Sensual Phrase 17

Mayu Shinjo – Viz – 2006 – 18 volumes

Ahh… the last volume. Volume 18 is just short stories. Actually, this volume has a little bit of a happy ending to the main story, then a bunch of short stories. The real meat was in volume 15-16. The conclusion here took up half a volume, but it was mostly one final all-out concert, Aine’s graduation, and then wrapping up some final loose ends, story-wise and also issues related to the Major Happenings from volume 15.

You know, I’ve always been a big fan of how devoted Sakuya and Aine were to each other. It made all the insanity acceptable and quite enjoyable, actually. But, you know… the sappy parts probably would have been way better if Sakuya had more than one facial expression. I was wondering why I just wasn’t feeling the ending. He’s good at looking cool, just not sincere, and sincerity was important through this volume.

The two short stories? It’s mostly more of the same, but I can’t say that I’m sorry to be reading just a little more of this series. One of the stories is another look at Atsuro and his sister, and how their relationship fares when another girl moves in on Atsuro.

What was much appreciated, however, was the story that covered Sakuya’s life. We’ve gotten mostly second-hand accounts, and we knew all that went on, but we didn’t really see it. I knew all about it, but it was still nice to get a good, long story before the end. And it went all the way to the first meeting with Aine, which was a wonderful way to end it.

I’ve got the last volume of short stories, of course, but I can’t help but be a little sad I finished the main story. I read more than half of it in one day, and I’m still devastated that there’s not more. I made fun of it the entire time, and it deserved it, but that’s why I loved it. It was just so utterly and perfectly unbelievable. All the stuff I’ve read before, but turned up to 11 and balanced with a really solid relationship. The perfect kind of story for shoujo manga.


Sensual Phrase 16

Mayu Shinjo – Viz – 2006 – 18 volumes

Santa’s got a pretty boss tattoo on the cover of this book. Just sayin’.

So a lot of the damage from last volume was mitigated. One of the issues was completely ignored (much to my disappointment), but the most important one was dealt with. Slowly. I did appreciate the way things were handled here. Again, I don’t want to spoil what happens, so I can’t go into too much detail. But the focus of this book was mostly Sakuya and Aine having a good time and living like any regular couple would. There’s also an issue with Sakuya and Lucifer. That’s dealt with by the end of the book, too.

The way it’s dealt with… is pretty serious. But I couldn’t stop laughing. Why, you may ask? Well, a car accident is involved. A car accident as the high point in melodrama has made me laugh ever since I read Zetsuai/Bronze. That series is the most melodramatic manga ever written, and there are no less than three devastating car accidents, if I remember correctly. I just… can’t take it seriously ever again after that.

Also, my question about what was up between Lucifer’s manager and Aine was answered. I thought it was pretty classy, actually, and Sensual Phrase isn’t really known for its class.

But the car accident? Mayu Shinjo was a true artist with that. The way it was laid out on the page made it look much, much different than what actually happened. That made me laugh a little bit too, honestly, though the action itself was no laughing matter.

There’s a very short story in the back about Towa, one of the only members of Lucifer that hasn’t been spotlighted yet. Honestly, I think most of us forgot that Santa and Towa existed, but his story is still pretty cute.

The essay in the back from Kelly Sue DeConnick is about how the end is nigh. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait this one out. Honestly, I read about 11 volumes of this series in one sitting. Had I read it as it was released? I’d have desperately wanted to talk it up with just about everybody. I still do, as you might be able to tell by the fact I’ve written all 11 volumes up as I write them. The internet is indeed a beautiful thing.


Sensual Phrase 15

Mayu Shinjo – Viz – 2006 – 18 volumes

So, remember when I said I was waiting for the series to tackle big issues? I’ve been saying that for the last ten volumes or so. Well, it finally made good on its promise to do something serious. It… it was hard to take, honestly. It was a terrible thing that happened, and unusually, the series does not brush it off. It takes every part of it seriously. While it was happening, I kept waiting for something to stop it, too. I didn’t really believe that it was what it looked like. It was.

I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll leave it at that. But… wow. I didn’t really think Sensual Phrase had the capacity to surprise me in any way, shape, or form. I was warned the ending was a little shocking, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this.

After the first bad thing, things go downhill. Just about everything terrible that could happen does, and all of it is pretty serious. The book ends with an attempted murder.

I was just… shocked. Really, really shocked.

And then I read Kelly Sue DeConnick’s essay at the back of the book. And was even more shocked. Remember how I mentioned I had stopped reading the sidebar commentary from Shinjo several volumes back, since it was mostly endless J-Pop gushing and commentary about the anime? Kelly Sue DeConnick made me go back and read the ones in this volume.

It… somehow made the volume much worse. Thank you, Kelly Sue DeConnick. You really did make me throw up a little in the back of my mouth.

No cheesy fun to be had in this volume, friends. There were no lines at all to bring me great joy. I’m sorry.


Sensual Phrase 14

Mayu Shinjo – Viz – 2006 – 18 volumes

I feel like the cheesy moment of zen for this volume has to be awarded to a more traditional, less cheesy line. In this case, presentation is everything. Aine is taking a train to live with her parents, and Sakuya has to stop her. He runs through the train station, getting recognized and mobbed by fans. Frustrated, he calls Aine, asking her where she is. She gets upset and doesn’t tell him, saying that he’s only making the separation harder. Then he runs up from behind her and grabs her. Instead of going to London to fulfill his dreams, he says… “I can’t dream without you” in a full-page, 100% cheesy illustration. Aww, Sensual Phrase. You can be so sweet.

So the big dramatic separation story that started last volume and I suspect might last through to the climax… lasts until halfway through this volume. The resolution, and the reason to put a stop to the separation, were… kind of good, in a shoujo manga way, I guess. The second story arc is about a band that is debuting in a position to come out on top of Lucifer. Funding this band and giving them everything he can is apparently Lucifer’s manager’s revenge on the members of Lucifer for copping out on their world tour. The head of this new band, Daisuke, has just filled Sakuya’s vacant seat at Aine’s school. And, of course, Daisuke wants Aine to write lyrics for him. After listening to E.MU’s music, Sakuya agrees.

And then we get yet another story where Sakuya is clearly using Aine as some sort of tool for revenge without telling her anything. I’m… not clear on why this is a reoccurring theme. It’s kind of hilarious whenever it happens though, because Sakuya makes no secret of the fact that he’s got something in mind, and it’s funny to me that he can only do a big reveal after the person in question has been thoroughly humiliated. It’s interesting at this point in the story that Aine trusts Sakuya enough to know that, when he starts being a cold jerk and shutting Aine off, it’s not her fault. I guess if she can trust him enough to let him date another girl long enough to jerk her around and humiliate her, this is nothing.

There’s this thing with Lucifer’s manager that is a bit interesting. It was revealed several volumes ago that Sakuya believed the man was only pretending to be gay, and the story has been dropping hints that the manager is in love with Aine. Well, it also mixes the hints with a healthy dose of threatened rape on occasion, but you know. This is interesting because Sensual Phrase is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, and it’s not really in its nature to let something like that go on for so long. Half a volume is about as much time as it needs to set up and follow through on a bit of drama, so the fact that this is an ongoing theme is passing strange. Makes me wonder if it will go someplace serious. Then again, I keep thinking that it may take stories in serious directions and never does, so it’s hard to say.

One more comment: the rival band in this story, E.MU? That’s from the Kaikan Phrase anime, then got turned into a real band, I guess. But it’s yet another real band that’s come full circle back into the comic. I still can’t believe that happens.


Sensual Phrase 13

Mayu Shinjo – Viz – 2006 – 18 volumes

Hmm… hm. The story takes a turn for the rather serious at the end of this volume. I have a hard time believing it’s as bad as it looks, but all the members of Lucifer have to break it off with their loved ones in preparation for a world tour. There’s the expected drama from Aine and Sakuya… and by expected drama, I mean the band’s manager threatens to rape Aine in order to make her feel guilty about cheating on Sakuya to use as blackmail to make her stay in Japan. But stuff like that goes by without comment in Sensual Phrase, so what can I do?

The unusual part is that the story also splits up Yuki and his wife, and the recent couple of Atsuro and his sister. This is an awful lot of serious drama for Sensual Phrase. Either something huge is going down in the story, or the six months of tour time will pass in a few pages’ worth of Aine pining away.

Please note, “something huge” has yet to happen in Sensual Phrase. It’s all Sakuya and Aine, all the time. As I’ve said, most of the volumes consist of two stories, both will always be “major” events, but both will always be resolved simply because Sakuya and Aine love each other. I’m… I’m not too sure that Sensual Phrase is really the place for anything more taxing than that.

What else happens… Oh! There’s a really bizarre story about Aine helping an old “friend” by pretending to be engaged to him, and Sakuya happily goes along with this charade. This story was so bizarre and out-of-character all around (not to mention that it didn’t make sense for Aine to help this creep) I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Its… it’s really something. Watching Sakuya tease Aine through subtly evil methods is superb, though, even if you’re not quite sure what his ulterior motive in this case is.

My moment of bad dialogue zen: When insulted by someone who is supposedly Aine’s ex-boyfriend, Sakuya takes the insults about not getting into college, and counters with “I guess I’ll just have to rely on my skills in the sack.”


Sensual Phrase 12

Mayu Shinjo – Viz – 2006 – 18 volumes

Really, Sensual Phrase? Really?

So, the story at the beginning of the volume is about how Sakuya is dating a jealous fan that backstabbed Aine and turned a bunch of other female fans against her. Sakuya doesn’t say a single word to Aine through this whole thing. This fan, named Sakura, begins rubbing their close relationship in Aine’s face. Still, Sakuya says nothing. Then he starts cheating on Sakura with another celebrity. Sakura is heartbroken.

This is to teach Sakura a lesson about what it’s like to be Aine. The climax is a situation created by Sakuya where jealous fangirls turn on Sakura and beat her up. Sakura apologizes to Aine, realizing what a hard life she lives, and everything goes back to normal.

This whole thing is a huge WTF moment, especially since Aine is ignored and not a word is said to her throughout.

But what makes it even worse is that it’s followed by a story where Aine is caught comforting Atsuro, fellow Lucifer member, and the press makes it out to be an affair between the two. Sakuya won’t listen to a single thing either of them says, and he flies into a jealous rage for about half a volume. The situation the pair was discussing dealt with the love affair between Atsuro and his sister, so neither wanted to discuss the topic with Sakuya, but at the same time Sakuya didn’t trust them not to be going behind his back.

Ugh. This volume was pretty ugly. Again, Sakuya is generally a white knight kind of character, but sometimes he goes over the top, and sometimes he can be an absolute monster. This volume is a pretty good example of the latter.

But don’t worry. By the end of the volume, Sakuya is having sex with Aine in public again, scaring fans away by making it look like he’s raping her. Good ol’ Sensual Phrase.

I have no quote for you from this volume. While there are several cheesy lines, they need their context to be understood as hilarious instead of terrible.

Also… I noticed that Sakuya sings “Datenshi Blue” in this volume. Which is a real song, sung by the real Lucifer, adapted back into the manga. Once again, Sensual Phrase has thoroughly blown my mind.


Sensual Phrase 11

Mayu Shinjo – Viz – 2005 – 18 volumes

This volume was all about the fans. Lucifer’s new producer decides that Aine’s bad for business, so she and Sakuya get back in his good graces by coming up with fan-centric shows.

Elsewhere, Aine develops a friendship with a Sakuya fan that I thought was a boy for, like, two volumes. Her name is a dead giveaway (Sakura), as is the fact that she’s obsessed with Sakuya, but still. The friendship ends here when she finds out that Aine is the for real girlfriend of Sakuya. They become enemies, in fact, when Sakura sends a group of girls to beat up Aine. This causes Sakuya to lose it, of course, and the jerk producer has to intervene. Sakuya’s methods of “dealing with it” are a little strange, though, since he proceeds to apparently seduce Sakura in order to get her to make up with Aine. Aine sees them together. Things go badly.

Unusually, the story carries through the whole volume, and the two sub-stories are related. As I’ve said, one of the things that makes this so fun to read is that it moves on so quickly to new insanity, so the lingering troubles here are strange. I’m not sure just what to make of that yet.

My bad dialogue moment of zen: “No one knows… what’s behind those lyrics… the price I pay…” said while Aine and Sakuya are having sex. Because that is a seriously taxing activity to wring song lyrics out of a girl.

For the record, I gave up on Shinjo’s author commentary in the side columns. It’s always about bands I’ve never heard of, and recently, it’s covered the real-life-but-based-on-an-anime-based-on-a-manga Lucifer. I just can’t be bothered to care anymore. Even if she did name-drop Sonoko Suzuki as a GLAY spokesperson.


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