Once again I cover a number of shojo titles released in July or early August.
I look at Very! Very! Sweet volume 4, You’re So Cool volume 4, and Otomen volume 3.
Very! Very! Sweet, by JiSang Shin and Geo, is currently one of my favorite manhwa titles — it is a surprisingly engaging and upbeat soap opera, with plenty of romantic triangles and squares and pretty much every other geometric configuration you can imagine. However, the best part about the story is the relationship between very normal Korean teenager, Be-Ri, and her new neighbor, the handsome and self-absorbed Tsuyoshi. Tsuyoshi has pretty much been exiled from his cushy existence in Japan by his grandfather, who doesn’t much like what he sees Tsuyoshi turning into — an unappealing mix of juvenile delinquent and spoiled little prince — and so has sent him packing to Korea to get in touch with his heritage.
What makes Very! Very! Sweet stand out from most other romantic comedy manhwa’s currently being published by Yen Press is the fact that cultural and language differences (not to mention prejudices) are smartly built into the very fabric of the plot. Tsuyoshi’s Korean is elementary at best, and somehow he and Be-Ri manage to communicate — not to mention fight and torment each other — in a fashion that is both believable and interesting. Even if the romantic plots get a little heavy emotionally, Be-Ri and Tsuyoshi are so busy being themselves that anytime they interact they liven and lighten things up.
Volume 4 sees the two become closer thanks to shared mutual worry over the fate of a sick cat. While Tsuyoshi begins to lose a little of his stuck up attitude and start to see Be-Ri for the warm and kind girl she really is, poor Be-Ri is finding herself caught up in other people’s selfish romantic dramas and still doesn’t really see him in a romantic light….yet.
Review Copy provided by Yen Press.
As always, I end up enjoying You’re So Cool‘s resident spaz character, Nan-Woo, and her strange relationship with the emotionally tangled and twisted Seung-Ha. Although I wouldn’t call the relationship between the two a “romance,” Seung-Ha’s cold heart can’t bear the constant assault of Nan-Woo’s basic decency and kindness and this volume nicely charts his general thaw. On the fiip side, Nan-Woo’s timid uncle Jay is actually on the verge of embarking on his own relationship…with another man, which he may be too scared to pursue.
I continue to enjoy You’re So Cool for its character portraits, even though the fact the main “couple” doesn’t really feel very couple-ish. In spite of her foul mouth and obvious attention deficit disorder, Nan-Woo is a very good girl…emphasis on “girl”, while Seung-Ha remains the most obvious case of arrested development I’ve ever seen in manga. This volume focuses on his crappy home life he experiences simply because he’s an illegitimate son as well as the emotional trauma he’s been repressing for years, which resurfaces along with the cold and indifferent mother who abandoned him years ago.
In spite of all the darkness swirling around Seung-Ha, Nan-Woo lightens the proceedings ups considerably. My favorite moment is when Nan-Woo uses the cell phone Seung-Ha gave her as a present to call him five billion times a day, even when he’s in the bathroom. Nan-Woo, having no sense of propriety (or sense) has the nerve to ask him what *exactly* he’s doing in there. The hilarious part is Seung-Ha is probably about to answer her in spite of himself. And that is the power of Nan-Woo.
Review Copy provided by Yen Press.
Once again, Otomen is another manga with a rather lackluster romance — the main characters are a little too vanilla to be interesting lovers — but the situational humor never fails to make me smile. Asuka is the so-called “Otomen,” or guy who loves girly things, like cooking, sewing and reading shojo manga. In other words, he’s more girly than I am, since I really only like one of those things (which one should be pretty obvious to anyone reading this review). My favorite part of the comic is seeing how Asuka relates to the male characters around him since he finds that keeping up the pretense of being a “manly man” gets kind of tiring and that he can actually do more for his friends by revealing his true nature.
In this volume alone, Asuka becomes a pre-school boy’s adopted “mommy,” his friend’s Juta’s suspected lover, and his mopey kendo opponent’s “otomen” instructor. In other words, Asuka is a shining example to all the males around him that they don’t have to be boxed in by their gender assignment. While it often seemed like Otomen reinforced gender stereotypes in its first two volumes, in this volume Asuka learns he can both kick ass and like his girly things. He’s also “man enough” as it were to allow his new girlfriend to declare she’ll protect him…and he let her. Slowly but surely, Asuka seems to be learning to accept himself…all parts of himself. Luckily, this journey of self-discovery gets more and more entertaining with every chapter.
Review Copy provided by Viz Media.
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