Today I take brief looks at recent or upcoming shojo manga releases — Goong volume 5, Love Com volume 12 and NANA volume 17. (I discuss plot points of each book freely, so beware if you don’t want to know “what happens”).
Goong volume 5 by Park SoHee — Our tentative married couple is separated in this volume, causing a great deal of emotional harm to Chae-Kung, who becomes absurdly weak as a result. On the one hand, she’s really just a normal girl who has been placed into a demanding and unforgiving world without any real support. On the other hand, I feel like she needs servants to carry around her own fainting couch, just in case. Not my kind of shojo protagonist to be honest.
In spite of the enforced distance between her and her husband, she’s falling more and more in love with Shin, while at the same time she’s gone beyond a person of interest and reached the level of object of desire for her husband’s cousin, Yul, the prince who was originally supposed to inherit the Korean throne. While Yul’s mother schemes in the background to disgrace Shin and return her son the “rightful” order of succession, I find that I’m totally and completely hooked by the title’s highly charged emotional developments. In the end, all the melodrama surrounding young, and comparatively innocent, royals, reveals that in spite of Shin’s chilly personality, both members of the couple are struggling to survive the pit of vipers that constitute court life. This volume doesn’t disappoint on that level even if I sometimes want to shake each member of the cast at varying points.
Review Copy Provided By Yen Press.
Love Com volume 12 by Aya Nakahara — In this volume, we see the gang starting to face the scary blank page that is their future, i.e. life after graduation. This volume has particular resonance for me, considering the current economic situation in the U.S., paired with the uncertainties that accompany graduate student life. I really felt for Risa in this volume — while Otani is planning to go to college, she is trying to figure out what actually inspires her and if she can really build a life from those interests. Amusingly, while Risa is mulling over a possible future as a stylist, she is randomly pulled into the fashion world as a fill-in model in one of those only-in-shojo coincidences. Even though this is a cliched occurrence, Nakahara infuses everything with such good humor and warmth, I found myself enjoying Risa’s few hours as an instant-Cinderella.
Meanwhile, while everyone’s worried about Otani passing his entrance exams, unexpected disaster hits elsewhere in their circle of friends. That shifts the story’s focus from the heart of the book to side characters, who lack the high-energy back-and-forth dynamic of Risa and Otani’s relationship. On the other hand, Risa and Otani now appear stable in comparison to a couple who can’t withstand the pressure of planning for post-graduate life. That is a welcome development, considering how long it took for Otani to get on board and really embrace his new role has Otani’s boyfriend. I look forward to seeing the series return its spotlight to the our favorite mismatched duo and resolove the question how they deal with the question of diverging futures.
Review Copy provided by Viz Media.
NANA volume 17 by Ai Yazawa — Nana and Hachi are finally — finally! — reunited thanks to the scum-sucking tabloids playing havoc with Nana’s personal life. Hachi, devoted friend that she is, rushes straight from her holiday with her parents to comfort the surprisingly serene Nana. The last few volumes, while always good, were also all kinds of heart-breaking, thanks to the emotional distance between the two friends and emotional core of the title. Yazawa’s so talented that, of course, we care about what happens to characters outside the two Nanas, but when things aren’t right between those two, things aren’t right all over.
This volume almost feels like a bit of reprieve, although thanks to Hachi’s ominous opening and closing internal monologues (perhaps even dialogues since we know she is always addressing Nana in her heart) we always know we’re counting down to some unknown tragedy. As painful as that knowledge may be, flash forwards to the future also hint that an eventual reunion will occur and perhaps some peace may be found.
A few things of note in this volume:
-Hachi confronts Nana’s mother. It doesn’t go well.
-Ren continues to piss me off by showing more consideration for his band’s princess than his own wife. (I can get so angry at these characters which just shows they are practically like real people to me. Once again, Yazawa is very, very good at what she does).
-Nobu and Hachi meet and it isn’t an entirely terrible thing. Thank god.
-Hachi wears a kimono and is adorable (no surprise there, I just like to make note of it).
-We learn Takumi really *is* quite weak to Reira, which is probably why he maintains constant distance between them. I don’t think he can handle becoming more than he already is to her, or have her grow in significance in his heart. Poor bastard.
Review Copy provided by Viz Media.
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