Rachelle Reads Manga Part 2: Romanace Manga!

Since some of the action manga I read last time left a bad taste in my mouth, I decided to switch gears this week and try some manga aimed at teen girls (that's called Shojo manga, n00bs).

So let's see how that went.

Nana #1 by Ai Yazawa (Shojo Beat - Viz)

Why I picked it up: This is definitely one of the more popular Manga series that we sell, especially among female readers. We also sell a DVD of a live action Nana movie. Plus, Faith Erin Hicks recommended it highly to me as a guilty pleasure, so that really sold me.

What it's about: The story follows two 20-year-old girls in Japan, both named Nana, who are very different. One is a recent high school graduate who has recently come out of an unhealthy relationship with a much older married man. She is boy-crazy, but determined to make some male friends who are just friends for the first time. The other Nana is a high school drop-out who sings in a punk band. She is dating the bass player in the band, but he gets offered a spot in a more popular band in Tokyo. Both Nanas want to move to Tokyo for basically the same reason: love. So it's like, even though they have little in common on the surface, they really do have some things in common.

And what did I think about it?: I really liked it. The characters are instantly likable, the writing is very charming and funny, and it's a compelling story. It's like reading a romance novel that has some balls, because it's got some edgy elements. Plus I feel that I got a good idea of what life is somewhat like for young people in Japan living in smaller cities.

I have a hard time telling the guys apart from the girls, but that's just manga for ya.

Do I want to read the next volume?: Yeah, I really do actually. I think there are like 11 volumes of this out now. I'd be into reading the whole series.

Red String #1 by Gina Biggs (Dark Horse)

Why I picked it up: The cover is really cute. Plus it's one of those forward-reading manga books I like so much. And the author is American, so I wanted to see what that was like. Do hardcore manga fans frown upon books like this? Are American-authored Manga books regarded in the same way as, like, American beer is regarded in Canada? (For those of you who don't know, it's regarded with a certain level of disgust...if you're going to order a Coors, you may as well order a dead baby).

What it's about: This series is actually a web comic, part of the Strawberry Comics group of American-based female romance manga authors. Girl power!

The story is a high school-based tale of young love and angst. The main character, Miharu, is shocked to find out that her parents have arranged a marriage for her. She is to marry the husband they selected after she graduates. Young Miharu has never even kissed a boy, so this is naturally quite traumatic for her. Things get more complicated when she meets the boy of her dreams the day she finds out about the arranged marriage...or do they?

And what did I think about it?: It was a light read with cute art. It's a coming-of-age high school story, which I always enjoy. There's a bad boy character who is kind of intriguing. He clearly has his own crush on Miharu. I'd be interested in seeing where that goes.

Do I want to read the next volume?: I wouldn't say that the story is gripping enough to leave me wanting more, but it certainly isn't bad. If I were younger I'd probably be really into it. And there was nothing weird or gross or annoying about this book, so that's a plus.

Fever #1 by Hee Jung Park (Tokyopop)

Why I picked it up: It's Korean so, again, it's got the forward-reading thing going for it. The cover sort of made me think that I wouldn't like it at all, and that's kinda why I picked it up. It's important to try things you wouldn't normally, right? Unlike Nana, I'd never really noticed anyone buying this one, so I guess I wanted to try something that wasn't a giant smash hit and compare it to something that was. Plus, now I have three romance manga books: one Japanese, one American, and one Korean. Diversity!

What it's about: Basically it's about a very sad girl who is messed up after her friend commits suicide and she ends up dropping out of her school. She meets a messed up guy on the bus after she leaves the school. She ends up going to a strange place called Fever with this guy, which is kinda hard to explain. And I wasn't really paying enough attention.

And what did I think about it?: Honestly, I had a really hard time finishing this. I just could not get into it. It's very emo and slow and I just didn't care about the characters or the story.

Do I want to read the next volume?: No.

So that's my first foray into romance manga. Next up...rock and roll manga!