It’s really, really hard to download ANYTHING in this country which I suppose is good because it forces you to develop patience and a Zen attitude (theoretically, at least). What this means, however, is that at any given time I am always in the middle of between two and fifteen different manga titles. Most of which are off my favourite genre; shoujo.
Right now, because our internet is being seriously erratic, I am only downloading volumes of both Skip Beat by Nakamura Yoshiki and Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninimiya , one painful volume at a time.
I am dedicating this post to my opinions on both.
This title only came to my notice recently because of its being released as part of the line up of anime being shown in Japan this Fall. It got some good ratings so Y and I added it to the list of animes we are currently downloading. After seeing episode one, and finding it so so, I had a feeling that this was probably a shoujo I would prefer on page rather than on screen. I downloaded volume one (took a whole day) and found I was right.
First I realised that this was a mangaka I was familiar with. I read and was thoroughly addicted to Tokyo Crazy Paradise by the same author just last year. It’s a title I would recommend to anyone about a non-typical shoujo heroine who ends up being the body guard of an extremely young and aristocratic yakuza boss.
Skip Beat is similar in that it also features a non-typical shoujo heroine. Mogami Kyoko turns from a self sacrificing angel to a vengeance obsessed demon when she discovers that the love of her life who she has even given up high school for is actually cynically using her as his house girl whilst clawing his way to pop stardom. He becomes a big untouchable star and she swears revenge but how can a pleb (which is what she is) have any hope of affecting a pop idol?
The premise is refreshing in that it’s nice to see a heroine having to deal with some nice earthy demons like malice and bitterness for once! I mean, I loved Tohru Honda of Takaya Natsuki’s Fruits Basket but man! What an act to follow!
Kyoko is imperfect in a very understandable way. She’s also stubborn and not willing to be walked all over! It’s just so rare to see strong, non-submissive women in this genre so big ups to Nakamura for providing us with another successful one!
The story really picked up for me by chapter 3 and after that I had that nice feeling of absolutely having to know what happens next!
There are two main bishounen in the series so far. There is blond Sho Fuwa the evil bastard who betrayed her and there is dark Ren Tsuruga who is the perfect, aristocratic number one hottest celebrity in Japan and who doesn’t like her. I say from my long history of struggling to read shoujo that them are some good odds for romance!
Anyway, someone reminded me of it this year and I was like, Oh, yeah and I started downloading the manga. This is also not a typical shoujo as it has a very relaxed and almost whimsical slice of life feel to it. Also, though the series is named for the female lead, Nodame (Really Noda Megumi), it seems to me like the main character is actually the male lead, usually called Chiaki Sama or Senpai.
Chiaki is a genius pianist who wants to conduct in Europe under his mentor Sebastiano Viera. He is kept from this dream, however, by his fear of flying and is very embittered. The fun starts when this strait laced, perfectionist meets Nodame who is also a genius in her own way.
She can’t read music, but she can play anything from ear and her style is wild and emotional. She is also a filthy housekeeper who not only falls openly in love with Chiaki but attaches herself to him like a stray cat depending on him for food and the occasional clean place to bath (she is his neighbour).
I am currently in volume 3 of this series and I have found it both easy going and very, very funny. Tomoko Ninomiya’s beautiful, lightly sketched in art style adds to this feel and makes this manga a good entry point for anyone that may be put off by the tropes of the genre’s typical art styles (Huge eyes and no nose or mouth to speak of.)
Chiaki senpai as the male lead must stand in for the obligatory bishounen. He doesn’t really have the mouth watering androgynousness but he quite makes up for it in arrogance and status. Plus his never quite neat hair is cute.
I look forward to seeing where it all leads. It will take forever (*sigh) but I’m hoping it will be worth it.
Extra Info: Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter is currently showing as part of Fall 2008 Anime lineup in Japan and for those who just can’t get enough of this title, there is also a live action series (11 episodes covering up to vol 9) and a Two Episode Special both on FujiTV in Japan!!!
Skip Beat and Nodame Cantabile are my recommendations for the season. Two funny, sweet, musical mangas that will leave you, like the best kind of dessert, wanting more.
I am grateful to the translators, editors, scanlators and everyone without whose help, people like me on my side of the world would have no hope of even hearing about these mangas much less actually seeing them! You guys work your butts off for free and I for one cannot appreciate you enough.
To those who actually have the opportunity to buy these works, don’t waste it! The other people who work their butts off on making our mangas happen are the mangakas themselves and every true manga fan knows there is no better cause to spend money on than in the feeding of a mangaka!
Therefore show love.