Quick Picks is a new, occasionally written series of microreviews of books I’ve read over the past two weeks. Here’s a selection of books I’ve been thinking about over the last two weeks.
Say I Love You #1 by Kanae Hazuki
After a hurtful betrayal as a small child, main character Mei withdraws from her peers and moves through life without making friends or attachments. But she isn’t afraid to speak her mind, especially when she’s getting harassed by a classmate. The encounter intrigues the school playboy Yamato, who does Mei a favor (in a strange way) and forces her to break out of her shell a bit. Say I Love You has a lot to say about trust, betrayal, bullying, personal image issues, and uses Mei’s trust issues and a lot of silliness to dive into the heavier content. There’s this skeeziness about Say I Love You – unwanted-but-actually-wanted kisses, etc. While Yamato generally seems to have a good heart, he doesn’t have a lot of respect for Mei’s personal space (or anyone’s personal space). Part of what keeps this book grounded is how Mei deals with the problems that high-schoolers face all the time: with honesty, embarrassment, and sometimes blunt force trauma. I Love You is a shojo character study in the real world. Not a bad start.
My Little Monster #1 by Robico
Another friendless lead, this time Shizuku is a grade-obsessed loaner who, by request of homeroom teacher, takes class print outs to a guy who’s been suspended for beating up kids on the first day of school. It turns out that Haru, the violent “monster” is really just a guy who is extremely gullible and earnest (but also violent). Since Shizuku is one of the first people to be kind to him, he gets attached to her – but can she give up her grades to go after a guy? My Little Monster is a fun comedy – Haru is played for laughs with his stupid antics and his awkward and earnest behavior. Robico can dial up the drama when needed, but this is mostly a fun romp. The story moves at a perfect pace. How My Little Monster manages to pull together such a strong cast of characters in a first volume is a testament to strong dialogue writing and just the right ratio of fun to smolder. My Little Monster is fun, funny, and has a perfect cast for volume #1.
My Love Story!! #1 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko
Male leads in shojo books are becoming more and more common -and the hook on My Love Story is that instead of being the blithe, sexy guy that normally is the love interest in shojo manga, Takeo is a giant macho hunk. He seems to always get passed over by the cute girls he likes – the ladies in his life always tend to go for his best friend Sunakawa. Here’s another winner, except unlike My Little Monster, the reason why it works has more to do with the chemistry between the two best friends Sunakawa and Takeo than the love story (although that too is fairly well written). My Love Story!! draws on the double act tradition of comedy, with Sunakawa being the perfect straight man for Takeo’s over the top physical humor and social misunderstandings. There were parts of this manga that had me rolling. And I like the obvious physical attraction that Yamato has for Takeo. Seeing her blush while looking at Takeo in an undershirt was cute and funny. Big people are attractive too! My Love Story!! has good shojo chemistry and a double act that stands up and makes you take notice.
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