More often than not, when a manga creator’s work is translated into English, we get their long-form works and that’s about it. After all, why put all that work in promoting and pushing a 2-book series when you can do so for a 22-book series? I have to admit that it’s why in part I decided I wanted to read Arina Tanemura’s “Short-Tempered Melancholic and Other Stories.” Sure, the story descriptions on this collection of Tanemura’s shorter works sounded good. But what I was really excited about, here, was that such a collection actually exists.
For the most part, the book lived up to its promise. The titular stories were actually the weakest ones, in no small part because there are actually two “Short-Tempered Melancholic” stories instead of just one. The first one isn’t that bad, following a young ninja who tries to protect her grandfather and clan’s secret weapon even as she falls in love with other boys at her school. It’s a funny, sweet little introduction (and the secret weapon is something that I will admit cracked me up in how Tanemura makes it a combination of girly and lethal). Unfortunately, Tanemura lost me a bit with the second story, which seemed like an attempt to try and push “Short-Tempered Melancholic” into a full-blown series. It starts setting up a love triangle that didn’t need to be (honestly, it felt resolved at the end of the first story) and has to hinge on the lead character being a little dense and oblivious to what’s going on around her. It’s the weakest point of the book, and that second story actually threw away a lot of the goodwill I’d built up from the first.
Fortunately, things turn around with the next entry, “This Love Is Nonfiction.” The idea is simple; Yuri is corresponding with potential boyfriend Ryo but in a moment of self-doubt sent a picture of her prettier friend Karin instead of herself, and now Yuri is supposed to meet Ryo. So, she bribes Karin to go on the date instead. The story is pretty predictable when you think about it for more than 90 seconds, but it’s rather sweet and fun, and (like all good Shakespearian comedies with mistaken identities) everyone ends up with the best person for them when the dust finally settles. And, at under 40 pages, it’s the perfect length for this sort of tale; short, sweet, and to the point.
“Rainy Afternoons Are for Romantic Heroines” and “The Style of the Second Love” are both nice little stories as well, but like the second “Short-Tempered Melancholic” story they do unfortunately revolve around their lead character being a little dense. I love the idea of Minori developing a crush on a boy who shared an umbrella with her, and as a result always leaving her umbrella at home in the hope that they’ll have to share an umbrella again. Unfortunately, the ending makes her a bit oblivious to the world in order for it to work, and I actually grimaced at part of it. “The Style of the Second Love” is very by the book and obvious, with one girl falling for her best friend’s boyfriend, but I did really appreciate that the protagonist managed to solve the entire thing of her own accord, and realized what the right actions to make were.
The art takes all of the shojo stereotypes to the extreme here; people turned off by huge eyes, long eyelashes, and little hearts dancing in the borders of the panels had better turn and run the other way. If that won’t drive you crazy, though, it’s not bad. I think that Tanemura is actually better with her smaller panels than her big splashes; she’s good with transitions from one panel to the next, and showing character interactions. It’s only when she draws a head half the size of the page that things break down a bit for me; it feels like everything grinds to a halt there, with no real reason for those splash images to occur.
On the whole, I enjoyed “Short-Tempered Melancholic and Other Stories.” I don’t think I’d run out and buy all of Tanemura’s other works, but I’ll certainly keep her name in mind for the future. I’d love to see more collections like this from Viz in the future, though; it’s a great way to get to know a creator’s talents without getting bogged down in a single story.