Toshihiko Kobayashi – Del Rey – 2009 – 22+ volumes
I reviewed this for the weekly Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, so you can check it out over there.
I swore off this series since the last several volumes have been brain-breaking stupid, but it’s easy to review since I’m familiar with it, so I tried one more. I thought it was kind of funny that the one series I promise myself not to read anymore goes and has its climax in the very next volume. This volume is pretty much why you’ve been reading the series all this time. It’s good, and I like Pastel for moments like this, I just wish it wasn’t so terrible in between these flashes of goodness.
Having said that, there are still better shounen romances out there. I”s, for instance. Or Oh My Goddess. Either of those would be fine.
I reviewed this volume for this week’s Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, so you can check it out over there.
I don’t have too much to add. Just that I wish that series was good, because when I remember what I like about it, it makes me cry to think that there’s a tender, subtle romance buried somewhere underneath Mako’s big breasts. I don’t know that I’ll be reading future volumes, because I don’t see it shrugging its shounen stereotypes anytime soon. It’s had enough time to fix its act, I just can’t do this anymore. I feel bad, because this may be only the second or third time that a series has been terrible enough for me to quit. But why read something I know I’m not going to enjoy?
Okay. This volume was marginally better than the last one, but only because Mako and her enormous breasts weren’t in every panel. This time, the story decided to be all about Mugi confessing his feelings, then not confessing them, then having his friends make fun of him for it and come up with plans so that he could, things not working out, then everything going back to square one. To be fair, this involves a relatively nice story about Mugi and Yuu getting put on an island by themselves for 24 hours. The two of them together is nice because the couple in Pastel isn’t as skeevie as the rest of the story would have you believe. They actually have a nice relationship, and the subtleties in story, like when Yuu is and isn’t scared by things on the island, what she feels compelled to do when Mugi is angsting over the best time to tell her his feelings… it really is nice. I would love to read about Mugi and Yuu all the time it if their story wasn’t surrounded by the worst fanservice, pandering, and most over-used plot devices in manga. Ugh.
The latter half of the book brings back Kiku, a pretty girl who has guys all over her but only wants to hook up with Mugi. She hangs around, and of course Yuu misunderstands and is mad at Mugi through the entire last half of the book. The misunderstandings are so stupid too, and I hate when the story does this because there is absolutely no good reason for Yuu to get jealous whenever another girl gets within 10 feet of Mugi. Not even jealous, just… mad at Mugi. She treats him so poorly. At least Kiku tries to confront her about it, but it of course doesn’t go anywhere. She does apologize to Mugi at the end of the volume, at least.
One thing that sort of keeps things working in this series is the fact that the reader doesn’t actually know how Yuu feels about Mugi. There is never even the barest hint, except her anger at Mugi when other girls are around. And even this can’t really be read as jealousy. I have to say though, I’m just getting tired of it. One more volume of Pastel, and I’m off this series for good. It’s one of the only series I’ve ever dropped, but it’s just too mind-numbingly stupid. I’m sorry.
You know, I put off reading this series because I know it sucks, and I know I don’t want to read it, but my obsessive-compulsive nature makes me continue to buy it, and I feel guilty if I buy something and don’t read it.
I thought to myself “Maybe I’m just being too hard on this series. Maybe it’s not as bad as I think it is.”
Then I remembered Mako. Mugi’s new mom.
The volume starts out with Yuu and Mako weighing their breasts on a scale. Literally, this is on the first page of the volume.
Then my mind turned to mush as I read through the next two stories. I counted. There are 93 pages in the first two stories. On these 93 pages, there are 66 instances of breasts being lovingly drawn, many times with a “boing” speech bubble coming out of them. This is only counting when the cleavage or underside of the breast can be seen. Sometimes they are obscured. Sometimes there are three instances per page.
There is a large two-page spread of Mako and Yuu having a hula-hoop contest which is the biggest cheesecake shot I’ve ever seen in any manga, ever. And please keep in mind I’ve read Video Girl Ai and parts of I”s by Masakazu Katsura, who is some sort of king when it comes to this type of fanservice. To be fair, I didn’t get to the twister scene in I”s, though, so maybe that’s more cheesecake.
Mako may be gone as of the next volume. That would be so great.
I just have nothing to say in defense of this series. It makes me feel bad for badmouthing it since it’s got the sort of lighthearted cutesy stories I gravitate towards, and the characters are sometimes genuine, but then in the middle of something serious, there’ll be a moment where Yuu “has” to take off her shirt, then gets mad at Mugi for seeing her without a shirt on. It just… it just can’t give up the ghost on that stuff, and it really ruins things for me. The fanservice just isn’t seamless enough for me. I’m sorry.
Plus it has some problems with its stories, too. A good example is when Mugi is forced to work at the restaurant by himself with just Yuu for help. We know this is big for him. We know he would rather be spending time alone with Yuu. But these things are reinforced about 500 times throughout the course of the chapter. Or maybe it wasn’t repeated all that much. I don’t know.
I praised the series some time ago for starting over with less characters, except they’ve all since gravitated back. I can’t stand Yuu’s sister, any chapter with her will have about 200% more fanservicey jokes, which seems impossible, but there it is. I was done a favor, because it seems like there’s a possibility she won’t be around for awhile. I certainly hope she stays away.
And in case you weren’t getting enough boob jokes, a new character comes in and scratches that itch for you. Of course Yuu is constantly pestering Mugi about staring, and there’s… there’s cosplay… just… it was just too much for me.
Aside from my beef with the fanservice, Yuu’s character is also a little off. We never learn what she’s thinking, and she’s sort of kept at a distance as sort of a mystery, but she still comes across as shallow and somewhat childish a lot of the time. At ten volumes in, I was hoping for a little more from the character.
Well, what could I have expected, I guess.
This volume was a lot better than I was expecting. Although Tsukasa is still hanging around, and I still hate her, there’s a lot of sweet things that happen so that she’s not causing all sorts of intolerable comic mischief. She plays a lot of pranks in the first story, so I had my doubts about the volume right off the bat, but the first story turns into a really cute story about Tsukasa and Yuu’s past. There’s a story about Kazuki turning 18 and finally getting serious about his one true love, there’s a story about Sayuri getting a fiancee and seeking Mugi’s approval indirectly, and there’s a story about Mugi’s 18th birthday and a date he has with Yuu. The story was almost ruined by the fact that other characters were following the two around and causing trouble, but it managed to stay tolerable throughout.
The stories about Kazuki and Sayuri were some of the best yet, though. While I think the story needs to seriously cut back on interfering friends, the fact that these two characters are only ever used to interrupt what’s going on and they still had two really great stories really surprised me. The whole Kazuki story is good ,but there is one panel which is without words, but is really effective at conveying Kazuki’s heartbreak. And in Sayuri’s story, her really deep, motherly bond kind of got to me, I suppose. I don’t really like that character at all, and it looks like she may not be coming back for awhile, but I guess she can still be nice.
I laughed so hard at one scene at the beginning of the Mugi birthday chapter. It opens with him having a dream. The dialogue speaks for itself. Yuu: “Mugi. Happy Birthday. You’re 18. You’re an adult now, and… I’ve got a very special present for you.” She’s unbuttoning her shirt. “My right breasts holds a bounty from the sea, and my left breast holds a bounty from the land.” The next panel shows Mugi holding two plates, one with lobsters and one with vegetables, and he comments about how that explains why her breasts are so big, and he happily goes off to prepare a meal. It would have been perfect if there had been a full page with Mugi laying in bed, awake and yelling “What the hell does that mean?!” followed by the chapter title page, with the dream never mentioned again. It doesn’t get mentioned again, but it was so bizarre it had me cracking up.
Somehow, a different girl who was previously thought untouchable confesses her undying love for Mugi. While Mugi isn’t the geeky loser that appears in other harem comedies, he does attract lots of women.
I was much less enamored with this volume than the past few. It’s slipped back into fanservice here, and is much less touching than the previous few volumes. Yuu and Mugi get almost no time to themselves, and what little movement their relationship gets is forced on them by secondary characters. It’s once again become everything I hate.
Tsukasa’s return may have a lot to do with this. She came back looking like she’d inexplicably aged about five years. She’s the one that tries to get Yuu and Mugi closer. Of course, now that Tsukasa looks about 18, Mugi is allowed to accidentally barge in on her in the shower.
You know what, it wasn’t even Tsukasa that ruined this volume for me. This volume was ruined with the first panel. The first pages ran in color in the magazine, and while they were black and white for the graphic novel, that didn’t stop the intentions of the first panel, which was to be a huge, half page, full color panty shot. The second panel was Yuu yelling at Mugi for looking. What the hell.
Hey, this series actually recovered and is coasting along quite cutely now. Most of the characters have been stripped out, and the chapters in this volume were mostly short stories about Yuu and Mugi interacting cutely. Most of the bad jokes have been dropped, and it always feels like the stories are bringing the two characters together instead of somehow pushing Yuu further and further out of Mugi’s grasp in comical ways. On one hand, I feel like each story kind of adds depth to the characters, but on the other hand, I know that these stories could go on infinitely, so I hesitate to say that. But yes, this series has turned into something which is better suited to my taste. More romance than comedy, and no harem! Congratulations, Pastel!
The only time a bunch of characters from previous volumes show up is for a Christmas party. Other than that, Mugi’s boss and his best friend are the only other characters who make regular appearances throughout the course of the volume. Since they are the characters with the most purpose anyway, I’m really happy having it that way. It’s still nothing spectacular, but it’s definitely loads better than the early volumes, and I can look forward to and enjoy volume 8 now. Hopefully things will keep moving in this direction.
There was a weird element of finality in this volume. There are many series which will tease you with sudden events that, were they to happen, would suddenly and irrevocably change the flow of the series. Or end them outright. This teases you with just such an event, and you keep thinking something is going to happen that will take it back, and then it doesn’t get taken back. It’s shocking that this series has the strength to do such a thing. Granted, it is partially taken back at the end, but not all the way, and not in a way that’s not going to change things from now on.
The result is that there is a quiet sincerity to the rest of the volume which you would not expect from this series. It certainly has gotten better lately, and it’s definitely relying less on humor and more on character interactions. While I think most characters could still use a little fleshing out, Mugi’s pretty dimensional at this point, and it’s nice to see him doing all these things which are just… true to himself, I suppose. It’s gotten very cute, and I liked it. This was a really, really great volume. Even the stuff leading up to the main event was sad and well-played. Very nice.
We also learn a lot about both Mugi and Yuu’s parents. These stories are both extremely good and do a lot to flesh out Mugi, like I mentioned before.
I enjoyed this a lot more than I remember liking the previous volumes. Perhaps I just had to read Oh My Goddess prior to reading this. It’s kind of like… I don’t know. OMG is a better series. Pastel maybe is aimed at a younger audience? I can’t quite remember what Pastel runs in (I think it’s Weekly Shounen), but I think it’s shounen to OMG’s seinen, but I could be totally wrong. There’s nothing particularly adult about OMG, it’s just slightly more tasteful than Pastel.
In other words, there are a lot of boobs in Pastel. If you look past the crass humor, it’s actually a rather subtle and touching series very similar to OMG. In this story, Mugi finds his true call as he apprentices himself to a small restaurant and decides this is what he would like to do with his life. Yuu is a bit more nice to him than usual, and he doesn’t get punched, slapped, or yelled at for real or imagined peeping nearly as often this time around, though the number of these jokes per volume is a bit high for my liking. It’s getting better, I guess.
I still don’t like harem comedies, and OMG is the only one I’ll put up with without kicking and screaming. This one’s turning out to be sweet, though. It still needs to work some of the cheese and stereotype out of its system, and is actually succeeding, little by little. Maybe OMG was like this at first too, and I just don’t remember and was more willing to put up with crap when there literally wasn’t anything else remotely girly to read back in the dark ages of English-release manga.