The story in today’s Independent on manga is pretty telling about what the author thinks of “comics for girls”. Quote: “The [typical] manga reader was a man, and he probably liked SF and he could be a student. But then they decided, let’s sell these as books. And so girls could walk into a book-shop and pick up their angst-ridden pretty-boy vampire comics and not feel intimidated by the smell or the staff”. Followed by in brackets, the shocking fact that 7%-85% percent of readers of ‘yaoi’ or Boys Love comix are in fact GURLIES. Anyway yesh but now onto the “real” manga. Patronising much, o fuckwit? There’s a picture of a manga written by a female author but you immediately realise it can’t go anywhere because half of the font is COMIC SANS.

Anyway, this article reminded me that recently I picked up my first SHOUJO MANGA (manga for gurlies, typically published by Shoujo Beat over here)! My decision to Try It (given that I hates all comics) was provoked by intense lolz from recent jdrama Yasuko to Kenji, which featured boyband drummer Masahiro Matsuoka as an ex-biker gang leader turned awesome shoujo manga artiste (each episode would feature him dressing up his two goons as eg swooning schoolgirls, cheerleaders, puppy-walkers etc).

I picked up “Absolute Boyfriend”, as I have familiarity with the jdrama (‘Zettai Kareshi’) based on the manga, which turns out to come with two further ‘stand-alone’ comics, “I Won’t Let You Become A Star” and “Aromatics”. I’m not sure if each ‘book’ has one ‘serial’ in each instalment, followed by two standalones or whether this is a one off as it was the last episode of ‘Absolute Boyfriend’, mind. As AB is the finale of a long-running story, it’s actually quite hard to say anything about it without talking about the drama which is a different kettle of cream-puffs. So I shan’t bother!

I Won’t Let You Become A Star! is not in fact about someone jealous of their lover’s X-Factor rising success, but the following: A girl with psychic powers meets a cute boy on a train! Girl with psychic powers called to exorcise ghosts from local boy’s only high school! Haunting boys are former student council members! Student council president is the cute boy from the train! OH NOES BUT HE IS DEAD!! OR IS HE?? Psychic girl ends up on rubbish dates with the ghosts at the flicks! The least subtle subtext ever as 3 boys take turns ‘possessing’ physic girl’s body and they stay up all night ‘painting the gym’!

Aromatics features the story of a high-schooler who can ‘smell pheromones’! It’s easier to have this as ‘identify’ pheromones, as he uses this ‘talent’ of his to match up couples with compatible smells. Well, I guess it’s as good as Blood Type matching agencies. In this story, there’s a saucy librarian and a sweet’n’shy glasses-wearing girl who’s the librarian’s helper… which do we guess will eventually end up winning the incense heir’s heart? Murder attempts! The ‘smeller’ catches a cold!!

Did I like any of them though? The answer is… yes!! Whilst both are big-hearted “and they call it, puppy looooo-ooo-ve” stories, what do they have? Absolute Boyfriend has a ROBOT LOVER! IWLBAS (phew) has a PSYCHIC GIRL and an ambiguously-living love interest! Aromatics has super-intuition based on traditional family institutions and wearing a smelly kimono! Whilst the end of the line is always boy-meets-girl (or ‘boy meets boy’ if you L your BL), the only way this could be Sweet Valley High (say) is if Jessica Wakefield found forbidden love with a boy from the future who could only appear in her dreams and would leave a single red rose by her door every night to prove that he really WAS THERE! Ie awesome of course. Unashamedly romantic in every ridiculous sense!

SO WHERE ARE MY PRETTY-BOY ANGST-RIDDEN VAMPS?? Not in this one – I am not denying for one second that this genre doesn’t exist, but if we’re looking at that, don’t we look at Buffy, Stephenie Myer’s Twilight series and Anne Rice? Oh, so western-centric, but yeah – if the ‘manga’ traditionally conceived of by your western peeps is the shonen stuff (Naruto, Jump, Bleach <– I have read none because they are comics for BOYS and probably rub, although Shokotan is just so goshdarned cute she almost makes me want to give some a go?!), saying that the shoujo stuff is ‘pretty boy vampires’ is as inward looking as all get-go, looking specifically towards your gothic subbacultchas, your gosurori and you know – who cares huh??

But yet! The front page of the Shojo Beat magazine features a story called ‘Vampire Knights’ – the tagline? Cross Academy is attended by two groups of students: the Day Class and the Night Class. At twilight, when the students of the Day Class return to their dorm, they cross paths with the Night Class on their way to school. Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu are the Guardians of the school, there to protect the Day Class from the Academy’s dark secret: the Night Class is full of vampires.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK! OK, busted. We has vamp, and it’s shoujo manga, of course they will be pretty. Anyway, shut up!! Pretty-boy vampires are awesome!! Tssk. Yet, making this and yaoi the only girls interest stuff is missing – well – EVERYTHING else! There can be plenty of thrill-power in a story which concludes with wistful sighing and holding hands too! Stupid nerds. I wonder what shoujo manga I should read next!! YAOI YAOI YAOI. Seeing as the books are £6ish each it had BETTER BE GOOD. Bear in mind, a book doesn’t even contain a whole story! Is it too western-centric yet again to say that if it looks like a book it should quack like a book and eg GIMME THE WHOLE STORY? Oh, I’m so greedy! Anyway it’s definitely better than “Hulk Vs Predator” or whatever silly musclefest boy comics you all like. Yeah!

Comments

  1. 1
    Tom on 4 Dec 2008 #

    You can read them all online for free in ‘scanlations’!

    The not-giving the whole story thing is something they share with decadent Western comics.

  2. 2
    Sarah on 4 Dec 2008 #

    The actual one I want to read doesn’t have an official translation as far as I can tell so perhaps a ‘scanlation’ is the way to go – although apparently it’s STILL RUNNING so flip only knows. It is ‘Kami no Shizuku’ and it is I think about self-discovery through wine-tasting. DO TELL ME MORE, chin chin.

  3. 3
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 4 Dec 2008 #

    meanwhile in the actualreal buffyverse shiny mcwhiny has bin turned into an HOTT INSECT —> nsf YIKES

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 4 Dec 2008 #

    re the link from #3
    I must admit to find that strangely arousing – echoes of your polymorphous perverse wahey from another post

  5. 5
    Martin Skidmore on 4 Dec 2008 #

    I would point out that, in contradiction to hating all comics, Sarah has borrowed volumes of Buffy season 8 from me! (I have volume 3 now – best yet.)

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