Asuka Izumi / K-Ske Hasegawa – CMX – 2009 – 3 volumes
I was not too impressed with either the first or third volumes of Ballad of a Shinigami. And yet this was one of the volumes I dove for when CMX announced its closing. Completion is a big deal for me (though not as much as it used to be), but I should probably learn not to waste money on books I know I’m not going to like. Ballad of a Shinigami isn’t terrible, it’s just really, really bland.
It straddles an interesting line between shounen and shoujo. It looks and reads like a shoujo manga, but part of me thinks it’s a smidge too moe. Also, Momo doesn’t seem to wear pants, which is definitely a mark against its shoujo manga rep.
The chapters are once again unrelated short stories, mostly involving children or students, tied together by the presence of Momo the shinigami. She only appears for a page or two in each story, and sometimes doesn’t speak to the characters at all. The stories… sometimes involve death, or one of the characters dying, but sometimes that’s such a non-issue that it’s not much of a theme. Sometimes the death is a near miss, sometimes it hangs over the head of one of the characters, and sometimes it’s a character coping with death. Whatever.
The stories are pretty typical feel-good or sob stories. The first one is about a standoffish little girl who recently lost her parents and doesn’t have any sympathetic people to turn to, but eventually finding comfort in the company of one of her teachers. The second is a longer shoujo love story about a magical boy and an angry, easily flustered girl that, while cute, would feel comfortable in the back of any short shoujo volume. The third involves a little girl coping with her mother leaving the family and a hatred of her father, and is interesting because it is told from the perspective of a pet cat named Apollo. The fourth is a short story about a girl and a guy getting close while the girl struggles with a terminal illness.
The second and third stories are the most developed and most interesting. I did like the shoujo-ish story about the magical boy and the freshman girl. It’s a fun story, and very entertaining, but I liked it because I like shoujo. There’s nothing terribly spectacular about it, really, and you’ll know if you’ll like it or not just by reading the premise. The third story is kind of fun because of the cat, the way it views the family dysfunctions, and the fact the dad tries to enlist it into a space program. The sad story of what happened to the little girl’s mother becomes clear after the story dwells on it long enough. I also liked the sad, clumsy dad character, he he had a cute personality and was easy to sympathize with since he was so devoted to his daughter and she and the cat both clearly hated him. That was the best story in the volume, though I disliked its overly-sweet message. I also think this story had little or no Momo at all.
I didn’t really care for this series at all, but it is a nice, light collection of short stories. If you run across it, pick it up, but again, there’s not much to the stories past their plot descriptions, so if the back sounds uninteresting, odds are you’re not going to like the book, either.
K-Ske Hasegawa / Asuka Isumi – CMX – 2010 – 3 volumes
I reviewed this for the weekly Manga Minis column over at Manga Recon, you can check it out over there.
The stories are cute and well-told, but the fact they all go the same place is a little unexciting. It did get me fired up enough to want to pick up another series by the same author/artist (that would be Asuka Isumi, who did the writing and the adaptation, Hasegawa only wrote the original novels). She’s got a series called the Lizard Prince from CMX, and cutey shoujo is more my thing.
I reviewed this for the Manga Recon, so you can check out the review over there.
I discuss shinigami a bit in my review… but what I say is true. For as many manga have shinigami in them (less than I thought, after I did a tally, but they are all very popular series), the shinigami do very little deals with the dead in the popular stories. In fact, Full Moon is the most shinigami-tastic experience you can get as far as dealing with the actual consequences of death, and that’s a series about a little girl with throat cancer becoming a popular pop idol.
Ballad of a Shinigami is actually less about the shinigami and more about the people dealing with death. It’s much different from how I imagined it, but on the other hand, I think I like it better this way.