Papillon 5

June 19, 2011

Miwa Ueda – Del Rey – 2010 – 8 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 5-6

It’s important to note that I read this after a 10-volume Sensual Phrase marathon. These two series are very similar (shoujo drama drama drama), the differences are that Sensual Phrase is smuttier and more over-the-top, whereas Papillon is… a bit more mean-spirited, maybe. The two shouldn’t really be compared, but since I read them back-to-back, I’m going to do it anyway.

I say that Papillon is more mean-spirited because a lot of Papillon’s drama comes from conflict between the twin sisters Hana and Ageha, and Hana uses a lot of deception and other underhanded tactics to cause trouble. Someone close acting like your worst enemy is also a theme in Ueda’s other series, Peach Girl, and it’s an effective source of drama. The ultimate twin diss, dressing up like your sister and seducing her boyfriend, comes into play here. Hana also opens other cans of worms, such as stirring up an unstable girl from Kyuu’s past, then pushing her to the breaking point after being told not to.

The thing that makes Papillon a little different is the way it examines the drama, and uses the characters to work out the issues, rather than just letting them get too messy and out-of-hand. At the end of the fifth volume, for instance, Ueda discusses how projection works, and how you can use it to identify others projecting onto you, and how you project onto others. The characters really talk about their feelings more than other shoujo manga. It helps that Kyuu-chan is a school counselor, too, but he’s not flawless. One of the chapters looks at the way he was feeling jealous and insecure, and using the line “I’m willing to step out of the way of Ageha finds a boy her own age” to hide his own heartbreak.

But since this is the author of Peach Girl, it’s not without its insane drama, and that’s why I read these types of stories. One of the things I was really looking forward to, since volume one, happens here. I knew immediately there would be a scene where Hana would dress like Ageha and seduce Ageha’s boyfriend, and Ageha would walk in during the middle. And then there would be a twinfight. I mean, you can’t write this type of story with a pair of backstabbing twins and not do that, right? Well, here’s the payoff. I know I was satisfied.

How about an old, amnesiac girlfriend? A scene where one twin wishes the other would disappear, only to have her get hit by a car? A cliffhanger where someone gets pushed down the stairs? Love affirmation on both sides of the Ageha/Kyuu relationship? I love this stuff. And I still get it, even in a series where Ueda is doing a pretty good job at looking at contemporary teen issues and talking through them. I like that I can have both.

Is it as good as Peach Girl? Well, it’s not nearly as much fun to read, but it probably is the better series, what with all the good stuff mixed in. I do hope that Del Rey or Kodansha can deliver an omnibus for the last two volumes, because I’d hate to be left hanging, and it is a great series. I hope to see more from Ueda in the future.

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