Papillon 5

Miwa Ueda – Del Rey – 2010 – 8 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 5-6

It’s important to note that I read this after a 10-volume Sensual Phrase marathon. These two series are very similar (shoujo drama drama drama), the differences are that Sensual Phrase is smuttier and more over-the-top, whereas Papillon is… a bit more mean-spirited, maybe. The two shouldn’t really be compared, but since I read them back-to-back, I’m going to do it anyway.

I say that Papillon is more mean-spirited because a lot of Papillon’s drama comes from conflict between the twin sisters Hana and Ageha, and Hana uses a lot of deception and other underhanded tactics to cause trouble. Someone close acting like your worst enemy is also a theme in Ueda’s other series, Peach Girl, and it’s an effective source of drama. The ultimate twin diss, dressing up like your sister and seducing her boyfriend, comes into play here. Hana also opens other cans of worms, such as stirring up an unstable girl from Kyuu’s past, then pushing her to the breaking point after being told not to.

The thing that makes Papillon a little different is the way it examines the drama, and uses the characters to work out the issues, rather than just letting them get too messy and out-of-hand. At the end of the fifth volume, for instance, Ueda discusses how projection works, and how you can use it to identify others projecting onto you, and how you project onto others. The characters really talk about their feelings more than other shoujo manga. It helps that Kyuu-chan is a school counselor, too, but he’s not flawless. One of the chapters looks at the way he was feeling jealous and insecure, and using the line “I’m willing to step out of the way of Ageha finds a boy her own age” to hide his own heartbreak.

But since this is the author of Peach Girl, it’s not without its insane drama, and that’s why I read these types of stories. One of the things I was really looking forward to, since volume one, happens here. I knew immediately there would be a scene where Hana would dress like Ageha and seduce Ageha’s boyfriend, and Ageha would walk in during the middle. And then there would be a twinfight. I mean, you can’t write this type of story with a pair of backstabbing twins and not do that, right? Well, here’s the payoff. I know I was satisfied.

How about an old, amnesiac girlfriend? A scene where one twin wishes the other would disappear, only to have her get hit by a car? A cliffhanger where someone gets pushed down the stairs? Love affirmation on both sides of the Ageha/Kyuu relationship? I love this stuff. And I still get it, even in a series where Ueda is doing a pretty good job at looking at contemporary teen issues and talking through them. I like that I can have both.

Is it as good as Peach Girl? Well, it’s not nearly as much fun to read, but it probably is the better series, what with all the good stuff mixed in. I do hope that Del Rey or Kodansha can deliver an omnibus for the last two volumes, because I’d hate to be left hanging, and it is a great series. I hope to see more from Ueda in the future.


Papillon 4

Miwa Ueda – Del Rey – 2009 – 9 volumes

… I don’t know.  There’s still a lot of back and forth.  The only plot the series seems to have comes from Ageha thinking her boyfriend is cheating on her or otherwise being unfaithful.  They make up from the incident last volume, but this volume involves a lot of Hana being together with him for counseling and Ageha not liking it.  They aren’t together through the entire volume, but Hana seems to get more serious about it right at the end.  Sigh.

To Papillon’s credit, Ageha also spends most of the volume believing in Ichijiku, which is unusual for this type of series, and I suppose is a good sign that the characters really are developing rather than going around in circles.  Even with all the evidence mounting against him, Ageha still believes that Ichijiku wouldn’t cheat on her.  And also to Papillon’s credit, the characters continue to take time out to have serious talks about their feelings and ways to change things they don’t like, which is also rare.  When was the last time a character you didn’t like figured out the things that were unlikable about them and thought changing would be a good idea?  And then sought help for how to do it?  Papillon is still kind of trashy, but it does give good advice, at least, and it’s hard not to get sucked in no matter how much I hate the repetition.  Or the fact that Hana is just another creepy Sae.  We find out she does terrible things to her boyfriends to trick them into cheating on her, but we also find out why she does these things.  I don’t think I would accept the weak excuse in another series, but in this one, it makes sense since she’s seeking to change it.

But yes.  It’s Miwa Ueda, so I’m just going to go ahead and keep reading.


Papillon 3

Miwa Ueda – Del Rey – 2009 – 7+ volumes

I want to like Papillon.  I love Miwa Ueda.  But Papillon makes itself very hard to like.  Ueda mentions the difficulty in writing it is that she’s trying to convey the problems and misconceptions of high school life along with healthy ways to solve them (hence the counselor character), and I do like that.  The problem is that the counselor consents to dating Ageha, which isn’t realistic, and the misconceptions aren’t terribly realistic, either.  Ageha freaks out over every little thing, and seeing her bounce around emotional highs and lows and mistrust absolutely everything that Kyu tells her is draining.  I liked the positive messages in the first volume, but I liked it far less when I saw Ageha going for the obvious bait of Kyu, and I like it even less now that they are dating.

The evil that is her twin sister Hana is difficult to identify with, too.  It’s obvious that Hana, for whatever reason, is obsessed with bringing her sister low, and will do everything in her power to ruin her life (or love life, at least).  Convenient that they are identical twins, then, huh?  I hated the confrontation between the two where Hana admits she hates Ageha, then spouts off a silly shoujo manga reason and runs off.  Bah.

Ueda does try to offer good advice, and again, I respect the series a little for that.  But it’s hard to take such advice seriously when everything about the plot and characters is so over-the-top.  I’m going to keep reading though, because there’s still something very addictive about it.  It’s not nearly as good as Peach Girl, or even most mildly addictive shoujo series, but I still kind of like reading it.  A guilty pleasure, I suppose.


Papillon 2

Miwa Ueda – Del Rey – 2009 – 6+ volumes

Actually, I quite enjoyed the continued positive force behind this series.  I was a bit sad that the energies shifted away from the boy she liked and towards… well, a rather obvious target.  Actually, I quite hated that, because it seemed like the series was better than that and wouldn’t go the obvious route.  It was drawing me a picture though, and I should have known it was inevitable.

Student/Teacher.  Yeah.  At least he’s an intern, and not really a teacher at all.  I guess.

Ageha’s transformation continues for the better, and I was so glad that all the characters supported her in all her serious efforts to better herself.  She feels self-conscious since she sees it as moving more towards being like Hana, and there’s a completely ridiculous subplot in this volume involving her mother and Ageha thinking that her mother doesn’t love her and only loves Hana and only likes her when she’s more like Hana… whatever.  The resolution to that was as unsatisfying as the plot itself.  But aside from that, everything about Ageha’s changes has been great.

The sibling rivalry is still present, and Hana makes a couple plays to take the boy in question away from Ageha.  Hana also proves to not be the big bully you would expect her to be, since she turns down several opportunities to “cheat,” so to speak, and really mess with Ageha.  She also reprimands people for talking badly about Ageha.  I like that Hana is actually not as bad as that type of character normally is.

Aside from the whole… yeah, teacher/student thing, I really like this series.  It’s an unusually positive shoujo drama, and a lot of the usual character types and situations are reversed, which makes reading it pretty fun.  I’m looking forward to picking up the next couple volumes.


Papillon 1

Miwa Ueda – Del Rey – 2008 – 6+ volumes

Part of me was a little afraid of starting this, because as much as I loved Peach Girl (which was a lot, it’s still one of my favorite shoujo series, second in addictive trashiness only to Hot Gimmick), I disliked the later volumes and hated Sae’s Story.  I haven’t tried any of her other series, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Papillon.

Realistically… it’s a kinder version of Peach Girl.  Put Hana in place of Sae and you get the dynamics of the points of contention so far, though Hana seems against Sae-style underhanded tactics, and also seems to invite challenge from Ageha.  It also has a significantly more positive message, where the Kiley role (complete with guy that looks almost exactly like Kiley) is a guidance counselor offering good advice to Ageha instead of going after her as a romantic interest.  It’s actually the Toji-like Ryuu that has the childhood connection to Ageha in this series, instead of Kiley, who has the unrequieted past love angle.

But… let me talk about it for anyone who isn’t absurdly familiar with Peach Girl.  Basically, Ageha stands in the shadow of her twin sister, and the series is about her remaking herself to be the person she wants to be in order to stand up to Hana and get Ryuu, the boy of her dreams.  It’s a much healthier form of rivalry than these series usually go for, and apparently Ueda put a great deal of research into how school guidance counselors work, so it’s possible that the series will work out rather positively, whereas Peach Girl was horribly depressing… well, most of the time.  Not much happened in this volume except the very beginnings of the transformation of Ageha and Hana stealing her boyfriend away.

But already I’m addicted.  In fact, I’m going to read the second volume right now.  Curse you and your addictive series, Miwa Ueda.


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