Stolen Hearts 2

September 18, 2010

Miku Sakamoto – CMX – 2010 – 5+ volumes

Cute cute CUTE STUFF. Wow, this continues to knock my socks off and be one of the most endearing light shoujo titles I’ve read in a long time. We’re talking Venus in Love levels of good, cute stuff going on. And that’s even with a mild conflict in this volume.

The mild conflict was a few chapters that brewed up trouble between Koguma and his older brother, who he looks up to and admires. The older brother was being a little bit of a creep since he was jealous of Shinobu, and Koguma was being a jerk and overreacting to seeing Shinobu doing things like talking to the brother alone. But even that had a happy ending where the grandma smacked all the brothers around and everyone learned a lesson. I didn’t like the conflict, since it seemed out of place and out of character for Koguma to mistrust Shinobu, but seeing them work it out eventually, and Koguma’s larger-than-life sincere apology, almost made it worth it.

Though I didn’t like that particular story development, I loved the introduction of Koguma’s family. He has three older brothers as big as he is, and a mother that’s just as outgoing as the grandma. And a father that’s just as nice as he is, but the father is hardly mentioned. All of them meddle in a way that only a boisterous family of giants can, and Shinobu finds it cute while Koguma finds it exasperating. I was very charmed by all the new characters, and especially loved how all the girls started swooning over them and the grandmother bullied them into the shop.

There’s also just lots of Shinobu and Koguma enjoying being with one another. The minor drama aside, seeing them work together, exchange Christmas presents, acting perfectly natural in domestic settings, and just watching them walk down the street, all of it is a pleasure, both for the characters and for me as a reader. It’s simple fluff, but I’d be hard pressed to find better fluff than this. Koguma and Shinobu are both great characters. Koguma’s gentle, considerate, and absolutely dotes on Shinobu, and Shinobu’s just a nice girl that seems to get along with everyone without any shyness or awkwardness whatsoever. And she doesn’t have eyes for anyone but Koguma. It’s sweet.

My favorite part, however, was the last story, about Shinobu and Koguma taking a train ride by themselves on an old-fashioned train, enjoying each other’s company, the scenery, and angsting at an old-fashioned inn. Quiet stories like that, where the characters are free to be themselves and enjoy the pleasure of their own company, are my absolute favorites in shoujo romance. It’s especially a pleasure in a series like this where the characters are so likable and relatively free of angst and drama, and thus open to reflect on other matters.

I died a little when I saw the quiz in the back that asked which brother suited you. It was cute frosting on my cute cake.

Stolen Hearts 1

August 28, 2010

Miku Sakamoto – CMX – 2010 – 5+ volumes
only two volumes were published in English

Holy crap, this was cute. Tooth-rottingly so. Most of that has to do with the main couple (of course). Koguma is a very tall, scary kid that nobody dares approach at school. There are lots of rumors about how tough he is, and a single glower in any direction sends people scattering. So of course the volume starts with diminutive Okuma spilling milk on a very expensive kimono he happened to have in his bag. He demands that she take responsibility, and drags her off to his grandmother’s kimono shop, where she’s put to work as an on-the-street kimono model to advertise the business.

Of course, Koguma isn’t nearly as scary as his size and sour face make him seem, and Okuma quickly sees that he’s a very nice and very misunderstood boy, they fall in love, blah blah blah. There’s nothing new here, but it’s just the right mix of sweetness, romance, sensitivity, and humor to be absolutely endearing. The thing about a lot of CMX shoujo is that there’s nothing special about it, but even somewhat shallow characters have chemistry, and relationships aren’t glossed over with bad jokes and accidents making things advance. I like that kind of story too, of course, but these younger CMX shoujo titles really do it for me because the writers really nail the nuances of the little relationships. It’s the sensitivity part that matters most.

What also helps this series is the unusual kimono theme. Each of the chapters is a one-shot story about something happening while Okuma and Koguma are modeling kimono or at kimono-themed events. There are lots of details about the styles and how to wear them, even when the plots of the chapters don’t directly relate to kimono fashion. Kimono are heavily featured in all of them, but another big theme is how well Koguma’s tough-guy image fits him. Okuma sees many different sides of him, and later tries to help the way others see him.

I think my favorite part of the volume was the last chapter, which is the usual school festival chapter. I’m rather sick of these, and rolled my eyes when the students wanted to do a maid cafe, but the theme of the series is kimono, so they decide to have a kimono-themed cafe instead. That took it up a notch (though not unexpectedly, given the theme of the series), but what made it great was a last-minute detail that meant the boys were the ones wearing kimono (for men), and not the girls. It wasn’t a big twist, and I’ve seen plenty of “butler cafe” stories too, but it was nice all the same.

It’s super-girly, unbelievably adorable and romantic, and has the unusual kimono theme, to boot. There’s not a whole lot to chew on plot- and character-wise, but it more than makes up for it in charm. It’s definitely worth a read for anyone into shoujo manga, and it’s yet another loss from the late, lamented CMX. Two volumes made it out, and I would try to pick them up ASAP since the second volume was cancelled out from under me at the first retailer I tried. They’ll probably disappear sooner rather than later.

As a bonus, this also contained my new favorite shoujo manga line: “Uwaaa! You fail as a teenage girl!”