Skip Beat 33

May 16, 2015

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2014 – 34+ volumes

Here’s a TMI story, because I’ve been reading and writing about Skip Beat today, and I figured a change of pace for myself is in order.

So, when I was a freshman in college, my fun activity every week was walking down to Borders and buying myself a volume of manga (I had never lived close to a bookstore before, let alone one that sold manga).  $10 was a ridiculous luxury to spend on something like that every week, and I felt guilty.  So I decided to start reviewing it, in order to extend the value of the $10.  I quickly found out that reviewing the volumes worked a lot better if I didn’t read more than one volume of a series at a time (the details blur together that way), and I felt like I wasted the money unless I did review every single volume.

Flash forward about 15 years (shut up), and I find myself with a ridiculous compulsion.  I cannot bring myself to read the next volume of a series until I’ve reviewed the last one.  I tried to do this, because my to-read pile is terrifying and I wasn’t updating my site last year.  I figured I could at least enjoy the books I had.  But I can’t. I have to write about each one in between.

I will usually mention it if I do read consecutive volumes, because it is a ridiculous luxury, and I have to really be enjoying a series in order to convince myself to do it.  It happens occasionally with BL, because the series are so short.  It feels a bit naughty to binge, but I like re-reading the short series later when I write them up.  Even so, there have been very few.

Series that aren’t BL that I read consecutive volumes of?  In the last 15 years… Blue Exorcist, maybe Basara or Please Save My Earth.  And Skip Beat.  I can remember the day I caught myself up on the series.  I bought the first two, loved them, then bought the next seven and sat in front of the heater and read them in a day.  I’ve re-read this series three or four times over the years, which I can also say absolutely never happens, especially when a series is this long.  I can remember where I was when I read many of the volumes in the series the first time.  I love it so much, and it means a lot to me.

I say this because I had a three-volume marathon today.  I haven’t marathoned this series in a long time, but what’s going to happen is that I’m going to re-read all thirty-three volumes on Saturday, because this shit is ridiculous.

Kyoko and Ren… are having a conversation at the end of the last volume.  Kyoko rightly assesses the fact Ren is being a little bitch about this conversation, and then starts dominating it.  She is in character as Setsu, Ren… is not in character.  I think Kyoko isn’t really sure who’s she’s talking to (it’s Kuon, but she doesn’t know him.  She only knows it’s not Ren Tsuruga or Cain Heel), but she rolls with it as Setsu.  Things get… steamy.

Skip Beat – the manga where one of the main characters is always making a face as if the other is going to kill them.

Then, Kyoko breaks character as Setsu to state her opinion to Ren.  Her face, and her words, are downright cold-blooded.  I loved it.

Things never stop being weird.  I think Ren has… kind of gotten comfortable with Kyoko, and starts abusing the Heel Siblings’ relationship to get close to her.  He also starts picking up on her anxiety, and trying hard to help her feel better.  Does he know she’s close to falling in love?

One fantastic technique in this volume is that Kyoko is obviously forced to act as Setsu.  But she is warring with her emotions, and whenever Kyoko Mogami’s personality and wants make themselves known, there is a panel of her plain face in between the ones where she’s wearing Setsu’s makeup to indicate she’s not acting.

There is a great scene at the end of the volume where Kyoko imagines what Ren would say if he knew she was falling in love with him.  There’s a great panel where he’s telling her “I feel so betrayed… You have no willpower… and you’re slutty, too.  You’re not Kyoko anymore, I’ll call you Ho-ko instead.”

I feel like I want to cross-stitch it, put it on my wall, attribute it to Ren, and call it the greatest line in shoujo manga history.

Ho-ko. Because she fell in love with him.

Anyway.  At the end of the volume, we are finally making progress in Ren and Kyoko’s relationship.  Maybe.  Unless Kyoko takes it all back next time.

But the scene at the beginning of the volume was worth reading the entire series over and over again.

Skip Beat 32

April 12, 2015

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2013 – 34+ volumes

Oh man, the Sho volume didn’t disappoint.  I think Sho is a terrible human being, but I can’t help but love his effect on Kyoko and Ren.  He gets both of them stirred up so much.  The way he was teasing Kyoko at the beginning of the volume was priceless.  I especially loved the fact he bought the last of the rice balls he knew she would like, and then taunted her with one.

But really, the clear winner in that scene was the look on Kyoko’s face when she saw Ren. There is nothing quite like the look of terror that Yoshiki Nakamura can conjure on her good days.

Sho in general is very funny.  That his manager can peg his bizarre behavior so accurately is still quite amusing (his terrifying deity faces when he talks to Kyoko, the fact she guessed correctly where he went to see Kyoko, how he knew she was there, and exactly what his reward was for the service, et cetera).

Meanwhile, Ren is sort of the winner/loser here.  He has a great scene with Kojima at the beginning of the volume, where he seems to (cheerily?) imply he’s interested in Kyoko.  Apparently Kojima doesn’t know this, and isn’t actually trolling him?  The look on his face was cute, at any rate.

Later, he’s so pissed off that he can’t even keep up his professional “Ren Tsuruga” personality, and people start to notice.  While this is kind of cool, it’s also annoying, since there’s no reason for him to be rocked so hardcore professionally by jealousy over Sho.  Jealousy he doesn’t even ask Kyoko about directly.

“Kuon” does make himself known more and more, which is the point of the Heel Siblings storyline.  I do like that Ren has a persona he hides away from people, one who is kind of a blunt asshole, the same way Kyoko has a persona she keeps from most of her professional contacts (the blunt asshole part is, of course, the Shotaro persona, but there’s also the crazy girly side that nobody knows about).  They kind of match, although I’m having a hard time warming up to Ren’s harsher side.  Then again, we haven’t seen very much of him yet.

The end of this volume though!!! While I am angry that so much pressure was put on Kyoko over a phone call she didn’t even answer, the result.

!!!

I LOVE SKIP BEAT SO MUCH.

Skip Beat 31

March 18, 2015

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2013 – 34+ volumes

As per usual, it’s hard for me to be fair and reasonable about this series, as my passion burns with the energy of a thousands suns.  My fair and reasonable opinion is that this is great, very funny shoujo, and any shoujo fans should probably give it a try.  Even 31 volumes in, there are still awesome character quirks thrown in for no reason.  One of my favorites here is the energy that Yashiro puts into creepily eavesdropping on the conversation between Ren and Kijima.  Pick it up, and start from the beginning.  Do yourself a favor.

Now I’m just going to fangirl for awhile.

THIS VOLUME WAS SO BORING.  I’ve been waiting three years for the good stuff!  This is Ren acting out in his role as Cain again, and everyone freaking out, and then everyone holding their heads, because they don’t know what’s wrong with Ren and/or whether he will win his internal battle.  WE’VE BEEN READING THIS FOR SEVERAL VOLUMES NOW.  I’m tired of the Cain/Setsu plot!  I want the story to move on to something else, like maybe Kyoko or Ren actually opening up to one another.  It’s been thirty-one freaking volumes.

There were two bright spots, though.  One was the e-mail conversation between Kijima (who is obviously trolling Ren at the end of the volume) and Kyoko.  Everything about this was great.  Especially Kijima preying on Kyoko’s love for cute things, and Kyoko’s war with herself about how cute she could be in an e-mail to a senior actor.

The other bright spot was NEXT VOLUME (hopefully) IS A SHO VOLUME.  I live for these.

I am sorry not sorry for the emphasis.  This volume was recently excavated from the depths of my to-read pile, and I have the luxury of three volumes of this series to read.  My heart will burst with joy.

Skip Beat 30

February 9, 2013

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2013 – 30+ volumes

This series. I’ve been reading only a handful of manga volumes lately, but this series is one of them. It’s my favorite, and for good reason. Every single volume of this makes me laugh. The characters just never stop going through hilarious trials.

This time around, honestly, there’s not a whole lot going on. Kyoko and Ren are still playing the brother/sister pair of Cain and Setsu Heel. Ren’s past comes back to haunt him, and we get glimpses of a hoodlum lifestyle as he lets himself get carried away during a “staged” fight with a castmember he isn’t getting along with. Kyoko wonders if and how Ren was in character during the fight, though the thought that he was “someone else” instead of Cain or BJ (the character in the movie) terrifies her. It terrifies Ren, too, and he starts getting a little… close to Kyoko. In a way she isn’t comfortable with. And that’s pretty hilarious. Kyoko winds up having to call someone to get advice about Ren. We get to see Yashiro in the buff, for some reason. Well, the reason is that this series is awesome, and just throws in things like that sometimes. And that’s good enough for me.

Actually, this volume is a little less funny than other volumes in the series, but it’s still pretty enjoyable. I do complain that the story and relationship isn’t advancing fast enough in this series, but when it does, here I am complaining it’s just not funny. We get healthy doses of Ren’s past (which has been doled out sparingly thus far) and a closeness between Ren and Kyoko, which is also something that hasn’t really been happening much. I do like that, but the latter still isn’t quite what one has in mind for the typical shoujo couple. Still, it’s Skip Beat, and this series does its own thing.

The rundown this time is pretty thorough, and I don’t have too much else to add that I haven’t already said about this series. It’s awesome, and one of the best and freshest shoujo series I’m reading right now. Even 30 volumes in, I’m still dying to read every volume as soon as it arrives at my house. I’m never disappointed. And, happily, it’s being reprinted in the new 3-in-1 edition from the beginning. You’ll need three volumes at a stretch when you start this series, too. It’s good stuff.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Skip Beat 29

October 26, 2012

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2012 – 31+ volumes

Skip Beat is my favorite right now. Period. Every volume brings me great joy. I will gush for approximately 500 more words about this volume. You should be prepared for that.

A big chunk of the beginning of the volume concerns the wrap party for Dark Moon. Also, whether or not Kyoko has fallen for Ren. You know. Nothing big. She also agrees to date the Dark Moon co-star, who is portrayed as sort of a ladies’ man. And Ren may or may not make her promise to consult with him on all things having to do with men from now on. And Kyoko may have a hard time figuring out whether he’s acting, or is actually interested in her, or is just like that with everyone.

My heart! And yet! Still not a couple! Shame on you two!

The end of the volume goes back to Cain and Setsuka Heel, this time on the set of Cain’s movie. To be fair, Setsuka’s excuse to be on set is pretty flimsy and shoujo-tastic, but the setup is so good I just don’t care, it’s great to see the two of them acting together. Ren makes a fantastic BJ evil-type character, and it’s a lot of fun seeing him channel the tough guy persona (which is hinted to be his real personality, I guess) to keep Kyoko safe from the prying eyes of costars. And I love love LOVE seeing Kyoko’s reaction to all of this. She’s just so much fun, and all of it is good for a laugh.

I guess that’s probably enough gushing for now (far short of my 500 words). I still don’t really have anything substantial to say, other than this series is my absolute favorite shoujo manga running right now for very good reasons, romance and funny being at the very top. Seriously. Take advantage of the new 3-in-1s, or go back through the internet and read all the gushing that every single person that reads it does (to be fair, some people are turned off by the page layouts, which can stretch out forever sometimes). It’s great, and I’ll stand by that.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Skip Beat 28

June 21, 2012

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2012 – 30+ volumes

Again, this series doesn’t even make it out of the box before I’ve read it cover-to-cover. This is my absolute favorite shoujo series running in English at the moment. Aside from some wonky art composition, there’s very little to dislike about this series, and if you haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, I highly recommend the new 3-in-1 volumes that are being reissued. 3 volumes still isn’t a big enough chunk of Skip Beat to satisfy, and you’ll want all 28 once you start. Then again, you may be disappointed when you get this far and realize that the main couple still isn’t together, but that is the blessing and the curse of Skip Beat. It’s still good, despite all that.

This is a more serious volume, with an accident for Ren at the beginning triggering more serious thoughts for both Ren and Kyoko. Ren has to deal with and conquer his past, which is still up in the air as of the end of the volume. And Kyoko has to ask herself what’s the matter with Ren, that he’s taking all of this so hard. Plus… she admits to herself that the locks are falling off the box. I’m sure this isn’t going anywhere in a hurry, it being Skip Beat and all, but I’m looking forward to the next volume like nobody’s business all the same.

This one is slow, and there’s a lot about Ren’s past here. Incredibly, it goes on for a whole volume without telling us a whole lot about the people in Ren’s life, or how he got to be a delinquent. Annoying.

But there are a lot of sweet scenes between Ren and Kyoko. It’s Kyoko that helps Ren after the accident, and Kyoko that helps him through the tough mental blocks. Again, it’s not nearly as funny as some of the best parts of the series, but this is a relatively serious bit of story, so it’s appropriate the humor has been toned down. There’s still some choice moments, though. Ren still teases Kyoko quite a bit, and there’s a great scene in a supermarket where (I think) he feigns ignorance at the quality of chicken and decides a super-expensive brand is better based on price. There’s stuff like that slipped in there, and even some cute stuff in Ren’s flashbacks (I was fond of the rooster named Brian), but mostly it’s very serious and sad.

But it’s still Skip Beat, and I still loved every page. The last few pages are cruel, and make me want the next volume badly. But I would have wanted it anyway. I know they still aren’t going to get together, but I want to be lead on, and mostly, I want to laugh at Kyoko and Ren’s mutual humiliation at the hands of Yoshiki Nakamura. That is the beauty of Skip Beat.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Skip Beat 27

April 25, 2012

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2012 – 30+ volumes

Seriously, Skip Beat. If you get any more awesome, my heart will stop in the middle of the next volume. I don’t even know how it does it. Ren and Kyoko still aren’t a couple, and it’s been twenty-seven damn volumes. But I don’t care. I’ve read almost thirty volumes of this shoujo manga, and the main characters still haven’t hooked up, and I don’t care. Because every single volume of this series is better than the last. I mean it. There is nothing like the pure, unadulterated awesome that is a new volume of Skip Beat. I can’t convey the depths of girly joy that every page brings to my heart.

This is the continuation of the Cain and Setsuka Heel story from last volume. Kyoko and Ren have to pretend to be a pair of creepy siblings in order to keep Ren’s new role top secret. Not only does this provide a lot of situations where it seems like the two aren’t even acting anymore (Ren is particularly guilty of this, and his line “spending money on you is the one pleasure I have besides acting” was superb), but there are also wonderfully embarrassing domestic scenes, like when Kyoko walks in on a naked Ren in a shower. I mean, all shoujo manga do it. But it’s usually a throwaway joke where, for whatever reason, it’s the guy’s fault for being naked. Here, Kyoko is so embarrassed she wants to die, but she also has to hide it since Setsuka wouldn’t be embarrassed about walking in on Cain. After having an extremely scream-y internal monologue for awhile, she then begins to berate herself for not taking a good look at Ren Tsuruga during the only chance she would have. This is very funny, but also a little out-of-character, since Kyoko doesn’t really think of Ren that way. But this is all inside her head, and she stays true to Setsuka and doesn’t let anything show in front of Ren. Ren gets extremely depressed about this, thinking that Kyoko’s lack of interest just proves that she doesn’t see him as a man.

There’s a great scene later, too, when Ren imagines having to take a bunch of grief from an excited Yashiro, who would want to know all the details about living and sleeping in the same room with Kyoko, even as a role. This doesn’t happen, and later, Yashiro simply pities him, which makes Ren even more depressed than Kyoko’s lack of reaction to seeing him naked.

But it’s the end of the book… it has one of those scenes that only Skip Beat can do, and it’s the real magic of the series. Kyoko is walking through a crowd of people with a coworker, who is a more established celebrity. After some discussion, Kyoko admits that she can still walk through a big crowd by herself, despite being a little famous, because she’s so plain, and that dressed in her role for the drama nobody would recognize her. Her coworker stares for a minute, and mutters “fairy” out loud. Later, the monologue goes on to explain that the coworker is genuinely impressed with Kyoko’s talent for looking and acting completely different, to the point of being unrecognizable, with each role. But in the heat of the moment, Kyoko gets excited and thinks that there might be a fairy over her shoulder, because she believes in them and that’s what she does. She gets excited for a minute, then spots a crowd of people and assumes they are looking at the fairy. But as she gathers to gawk, Ren Tsuruga steps out of a car in the distance, on the set of something he’s filming. As her coworker looks up to Kyoko as a magic, face-changing being, so Kyoko looks up to Ren, except she really believes in magic. This is made even better by the fact that, unbeknownst to Kyoko, Ren is the fairy prince from her childhood, the one that told her that he was a fairy and caused her to believe in them to the present day.

I don’t know if I’m adequately describing it. The whole thing is just all sorts of awesome. And really, it is what makes Skip Beat so fantastic. It’s absolutely the best shoujo series coming out right now.

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