Skip Beat 30

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

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

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

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.

Skip Beat 26

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2012 – 29+ volumes

It would be hard to top the excellent Valentine’s Day story we’ve had in the volumes before this. Skip Beat has its work cut out for it. Luckily, after 26 volumes of some of the most awesome shoujo manga I’ve ever read, I know it’s up to the task.

This volume is a little underwhelming, though, since it’s mostly exposition for the next storyline. But it’s exposition that will pay off in a big way later. As part of a Love Me assignment, Kyoko is paired up with Ren, who has to remain in character for a difficult role in an upcoming movie. Ren and Kyoko are, in real life, walking around as a pair of super-goth and very intimidating siblings. Better still, in character, the two are supposed to dote on one another.

This is about as great as it sounds. Lory is the instigator, of course, and even with only a couple chapters of in-character story at the end of the volume, we’ve already been treated to a hotel room with one bed and a round of clothes shopping, not to mention Ren’s inner commentary about how astoundingly difficult this all is.

As much as it sounds like a regular shoujo manga set-up (and it is), it’s Skip Beat’s sense of humor that makes all this far better than it should be. There is a little romance, of course, but most of the pleasure here comes from the fact that Kyoko is absolutely flabbergasted by all this. She’s dressed in a short leather skirt and plunging neckline, has to be mean, and has to fawn all over “big brother” Ren. She’s… a bit unsure of her acting ability in all this.

In a strange scene towards the end of the book, she is interpreting what appears to be Ren’s frustrations as exasperation with the fact she is not acting little sister Setsuka properly. The story is told from Kyoko’s point of view at this point, and it appears to be correct in context. But just before this, Ren is having trouble keeping his inner “kind of the night” in check, and I was reading his frustrations as more… anger at the fact that Kyoko has to dress and act this way at all. It’s a little strange. But from either point of view, it’s very funny stuff.

Oh, Skip Beat. I can’t even imagine all the great places this story is going to go. I can’t wait until the next volume.

Skip Beat 25

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2011 – 28+ volumes

This book was so good that I went back and re-read the series from the beginning in two days. Skip Beat is a force to be reckoned with.

But really, this one is probably the best volume yet. And it’s going to be hard for me to talk about, because I really don’t want to spoil it. But the volume opens with a confrontation with Sho, and ends with Ren getting jealous and taking action. Kyoko is, of course, in the middle. Misunderstandings get sorted out. New misunderstandings are created.

Only Skip Beat can take what is usually a sweet, but noteworthy moment in any shoujo series and make it happen twice in one volume, and somehow humiliate all parties involved both times. And really, it’s Nakamura’s ability to completely shame her characters, to make fun of them relentlessly and exploit their quirks, that makes Skip Beat so much fun to read.

There’s still plenty of funny mixed in here, but both events are… almost no laughing matter. And even with all the humor mixed in with the drama and romance and ridiculous rage, the volume still ends on a really sweet, positive note that almost makes you think “welllllll… maybe Kyoko is starting to come around.”

Because seriously, Ren is too cool a guy to keep humiliating again and again like this. Of course, that’s part of the fun. But still.

And if my hints aren’t vague enough for you, here’s a concrete plot point: Kyoko finally explains what her Valentine’s Day intentions towards Ren are. It’s, unusually, a little more than you could hope for in this series.

But every single page of this volume was delightful. I can’t stress how much fun this series is every single time. I have yet to be disappointed by anything, really.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Skip Beat 24

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2011 – 28+ volumes

I read this months ago, but it drifted to the bottom of my review pile. Every time I pick it up, I re-read it instead of writing about it. I can’t help but love and adore Skip Beat, and this is one of the best volumes. It’s one of my absolute favorite current series.

What makes this one of the best volumes? Well, the Valentine Wars. In a series where the heroine sets out to hate (in the most hilarious way possible) every guy who may have a crush on her, it’s hard not to revel in a Valentine’s Day storyline.

To make matters worse, Ren’s birthday is also on February 13th, so there’s a Ren storyline wrapped up in here. Of course, with Valentine’s Day as the theme, Ren is inevitably involved (sadly, he doesn’t get to give her a present, because that’s not how Japan works. In fact, I don’t think he could give her a present on White Day, which is Valentine’s Day for girls, unless Kyoko gave him something on V-day).

But Valentine’s Day isn’t just Ren. Because this is a super-evil shoujo manga, and that would be too easy. Ren is merely the handsome boyfriend candidate. The good one. There’s also Sho, the asshole that dumped Kyoko back in volume one, and Reino, another huge jerk from somewhere ten volumes ago. Both of these are bad men. Both are also trying as hard as they can to court Kyoko, mostly out of spite.

I love that expensive flowers and chocolates, homemade stuff, and other Valentines-related hoops, are jumped through all in the name of spite in this series. God is this good stuff.

Also a nice touch: The chocolates that Kyoko makes for Reino say “you go to hell” and have the word “hate” inscribed on them, as well as crying dog faces. This is why no comic is better than Skip Beat.

Also great: When Ren is in a full-blown rage, he hides it with a beatific, sparkling gentlemanly smile.

If I keep going, I’m just going to keep listing the funniest scenes in the book. Suffice to say, there’s humor as well as romantic stuff to look forward to, since not only is Ren on the cusp of not getting a Valentine’s gift, there’s also Reino showing up to accept one, and Sho acting childish, and all sorts of adorable/hateful romance to enjoy in a way that only Skip Beat can provide.

I LOVE THIS. Truthfully, I finally reviewed this volume because I told myself I couldn’t read the new one until I did. I love this series to pieces.

Skip Beat 23

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2011 – 28+ volumes

I like this series so much! It really is one of my favorites. This volume is a few months old at this point, but whenever I pick it up to review it, I re-read it and run out of time to write it up, because I’m sad like that. The next volume just came out though, and I’ve read this volume enough times that I can’t put it off anymore.

But I still read it again today.

It’s just so mean-spirited in an extremely happy way. I’m not quite sure how to describe it aside from that. People make fun of Kyoko, both to her face and in their thoughts, almost constantly, but Kyoko also isn’t the kind of person to take bullying lying down, or to change her habits because people think she’s silly. I love that she blatantly ignores things she doesn’t want to hear. I love that she can barely contain these depressing, truly frightening personae that make up her personality and basically brushes off her disturbing behavior whenever asked. And yet, for all that, she’s still basically a happy teenage girl that’s overly polite to one another and just wants to be an actress. That Skip Beat can pull all this off is what makes it so special.

This volume contains one of the most disturbing bullying scenes I’ve ever seen in a manga. It’s truly uncomfortable stuff, and Kyoko is at the head of it. Chiori continues to let her feelings of resentment towards Kyoko fester and manifest themselves in minor bullying incidents, but things come to a head when she pushes Kyoko down the stairs and injures her hand. Instead of telling the director about Chiori’s actions, Kyoko decides to take a much more disturbing path for her revenge. She humiliates Chiori while on the set of their drama, in character, in front of all the other actors and crew. She then blackmails her into savagely bullying one of the other actresses in her place. All while in character. Chiori gets very ugly in this scene. But none of it looks out of place in the drama they’re shooting.

It’s a really chilling, eerie scene. Unfortunately, most of the savage nature, and the lesson about bullying, is taken back at the end (because I don’t think shoujo manga are allowed to say that worse bullying is the solution to a situation where you’re being pushed around). But all the same, it was a horrible scene. And also satisfying in some ways, because Kyoko rarely lashes out at people like that, and it’s satisfying to see that she can give as well as she gets.

This Chiori storyline hasn’t been one of my favorites in the series though, aside from this bullying scene (I hate admitting I really enjoyed that, but I promise, in the context of the series, it’s really good). The next storyline promises to be a real winner, though.

It’s Valentine’s day. I’ve read enough Valentine’s day stories to last me a lifetime, but this one is different. So many of the characters in this series are frighteningly against the holiday. Others, like the director of LME, are frighteningly for it. The scary guy from Vie Ghoul is back. Also, it’s Ren’s birthday, and if there’s anything I want to see worse than Kyoko giving Ren any sort of present, I don’t know what it is.

So, yes. Skip Beat is one of the most fun shoujo series I think I’ve ever read. It’s quickly becoming one of my all-time favorites, and I am ridiculously excited whenever a new volume arrives. Hopefully I can write up 24 before volume 25 arrives, but I may have to read it several times before that happens.

Skip Beat 22

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2010 – 26+ volumes

This volume forgoes romance, instead focusing on Kyoko’s acting and a rivalry with other girls on the set of her new drama, specifically a girl who really has it out for Kyoko.

Last time, Kyoko has a hard time on the set of her new drama since she isn’t really “feeling” her mean girl character, which causes the other teen girl actresses to snub her and the director to give her a talking to. So she goes to Ren, and comes back with a kick-ass bully persona that I almost think she should hold on to, since for some reason she doesn’t really command respect as she is (though she has it in her to turn that situation around, always, it would be much easier for her if she simply just… exuded power, as this persona does). The grudge gets out to play, and all the actresses that were making fun of her more-or-less grovel at her feet by the end of the day. And then Kyoko makes friends with them and they eat hot udon noodles outside in the cold winter.

She really is one of the best shoujo heroines ever. I love her so much. She’s kind, but also quite mean-spirited and all about promoting herself in a positive way. She’s very serious about what she does, and works hard at it, rather than being innately talented. I forgive her unrealistic rise in fame, since it would be boring to slog through three years of obscurity, but it really does show how she works hard to get what she wants.

One of the actresses really, really hates Kyoko and is insanely jealous of her current popularity. There’s some pretty mean-spirited stuff coming from her, and Kyoko/Bully Kyoko has a harder time fighting back since this girl has a “nice girl” image. It gets downright vicious at the end of the volume, and there’s a nasty cliffhanger, but I have no doubt the two will be friends by the end of the story.

I really, really wish this came out faster, or something. I know we’re mostly caught up with Japan (or were, which is why the releases slowed down, I think), but even if we suddenly got four volumes in a row, something tells me that not much would happen story-wise, and I would still be insanely desperate for the next volume. I don’t know what it is, this series is just a lot of hilarious, spiteful fun. I love it to pieces, and it’s still one of my current favorites.

Skip Beat 21

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2010 – 25+ volumes

After the last volume, full of all sorts of fun and girly stuff, the momentum slows way down this time, and the plot switches over to a story where Kyoko has a lot of problems. She starts shooting her new drama, but things get off on the wrong foot when she shows up late for the first reading, then things go even more south when she can’t act the part of a normal high school girl and hates being told to act the bully parts like Mio, since the character Natsu isn’t anywhere near that evil. Plus, the other actresses on set bully Kyoko, but this doesn’t really seem to get to her as much as the acting stuff.

Ren is consulted at several points, and there’s a great scene where he elaborates in a fantastic way on the present he gave Kyoko last volume, but for the most part, this is all about Kyoko semi-failing, not a common theme in Skip Beat.

Well, it sort of is, because you have to have a lot of this sort of story in order for Kyoko to triumph and bounce back. Which I suspect will happen next volume. But she is brought pretty low in this volume, and I think that it’s nice that Kyoko doesn’t succeed immediately every time. She also has to sit on failure for the entire volume here, and while it makes for some depressing reading, it does do wonders to make Kyoko seem like less of an innately gifted princess, since she’s working hard to fix her problems here.

I also liked that Natsu wasn’t a role that Kyoko liked, or was even good at. Mio wasn’t what she wanted to do either, but she was good at Mio. Not so much Natsu. Again, I’m sure that’ll change next volume, but it was still nice to see here.

And as depressing as this was, Kyoko herself stayed strangely positive, not seeing failure, but only looking for a chance to improve. All the retakes and ill opinions make her seek out advice from Ren, and make her really think about how to fix things. I also like that she’s absolutely immune to bullying. It’s not so much that she doesn’t care about the opinions of those around her, it’s just that she seems to know that they’re wrong.

Still awesome stuff, and still one of the most addictive shoujo series I’m reading. Even at its most depressing, this is still high on my list of positive, pick-me-up reads.


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