Crown of Love 4

January 27, 2011

Yun Kouga – Viz – 2009 – 4 volumes

I liked this series in all of its melodrama, simply because I loved the way it wore its heart on its sleeve all the way through. It started out as an exercise in closely examining the feelings that Hisayoshi has for Rima. It followed the ups and downs of his pursuit, and not much else. It’s been a rough road, and I can’t say that it comes to an overly-dramatic conclusion here, but I did like the way everything worked itself out. I loved following the characters in their gentle relationship dance through all four volumes.

This volume… focuses more on Rima, actually. She comes to terms with her feelings for her teacher/sempai, and realizes that she may have squandered her last and best chance with Hisayoshi. Hisayoshi feels more or less the same, since she turned down his ultimatum, and both are too afraid to contact the other. We get to see a lot of eloquent moping on both sides. In most other series, this would be boring, but both Rima and Hisayoshi make for interesting studies, and you really get caught up in their hand-wringing and soul-searching.

I was surprised I wound up liking Rima as much as I did. It’s hard to get behind her in this final volume since she’s been rejecting Hisayoshi rather directly and cruelly through all four volumes, so why should the reader feel bad when she finally decides she might like to give him a chance, after she’s been more-or-less rejected by her first choice? But the way Kouga takes us into her head really works, and getting to see her side of the story helps a lot, too. It keeps her from being a simple, one-dimensional frigid type.

I also like the rather sparse artwork and wonderful compositions, which maintain their quality through all four volumes. Sometimes the character designs make it difficult to tell genders and characters apart, but the spareness also seems to go well with the intense dialogue. It makes things more empty and earnest.

While the fact that the series is mostly just a character/relationship study without much going on might turn a lot of people off, I thought it did a wonderful job with what it set out to accomplish, and might be worth a look for people looking for a bit of shoujo melodrama. I’d also suggest it to fans of Loveless, Kouga’s other and more popular series. I find Loveless to be too creepy for my taste, but this takes some of the things I like about it and makes it into a significantly less creepy series.

Crown of Love 3

July 15, 2010

Yun Koga – Viz – 2010 – 4 volumes

Reading this and Gestalt together is really strange, because the two couldn’t be more different. Gestalt has very bold characters, touches of comedy, is a fantasy series, and can be very unsubtle about some things. Crown of Love is a romance with a totally subtle, subdued flavor I have yet to run across in any other shoujo manga.

I think the thing I love most about it is that it is full-bore romance without being either too comedic or too melodramatic. It simply is. The characters deal with the situations in a very straightforward way, and it’s also the only romance manga where rejection is so eloquent. Rima’s persistence in completely shooting Hisayoshi down and stepping all over his feelings in the plainest, most non-melodramatic way possible is compelling.

It is a little long-winded. This volume involves a lot of characters simply talking about the nature of love and relationships. Hisayoshi’s relationship with his parents deteriorates further at the beginning of this volume, and the characters discuss the nature of the parent-child relationship as we see not only Hisayoshi make up with his father, but Rima make up with her mother as well.

Rima is a very lonely girl, something else that’s emphasized here, and her rejection of Hisayoshi’s affections becomes increasingly ridiculous as it becomes clear that she’s extremely lonely and has no friends. That’s not to say she should jump on whoever offers to be her boyfriend first, but at this point Hisayoshi seems to have more than proven himself. Of course, there are the stalker issues, since he also follows her around a lot, but he is the most non-creepy stalker I’ve ever seen.

The reflections on love do begin to get ridiculous, and it’s silly when a high school student launches into yet another long-winded explanation on their feelings, but on the other hand, everything they say rings true, and it brings depth to what would otherwise be a very vanilla story. I like the vanilla flavor in this case, though, and I think it’s… well beautiful, both in story and execution. There’s nothing I can pinpoint that it excels at other than mood, but it does that very, very well. And it’s so much less creepy than Loveless.

I just can’t believe Loveless, Gestalt, and Crown of Love were all drawn by the same person. Part of me wants to pick up Earthian just to see how weird and divergent that is from the others.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Crown of Love 2

April 8, 2010

Yun Kouga – Viz – 2010 – 4 volumes

I am ridiculously fond of this series.  While the plot summaries make it sound like a pretty typical showbiz shoujo manga, it has an excellent sense of mood.  Melancholy and melodrama are the orders of the day where most romances, even dramas, usually have a much lighter tone.  I think it differentiates itself because the characters take everything so seriously.  Hisayoshi loves Rima, and he’s not taking “no” for an answer.  This would be creepy in any other series, but he backs off when she calls him out on it, and he finds himself a supportive, non-creepy role in her life that keeps him very close.

Hisayoshi is very serious about his love for Rima, and he’s also prone to pointing out the way adoration and “like” in other people isn’t the same thing as love.  I hope the themes are examined in more detail, because calling attention to something like that in a series with celebrity characters could get very interesting.

Aside from the mood and very serious tone, it reads a lot like a regular shoujo manga.  Rima is still a very famous idol who lacks confidence in herself, and Hisayoshi is the very popular, charismatic main character that loves her.  Hisayoshi is breaking into showbusiness himself in order to get close to her, and is doing a good job because of his personality.  But while every woman seems to fall for his charms, being charming is not something he does on purpose, and he isn’t a playboy.  He also seems to have a special knack for not letting the girls with crushes on him down… he doesn’t lead them on, he just has a really good way of keeping his distance.

Interestingly, there are a lot of characters, and I was disoriented at the beginning of the volume, but they are all unique, and all seem to have a role to play, and I do admire series that keep all its characters involved.

As I said before, I could go either way on Yun Kouga, but Crown of Love really does seem like a series that’s perfectly suited to her strengths.  She writes strong characters and is a master at atmosphere, but I think her other work runs into problems with sci-fi and fantasy themes, which this lacks.  It’s great serious-minded shoujo without being too heavy and dramatic, and I’m sad it seems to be on such a slow release schedule.  Here’s hoping a lot more Loveless fans find it and give it a try.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Crown of Love 1

January 3, 2010

Yun Kouga – Viz – 2010 – 4 volumes

So I’m looking up this work to see how many volumes it has, and I see that Yun Kouga has two similar works, one called Renai, and another one called Renai Crown.  Ironcat licensed Renai a number of years ago (but didn’t release it), and from what I can tell, it sounds like the same series as this one.  Kouga mentions herself she tried the storyline out before drawing Renai Crown, but I’m a little surprised that they sound… nearly identical.  Also, Renai is an Akita Shoten title and Renai Crown is Shueisha?  There’s also ten years separating them, Renai is from 1989 and Renai Crown seems to be from 1998 or 99.  It’s… kind of weird that Ironcat had a Yun Kouga license.

Yun Kouga.  On one hand, I really like Gestalt.  For a variety of reasons, it seems few people enjoy that series the way I do.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, I really hate Loveless, which has a huge following and a lot of fans.  But she does do fine work, and I think a shoujo series like this one is a good show of her talents.

Kouga does do awkward subtlety of emotion well, and she also has nice art, two excellent reasons to like her.  Crown of Love seems like the same old shoujo plot, with a boy who falls in love with a celebrity and joins show business to chase her, but in Kouga’s hands, it becomes a more quiet and subdued story.  There’s no comedy, something the stories like this always have, and you can feel Tajima’s earnestness as he chases Fujio and is brutally rebuffed.  There’s a lot of raw emotion on display here, including Fujio’s honest feelings of unease and dislike for Tajima and a girl in Tajima’s class who pursues him despite knowing he’s in love with Fujio.  There’s also a manager, the man who got Fujio’s career off the ground and recently scouted Tajima, who complicates matters by being a magnet for Fujio’s affection and also the main point of contention between she and Tajima.

But with all the emotion, the honestness, and earnestness on display, the series is also surprisingly drama-free so far.  It’s unusual, but the characters seem to accept each other’s feelings, then try and figure out ways of dealing with them like a human being, something I like this series for immensely.

In addition to the lovely, humor-free and drama-free emotion we get here, I also enjoyed the mood and setting, something that’s aided immensely by the artwork.  Usually Kouga’s artwork is a little more sparse, and I sometimes dislike her character designs for being too similar to one another, but none of those problems are present here.

I feel like I need another volume in order to form a proper opinion of the series, but I really, really liked what I saw here.  It seems like it might be a shoujo series like We Were There, with serious stuff, a limited cast of characters, little humor, and nothing much else to complicate the plot.  Hopefully the showbusiness aspect won’t overwhelm things here, but the characters are already drifting back to school, and Tajima still hasn’t been approved for his new job, so there are any number of paths the series could take.  While I feel it’ll take one more volume to get a proper bead, I am looking forward to said volume.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.