One thing I did accomplish in May is getting some reading done…a lot of reading! According to my tracking, I read 33 books in May, predominately manga. I finished up several series, including:
Beauty Pop by Arai Kiyoko (10 volumes)
Although a truly gifted hairstylist, Kiri Koshiba has no interest in using her talent to pursue fame and fortune, unlike the three popular boys in the “Scissors Project” at school. Determined to become the best makeover team in Japan, they give showy makeovers to handpicked girls. As much as Kiri tries to shy away from the Scissors Project spotlight, she finds herself responding to beauty’s call…
Overall, Beauty Pop ended up being a fun, mostly light-heated romantic comedy that managed to shine the spotlight on the idea of what is “beauty”, with Kiri’s low-key appearance hiding her near genius-level hairstyling talent. But unlike the Scissors Projects boys, she doesn’t run around making pretty girls prettier, she only goes to work when some is needing a confidence boost, helping them find their inner beauty.
The only quibbles I had with the story were the seemingly forced love triangle between Kiri, Narumi, and Ochiai. While Kiri does seem to come to respect the folks in the Scissors Project and views them as friends, there really is never any moment that makes you think she’d fallen in love with any of them. That whole aspect felt just felt rushed and almost thrown in to meet some requirement that she fall for one of the guys.
Still, the series certainly left me wishing there were hairstylist with Kiri’s ability to work magic on me J
A Devil and Her Love Song by Miyoshi Tomori (13 volumes)
Meet Maria Kawai – she’s gorgeous and whip-smart, a girl who seems to have it all. But when she unleashes her sharp tongue, it’s no wonder some consider her to be the very devil! Maria’s difficult ways even get her kicked out of an elite school, but this particular fall may actually turn out to be her saving grace…
I really enjoyed this series, particularly Maria. She is blunt with a keen insight into people, to the point that she makes others uncomfortable, “backing them into a corner”. It’s left her friendless and alone, with her reputation proceeding her at her new school.
One of my favorite aspects of this series is that despite being bullied by students and teachers alike, Maria is uncompromising about who she is and remains true to her nature. Maria’s new connections with others are hard-won, and at times severely tested. Even those who grow to know and love her find themselves hurt by her words, which is where the story really shines as Maria struggles to learn how to express herself in a way that her friends can understand but without giving up who she is.
Readers might dislike how things turn out regarding Maria’s past and her father, but on the whole I felt it was handled in a satisfactory way. Unlike with Beauty Pop, the love triangle that appears in A Devil and Her Love Song felt more realistic, more natural for who Maria and the two boys are, and is resolved quite nicely.
High School Debut by Kazune Kawahara (5 volumes, 3-in-1 edition)
Hapless Haruna needs help finding a boyfriend! After failing to win the eye of any guy in high school, Haruna enlists the help of cute upperclassman Yoh to coach her on how to make herself more appealing to the male species. Yoh agrees, with one catch: Haruna had better not fall for him!
Haruna is an all around fun character. Athletic but cute when she isn’t trying too hard Haruna can be intense and manic in her pursuits and gets way overly obsessed on doing any kind of research, but she is so sweet and good-natured that the rest are just fun quirks. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is almost too naïve. Yoh’s calmer, more stoic nature makes him a good companion for her to keep her grounded and to protect her when her trusting nature gets her in trouble.
I doubt anyone is surprised that Haruna and Yoh end up together (and it’s early enough in the series that it isn’t a spoiler), but what was pleasantly surprising was the journey to get them there. Maybe it shouldn’t have been a total surprise, after all Yoh is helping Haruna find a boyfriend, but still, you don’t expect her to really fall for anyone else first. But she does and it is a somewhat realistic, albeit bittersweet romance.
The only two negatives for me were first, Yoh’s sister Asami. She was over-the-top spoiled, narcissistic, and a class-A bitch—how anyone could like her was beyond me! And then the ending. I had no problems with where the couple end up, but it dragged on and on, with no actual payoff. Particularly the final view volumes kept teasing the whole first love-making, then never did it – not even a fade to black scene! Asami’s side story was disappointing, as I hoped it might redeem her some but instead just left her double downed on her horrible nature.
Still, it was worth reading for Haruna and Yoh’s relationship and Haruna’s dealing with the usual repercussions of dating one of the most popular guys in school.