Friday, October 13, 2017

Skip Beat by Yoshiki Nakamura

The Skip Beat manga series starts off sounding like a fairly typical teen romance:

Nice girl (Kyoko) follows her sweetheart (Sho) to the big city when he pursues his dreams of making it big as a rock star.  She is his biggest fan and supports him by working multiple part-time jobs.  She finds out he was using her and did not really care about her. 

Goodbye, nice girl.

It would be so cliché, but things veer off course to something completely awesome:  Kyoko is heartbroken and quite mad, yes.  She seeks revenge.  Not in any small, petty way, she is going to become a more famous star than Sho is. She plans to do it by joining Sho’s rival agency, which comes with its own huge star, Ren (cue love triangle?).  She has no idea how or what to do, just plain guts and determination that she will accomplish this.  And you have heard about the angel and demon on your shoulder or maybe personal demons?  Kyoko’s inner monologue and emotional tirades are hilariously illustrated with a life of their own as grudge demons. Read it to believe it.

This series is considered “shojo,” stories for teen girls, but there is nothing girly-girly or teen fluff romance about it and would appeal to many looking for a unique graphic novel story.  Once readers get pass the outrageous premise, it is a well-developed story with solid plot and characters and plenty of comedy (if running at 39 plus volumes is any indication of its success).  Kyoko’s character is a force to be reckoned with and constantly surprises others with her persistence and doing the unexpected.  Kyoko is a wonderfully complex character full of contradictions who readers cannot help but cheer her on.  Her character and a strong cast carry the story. 

The serial format allows readers to see Kyoko’s growth as a person and budding actress, as she comes to see acting as a career and passion rather than mere revenge.  Backstories for Kyoko and the other characters are filled in, along with each drama and new conflict adding to the growing storyline.  This is Kyoko’s story, but it is more than that with the other characters she meets and how their stories intersect and impact each other.  The developing romance is slow (still not resolved at 39 volumes) and does not dominate the story, which is refreshing for a supposed teen romance story.  Even though love triangles are rather cliché, it is not the central part of the story, and the characters are carefully developed so that they are not only defined by this romance.  Plus, Kyoko is a bit oblivious about being in a love triangle, so it is a bit lopsided and more interesting to follow.

Look for the Skip Beat series in the VBPL Catalog. It currently runs at 39 volumes, so that will keep you reading for a while.  For more strong female leads in manga, try Hiro Fujiwara’s Maid Sama and Kiiro Yumo’s Library Wars.  For a fresh teen adaptation of a popular comic icon, try Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer.

Review posted by Tracy V.

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