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~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
B.O.D.Y Vol. 1 by Mimori Ao 
4th-Aug-2008 12:54 am
Golden
Mimori, Ao. B.O.D.Y. Vol. 1. Trans. Joe Yamazaki and Kelly Sue DeConnick. San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2008.
          Summary: Sixteen year old high school student Ryoko Sakura thinks she has great taste in men. After all, who could be better than the latest object of her affections Ryunosuke Fuji, a silent, studious type who is strikingly handsome to boot? Alas, it turns out that Ryoko's judgment is somewhat off—because Ryunosuke is actually an insincere jerk who moonlights at a host club where he is paid to date women! He's only a half-step above a male prostitute, as far as Ryoko is concerned, and now she can't wait to get him out of her mind. Too bad that Ryunosuke has decided, for inscrutable reasons of his own, that he is going to stop at nothing to make Ryoko his girlfriend.
          Comments: It is never a good sign with the first volume of a brand new romantic comedy manga series begins with the following admission from the author in its preface: “I have no idea where this story is headed.” Now, in all fairness, some mangaka are quite skilled at keeping the momentum going and developing plot on the fly, but these, alas, are few and far between. Most, after milking their initial premise for every last drop's worth of plot over the course of too many volumes, founder and are forced by their editor/publisher to bring it all to an abrupt and unsatisfactory conclusion. B.O.D.Y., which is still in serialization in Shueisha's Bessatsu Margaret, may or may not prove to be one of these unfortunates.
          Though I prefer reserve judgment at this point, I am not particularly hopeful. The plot—one relentless boy pursuing one reluctant girl—is one of the most basic of shoujo standards. It is also potentially the most offensive for those unwilling or unable to draw an unbreakable line between fiction and reality: while in one's fantasies it might be diverting to be the guy who won't take “no” for an answer's sole object of desire, in real life that sort of behavior translates into stalking and harassment, possibly criminal. Nor does it help matters for those with a taste for the real that Ryunosuke is a paid escort for a host club, which, Ouran High School Host Club aside, is as often as not just a front for prostitution. Moreover, I cannot help but notice with apprehension that these representations of commodified “romance” in manga are proliferating fast.
          That Ryoko is by no means a shy violet who emphatically does not endorse Ryunosuke's choice of occupation is a small consolation, but consolation nevertheless. She is, in fact, one of the bright spots of the manga, and the cheerful, head-on way that she confronts events thus far is both fun and refreshing relief from an otherwise tedious plot. A liberal dose of slapstick humor reminds readers that she is not the type to take her lumps sitting down. Too bad she has lousy choice in men. In volume one alone, she falls for an amoral escort and a closeted homosexual!
          Ryunosuke, on the other hand, is just annoying. He preys upon Ryoko's sympathies by telling her that he's working as an escort to support his family (a lie) and later by feigning a sprained ankle when he is unable to complete a marathon in the top five. He is, in fact, a total cipher; his motivations and background totally shrouded in mystery. It isn't even made clear why in the world he's fallen for Ryoko in the first place…unless it's a heretofore undisclosed sadistic streak compelling him to court a young woman who doesn't want him. (Anything's possible.) Heck, Ryunosuke isn't even that pretty!
          And indeed, Ao Mimori's artwork is only a half-step above chicken scratch. Her layouts are serviceable but exceptionally sloppy, and her style as a whole seems underdeveloped and unfinished. Characters' facial expressions lack charisma, and they all, males and females alike, look like they have rat's nests instead of hair on their heads. Any number of similar shoujo mangaka might have drawn B.O.D.Y., except most of them are more polished than Mimori. Whatever happened to the unwritten requirement that all shoujo manga, regardless of subject matter, be objects of infinite visual grace and beauty? (Gone, dear friends and loyal readers, gone with the wind.)
          In fact, the best part about B.O.D.Y. Vol. 1 is not B.O.D.Y. proper—but rather one of the bonus autobiographical strips tossed off by Mimori in order to fill up an extra blank page for the tankoubon edition titled, “Once upon a time at a bookstore…” In this strip, the author describes a shameful penchant for entering every bookstore she happens upon to see if the store has her books in stock. They generally don't, and one day she overheard a schoolgirl in front of a random bookstore complaining about how no one stocks books by Ao Mimori. Overjoyed to hear her name repeated but unwilling, it seems, to approach the girl directly, Mimori secretly “followed her around for a while.” How lovely. Well, it seems safe to conclude that a mangaka who feels compelled to follow her fans around is one that her fans would be safe not following. Save your hard-earned money for something by someone a bit less pathetic—and more often in-stock.
          Notes: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by by Shuueisha in 2003
          Rating: 4/10 - Ick. Apparently it's popular in Japan, but why this is so is definitely not evident here.
Comments 
4th-Aug-2008 02:58 pm (UTC)
Well, you know how a strong-willed girl with a sense of morals is so f'ing rare in shoujo. I think that alone gives this manga extra points, although that's based less on the mangaka's merit and is more a reflection of lowered standards for the genre, sadly. However, although the volume is pretty unfocused, some of the plot twists (such as the one with the closeted gay guy) were pretty clever, IMO. Definitely not brilliant work, but I thought it was better than average, so my fervent desire to see a halfway decent work with a reasonable shoujo heroine compels me to buy at least one more volume.
4th-Aug-2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
However, although the volume is pretty unfocused, some of the plot twists (such as the one with the closeted gay guy) were pretty clever, IMO.

*laughs* I saw that coming a mile away.

I actually think strong heroines have become more common in mainstream shoujo manga since the 90s. For what that's worth. :P
5th-Aug-2008 05:37 pm (UTC)
You saw that one coming? Maybe I'm just slow. *lol* Although my roommate was surprised with the gay twist, too.

I actually think strong heroines have become more common in mainstream shoujo manga since the 90s. For what that's worth. :P

Um...hmm. I agree with that somewhat, but not entirely--I see more extremes now, as in some girls are much stronger than 90s heroines and some girls are much weaker. The 90s (if we're generalizing) seemed to focus on the archtype of a girl with decent self-esteem and reasonable goals who still didn't mind a man taking the leading role in her life. Now I see girls who are complete dishrags who will compromise all of their morals for their men, OR awesome feminists who have relationships of equality, give-and-take, and mutual respect with their men. In short:

90s: Fushigi Yuugi vs. Hana Kimi (heroines of similar strength)
2000+: Hot Gimmick vs. High School Debut (polar opposite heroines)

That's my opinion, anyway.
5th-Aug-2008 08:49 pm (UTC)
You saw that one coming? Maybe I'm just slow. *lol*

Haven't you ever heard the saying: "All the good guys are either gay or taken?" XD XD XD

Now I see girls who are complete dishrags who will compromise all of their morals for their men, OR awesome feminists who have relationships of equality, give-and-take, and mutual respect with their men.

Wait, you didn't think Miaka was a total dishrag? ^^;; I was thinking more along the lines of the totally brainless, ditzy heroines who can't throw a punch OR do long division...unless they've got superpowers, in which case they can throw punches *some* of the time. I've never seen such a proliferation of strong, smart heroines in shoujo manga before apart from stories about cross-dressing. Something like five series *in a row* that I reviewed recently had the type, and I haven't seen anything lately that goes for the endearingly dumb heroine. Hot Gimmick and that Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wo Suru were the last really popular ones that I recall, and they're both complete.
4th-Aug-2008 11:10 pm (UTC)
The only redeemable part is the story about how the manga got it's title - drunken editors!
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