April 21, 2010
Yuki Nakaji – CMX – 2008 – 12 volumes
If it’s possible to have a big crush on a manga, I’ve got it bad for Venus in Love. It is so ridiculously happy and fun to read that I am completely beside myself while going through the volume.
It wallows in its happiness and little slice-of-life style character-focused chapters, so as a result, it’s a little slow. I can see how some might get bored of Suzuna’s constant arm flailing, or Eichi’s shy blushes, or the fact nothing substantial has happened romantically yet. There’s also not much of an overarching plot. But I’m enjoying every single page.
The main focus in this volume is the love triangle between Suzuna, Eichi, and Yuki. Suzuna and Eichi seem to have mutual crushes on one another that neither seems to be a fan of discussing, and Yuki really likes Eichi, something he’s not very shy about. I’m a big fan of how this love triangle is handled, with the unspoken feelings not getting in the way of the close friendship between Eichi and Suzuna, and how Yuki is friends with both and Suzuna doesn’t take a spiteful approach to the rivalry. The two of them fight a lot, but there’s no malice behind it.
I also like how the series seems to be keeping a small cast of characters and giving every one of them just a little bit of story time. Suzuna’s friend Hinako gets a chapter about the relationship between her and the Greek teacher, which is a little easier for me to take since everyone’s in college. Fukami, Eichi’s friend and Suzuna’s former crush, also reappears at the end of the volume for Yuki and Suzuna to ponder. And also to win a beauty pageant.
My favorite chapter was one that was very Eichi-centric, and featured him going on an archeological dig and discussing his motivations for entering that field of study. It’s an unusual topic to come up in a manga, and not only did it give Eichi just a little more depth, the slightly mushy and sentimental nature of the series made all his life’s work talk more sincere than it would have been coming from a character in another manga series.
Other chapters take slow looks at sports activities, Eichi’s brother, Yuki’s coldness towards girls, and just about anything else that might come up during a regular day at school.
This series is magical. I can’t wait to read more. It takes me completely by surprise every time I read it, thinking that it can’t maintain its happy mood for much longer.
March 5, 2010
Yuki Nakaji – CMX – 2008 – 12 volumes
As I said, I was reading this volume when I suddenly realized how it was the polar opposite of We Were There. Both are awesome romance series, but while We Were There takes the depressing path of tragedy and emotional brass tacks, Venus in Love is literally one of the cheeriest, most upbeat titles I’ve read. There’s the barest hint of drama towards the end of the volume, but even that is treated lightly and the characters mostly are awkward and scold themselves for being silly. There are plenty of romantic elements, but mostly it’s just Suzu and Eichi together having a good time.
Venus in Love is different from We Were There in that it doesn’t really examine happiness, the characters are happy because they choose to be and are doing things that they feel content with. It’s easy to relate to them, but it can only be done on a superficial level, so it’s not quite as striking as We Were There.
But the happiness isn’t the series’ only asset. There are a handful of pretty unique things about it. First and foremost, it’s set in a college. It reads like a high school romance, and it’s hard to remember that it’s a college, but all the same, it’s a campus romance. Also, time is elapsing. One year has gone by since the beginning of the series. There are other things, too. Suzu has a best friend, but rather than having her be a competitor for the boy she has a crush on, the friend has her own crush and subplot where the two of them get together. Interestingly, the crush seems to have been minimalized already, and most of the story in this volume is about Suzu and Eichi, her crush’s best friend. Eichi is also gay and completely in love with his friend, so he’s also in competition with Suzu, in a way. Except they become friends who cheer each other on, both seeming to know that the crush’s feelings lie elsewhere. I was momentarily afraid that Eichi was somehow going to turn straight to date Suzu, and Suzu definitely begins to develop feelings for him (maybe. a little.), but later, a competitor in the form of a hot new boy on campus shows up with a big crush of his own on Eichi.
Weird stuff. Amid all this, there’s donut munching, rabbit costumes, toy sales, furbies, awkward dates, awkward kisses, student/teacher relationships, and all sorts of other silliness. There aren’t really any jokes, though, which I appreciate immensely. Usually series like this are played for comedy, but this isn’t. It’s merely happy.
It’s not as good as We Were There, but I think it’s quite notable in its own way. I’ve only got one more volume, but I think the next time I see it on sale, I’m going to grab all the current volumes. It’s great stuff.
March 3, 2009
I actually really like this series, which is surprising since it’s mostly just a fluffy light read. I think the thing that gets me about it is that all the characters are happy all the time, or are in the process of trying to cheer up someone else. There are probably excessive amounts of stupid jokes being passed around, but it’s hard to begrudge the characters this since it seems to please them immensely. I’ve never seen a series with a mood as upbeat as this one, and it’s probably a good palate cleanser between volumes of Basara, where the characters often have murder in their hearts.
Anyway, yes, tennis camp, tennis practice, some bonding between Suzuna and Eichi, and a new love interest for Fukami that is neither of them. I was hoping for more of an interesting rivalry between Suzuna and Eichi since I’ve never seen a love triangle where one of the possible matches for the boy was another boy. Suzuna and Eichi don’t really seem like rivals, though. They seem… like a future couple. All signs point to yes for this, but on the other hand, Eichi is gay. How will this work? This mystery, transparent as it looks (Eichi and Suzuna will totally hook up), also piques my interest a bit.
A few downer bits are introduced, including a recent death of someone close to Eichi and… well, a random car accident. The former was actually handled quite well, since it was a real downer for Eichi and he both took the anniversary well and was supported by Suzuna. There was a nice cry-on-my-shoulder scene, which is somehow even nicer in this series since the mood is so happy all the time that even this seemed bittersweet in its way. The story did not pause for the car accident, though, which I found to be a little disturbing. Everyone smiled their way straight through that one, which I suppose was fine since it wasn’t very serious.
Venus in Love: if you don’t mind the light read, it is guaranteed to make your day a little happier.
November 3, 2008
The plot of this series was what grabbed my attention, basically a love triangle between a girl and a boy who are rivals for the same guy. Taken seriously, I thought this would make for a great premise, and I was right.
Aside from the premise, I think this series succeeds because it is extremely energetic and pleasant. There are a pair of girls and a pair of guys who wind up as friends as they all enter their first year of university. Three in the group knew each other from high school, and the main character meets the other girl at entrance exams and is the neighbor of one of the boys. These four never fight, and are usually joking and hanging out with one another. The two girls are refreshingly normal, and traits I would hate in real life (the fact that they both seem to be boy-crazy to a fault and somewhat shallow) are what make the two girls so constantly happy and joke-y. The characters do antagonize each other, but never seriously, and when they get mad at one another for teasing, they usually have a smile on their face. It’s just… really nice to see such healthy and sturdy friendships between characters like this, and their happiness is infectious.
The romance doesn’t come in until later. The main character falls in love at first sight with her neighbor’s friend, and some time is spent having her blush and be awkward around him, but not in the typical shoujo manga way. The awkwardness is done with a light touch, and you don’t feel so bad for the main character since she doesn’t seem to be seriously agonizing over it herself. It’s not until later that she realizes her neighbor is actually in love with his friend, and she makes a bigger deal out of him teasing her for her feelings when he had a crush too. It actually doesn’t linger too long on the fact that he’s gay, which is really interesting and, again, refreshing. He’s just another rival, and I love that the two of them are still friendly after this fact comes to light.
There are things about it that I don’t like, but I think that it mainly has to do with the characters being fairly shallow, something I’m sure will be fixed as the series goes on. It wasn’t absolutely fantastic, and I generally prefer a little more drama, but a drama-less love triangle like this is hard to pass up, and is really worth reading for the sheer novelty of it. I’m pretty pumped about reading the next volume.