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Manga Before Flowers — Comfort Reading

by  in Comic News Comment
Manga Before Flowers — Comfort Reading

Right now I’m reading primarily for comfort as frequent headaches are keeping me from picking up anything too complex visually or intricately-plotted right now (headaches are also my excuse for late column this week, sorry folks!). Today I discuss the titles that are just plain enjoyable to read and fulfill the first order of the comic book form … entertainment!

The nice thing about comfort reading is that it doesn’t have to be “great art” only great medicine … and that is what the following titles became for me during the past two weeks.

Sugar Sugar Rune published by Del Rey … oh dear, a title about 10 year old witches, named Chocolat and Vanilla, competing to be Queen of the magical world? A reasonable person might ask, why do I, a 28 year old woman, like this? Because mangaka Moyoco Anno is ten kinds of awesome that’s why. The art looks like a candy-cane threw up all over the place (if, you know, a candy cane could do such a thing) but god, it is amazingly detailed and spectacularly appropriate for a title about magic, young girls, and the human heart.

As Chocolat and Vanilla compete to rule all of magic-dom by attempting to capture more human energy than the other (represented as “hearts of emotion” which they steal from human beings … the stronger the (positive) emotion, like love, the stronger the girls become when they steal them), they also struggle to better understand human concepts of friendship and romantic love. My favorite part of this title is watching Chocolat struggle against falling for the snooty (and possibly evil) Prince Pierre … after all, her job as a witch is to steal emotions, not to fall victim to them!

Fairy Tail published by Del Rey … This title is the equivalent of a summer blockbuster … dumb, “loud” (if a comic could be loud, this one certainly is) and fun. There is some bull about wizardry, but that seems to be an excuse for hijinks and lots of misbehaving and a surprising amount of vomit (wow, how many times can I discuss that particular bodily function in one column?). The title is the name of a wizard guild that our young … but surprisingly voluptuous … heroine, Lucy wants to join. The comic follows her and a young wizard named Natsu, who is the frequent ralphing offender in the narrative (I sympathize with his motion sickness since to borrow a phrase from Dr. Reed from Scrubs “any kind of repetitive motion makes me nauseous”). Natsu is one some kind of quest involving a dragon, but really, he seems to be around to a Naruto-esque pain in the ass and get sick on people. And oh, yeah, save Lucy’s very pert butt once in a while (forgive me, but Lucy’s very existence is fanservice central and the focus on her body can be a little distracting).

If there is a “real” underlying plot here I don’t particularly care, nor would it have improved matters anyway. This title certainly isn’t cerebral, but that is probably part of its charm. It’s very easy to get carried away with the adventures of Lucy (and her *cough* assets), and her new wizard friend Natsu and watch them reenact every well-worn shonen plot imaginable. The whole thing hangs together well even when it shouldn’t, to be honest, but hell, like I said, dumb, loud, fun. Sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered.

Skip Beat published by Viz … I’ve already discussed Skip Beat here (it ranked number 4 on my “best shojo currently being published in the U.S” list) but Skip Beat is the currently the one manga title I’m reading that always makes me smile and brightens my day. Intense titles like NANA or After School Nightmare are great reading experiences but all that drama can be very exhausting. Kyoko, with her very, um, unique outlook on life and her ability to make a bad situation first worse and then better, is endlessly entertaining as a protagonist. Watching her navigate the puffed-up egos and various vagaries of show biz is like watching a maverick Sheriff dispensing sanity and justice to a lawless Western town (seriously, Kyoko is like the “morality” cop of Japan’s entertainment industry, god love her). Also it doesn’t hurt the title that she often wears a chicken suit to help her dispense advice to her more “mature” rival / love interest Ren (mwwhahahaha!!! Take that non-manga readers, you’ll be wondering about this one all day!).

Kyoko is one of my shojo “dream girls.” Simply put, characters like her make shojo beautiful, much more so than any “sparkly” art ever does.

Black Sun, Silver Moon published by Co! Comi … I encountered a bit of a dilemma when Go! Comi kindly sent me review copies of later volumes of their manga. Having never read BS/SM would I really be able to pick it up or understand it (much less *enjoy* it) at volume 5? Well, rest assured having never read the first four volumes, I can say the fifth was a real treat. There is a supernatural element to the title … folks are either humans, Nightlings or Resurrected (I’m not quite sure of the difference, but the last two appear to be different kinds of undead … “bad” or “good”). The atmospheric art is quite fabulous and relationship between sweet Taki and the chilly priest / zombie-killer he tries to care for … Shikimi … is suprisingly moving and quite engaging. I’m sure I’m not quite clear on some of the larger plot themes, but the art and relationships between the characters were enough to carry me along, even if I’d never been formally “introduced” to the mangaka’s surpernatural universe and all its laws and logics.

Reivew copy provided by Go! Comi.

So folks, when you are feeling a bit down, which manga do you crawl into bed with?

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