Mai Nishikata – CMX – 2010 – 5 volumes
The shuttering of CMX meant that we miss out on the last volume of this series. There were definitely better shoujo titles available from CMX, but this one was still pretty cute, and it’s a shame that we don’t get to read the end.
This volume goes deeper into Akira’s family life when one of Akira’s father’s students shows up in Japan and demands to hear Akira play. Akira wrestles with his conscience for some time, not wanting to play for the boy, then when he is wowed by the boy’s playing, he decides to apply himself and come up with a new, powerful technique. Another story is about Akira mastering a difficult piece in a week for his aunt so that he is allowed to stay in Japan with Takami. Another story deals with Takami, her oldest brother, her bad grades, and just how much her brother and Akira really love her. The first story details a very awkward, but enjoyable date between Akira and Takami.
It’s the chapter about Takami and her brother that made this book great for me. Her brother is an extremely pushy and particularly emotionless math teacher, and tells her that if she doesn’t bring her awful grades up, she can no longer take piano lessons. Takami tries extra hard, which is very funny, and it’s nice to see Akira back off and give her the space she needs to study, while being quietly supportive from just outside her reach. And her brother winds up being extra awesome. The bonus chapter notes in this volume cover all of Takami’s brothers, but I think the oldest was my favorite after this chapter.
I also liked the German piano student, Julian. Though Akira treats him coldly (because he is a student of his father’s, but also because Julian is very familiar with Takami), he’s a pretty upbeat guy. His introduction involves him getting lost and loudly yelling for help in both English and German. He and Takami have a lot of fun together. Later, he unintentionally insults both Takami and Akira, but he’s a pretty great guy about it, apologizing, but not too much since it was mostly Takami and Akira’s faults for getting bent out of shape.
And Akira and Takami’s relationship… it’s still close, but even with the cute date at the beginning, it’s still not “official,” nor have they kissed or really… you know, done anything. The book also ends on a cliffhanger: is Julian’s playing more powerful, or is Akira’s? I don’t have any doubts about where this story is going, but I still regret not being able to read the final volume.
CMX was wonderful for publishing the most adorable shoujo series. There are cuter books than this (try Stolen Hearts), funnier ones (try My Darling Miss Bancho), books with more likable characters (I liked Lapis Lazuli Crown), better romances, more fun plots, et cetera. But Venus Capriccio is still a fun series for any shoujo fan, and if shoujo is your cup of tea and you happen across it in a bargain bin or used book store at some point, don’t hesitate to pick it up.
Mai Nishikata – CMX – 2009 – 5 volumes
This series is adorable. It isn’t the height of CMX shoujo cuteness (I’d argue for Stolen Hearts), but it’s pretty close, and for a lot of the same reasons. There’s a solid couple (or maybe almost-couple) that’s really affectionate to each other. This series is interesting in that the male romantic interest is not only the driving force in the relationship, but is also much younger than Takami. There’s also a great music theme to all the stories, which works for just about everything in this volume.
How about a story where Takami waitresses at a club? Akira signs up for the same job to protect her from drunks, but it also happens to be the club where he plays piano sometimes. We get to learn about Akira’s past and piano playing habits courtesy of a piano competition that everyone pressures him to enter. And a new piano teacher at Akira and Takami’s school puts pressure on Akira to man up or lose Takami to the newcomer.
It’s episodic, but for character-focused series like this, it works, especially when the characters are so likable. Takami’s tomboyishness and soft edges make her a lot of fun to watch, and she is equally likely to blow up at Akira or realize that he’s been doing something wonderful to protect her. Akira’s very cool and rather smooth for such a youngster, but it’s fun to see the new teacher Oda rankle him, or to see his soft spot for Takami. It’s also touching when you learn his family situation and how much playing in contests truly terrifies him and why.
The piano contest takes up a big chunk of the volume, and it’s a great story for both Akira and Takami since we can see Takami get excited and hone her skills, while Akira grows more and more terrified of failure as the day draws closer. They support each other, open their hearts, and do the usual shoujo manga thing. What can I say? It works really well here, again, because Akira and Takami are likable and easy to identify with.
I’ve already read the third volume (I must’ve been in a bad mood, because I don’t remember liking it this much or I would have certainly picked up more), but I do have the fourth volume in my to-read pile. Unfortunately, CMX closed up shop before releasing the fifth and final volume, which is a shame. This is another great series that will go unfinished.
Mai Nishikata – CMX – 2010 – 5 volumes
I reviewed this for the weekly Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, so you can check out my review over there.
Man, I don’t know what it is about shoujo manga from CMX. It’s like it has to be good. It’s the law, or something. Even something like this, which doesn’t excel or make itself stand out in any way is still a very sweet, engaging story with cute one-shot chapters and well-developed characters. I’m still waiting for the second volume to come in, but it doesn’t seem like it’s super-important to read the volumes in order.