Orange Planet, by Haruka Fukushima, is a reverse-harem shojo manga about an orphaned seventh grade girl who dreams of love and has three boys currently seeking her undivided romantic attention -- one an idol type, one the sweet boy next door type, and finally, a sexed-up, older playboy type who quite frankly shouldn't be allowed around middle school girls. Or other human beings.
Rui, the young protagonist of Orange Planet, is a shojo manga cliche whose innocent spirit is almost endearing, except a 13 year old who whose entire life is consumed by notions of love and romance is a little disturbing to me. Don't kids still play sports, practice a musical instrument, or think about school anymore? On the other hand, this *is* a shojo manga aimed at younger teenage girls...so 'nuff said, perhaps?
Rui's orphaned status points to her deep loneliness, which is perhaps why she has become so obsessed with romantic love, particularly since she seems to have known no other kinds. In fact, Rui is so lonely she writes down all her thoughts and feelings in letters addressed to a teddy bear bestowed upon her by some faceless boy as a young child...and since this is a shojo manga this faceless boy is probably one of Rui's current three suitors. (What is up with the shojo cliche where the boy and girl meet as young children? Why must everything be "destiny"?)
Rui likes the handsome and manipulative Kaoru, who puts the moves on Rui in order to flummox and undermine Rui's budding relationship with her next door neighbor and friend, the sweet and bumbling Taro. Meanwhile, Rui's life has become a living hell thanks to the fact another neighbor, playboy Eisuke moves into her apartment after one of his many mistreated girlfriends burns his down. Oh yes, Eisuke also happens to be a student teacher at Rui's school and is more than a bit of a sadist. Eisuke excels at grossing me out by hiting on a middle-schooler, although he appears to be all show and no follow through when it comes to Jailbait, ur, I mean Rui (thank god). Frankly, I'd drown them all except Taro who is the perfect guy to have as a first boyfriend. Of course, because he is so sweet, he's no match for Kaoru is entirely too good at knowing exactly which buttons to press and how hard to press them to get what he wants. Frankly, Kaoru only interests me because he seems more concerned with messing with Taro than actually making Rui his girlfriend.
Everything in Orange Planet is juvenile and shallow (once again: the book is clearly intended for younger teenage readers), and yet I can't claim there isn't a real sense of fun and soap opera flair to the proceedings. I have admit I get a little bit of a kick watching these three guys make such a mess of Rui's life. Certainly, they breathe life into an otherwise simple and sparse existence of an isolated young girl. The art reminds me very much of Arina Tanemura but not quite as baroque. In other words, the art is only *slightly* overwhelming the narrative with its large-eyed, thin-bodied depictions of young people who at times are incredibly hard to tell apart.
Review Copy provided by Del Rey.