Sunday, December 18, 2016

REVIEW: Skip Beat! (manga, vols. 35-36) by Yoshiki Nakamura, translated by Tomo Kimura

Sadly, there weren't enough volumes of Skip Beat! published in the past year for me to be able to go on a giant binge during my vacation. It's too bad, because this series is consistently enjoyable. It's rare for me to still love a series that's been running for so many volumes, but Nakamura somehow manages to keep the characters and story from stagnating.

That said, these two volumes were pretty weak. I still enjoyed getting to see the characters again, but Ren disappointed me in volume 35, and volume 36 was enjoyable more for what it seemed to be setting up than anything else.

This is the last of my post-vacation reviews. As usual with these, there are lots and lots of spoilers. Read on at your own risk.

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 35) by Yoshiki Nakamura, translated by Tomo Kimura – Ren averts disaster by convincing Kyoko that he's just Corn copying Ren's voice and appearance. He also blames his lack of a smile on a curse, which can be broken by a kiss of pure and deep love. This puts Kyoko in a bind – she wants to help Corn but 1) she doesn't feel that she truly loves him that way and 2) she feels it would be a betrayal of Ren to kiss Corn. Ren has essentially made himself his own rival. Kyoko solves her dilemma with her acting skills. She kisses Corn not as herself, but rather as a priestess. Ren, as Corn, then kisses Kyoko again and leaves her to go to his meeting with Ten.

I own a copy of this volume but didn't get around to reading it before my vacation, so I made it part of my giant list of library requests. I was a little bummed that it turned out to be one of the more so-so entries in the series.

I wasn't really a fan of Ren in this volume. Instead of finally telling Kyoko that he's Corn, he bent over backwards to continue the lie and then put Kyoko in the awkward position of having to do something that he knew would probably be difficult for her and/or make her uncomfortable in order to help her dearest childhood friend. My only consolation was that he clearly hadn't thought this all through very well, since it made problems for him as well as for Kyoko.

On the plus side, while Kyoko is very good at deluding herself, she's also really good at thinking on her feet. I liked that she was able to come up with a solution that made use of the strengths she had acquired over the course of the series. But still. Ugh. I really wish Ren hadn't come up with that “curse” idea.

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 36) by Yoshiki Nakamura, translated by Tomo Kimura – Kyoko tells Ren that she and Corn kissed. Setsu's time with her “brother” is up (Kyoko has to go back to filming her show), so she heads out. Unfortunately, Kyoko's show has been getting bad initial ratings. She isn't too upset, but Ms. Amamiya (another person in the show, whose given name I've completely forgotten) is very disappointed. A big accident tempts her to bow out of acting entirely, but Kyoko convinces her to stick with it. The volume ends with a visit from Sho. It turns out that Kyoko's mom has been asking about her but doesn't seem inclined to actually visit her. Sho was worried about how Kyoko would react to this.

When Kyoko finally learns that Ren is Corn, she's probably going to blow up, and I wouldn't blame her for it. Or she'll be hideously embarrassed, which would make me cringe in sympathy. I loved Ren's reaction to Kyoko telling him about having kissed Corn, but I hated that the scene was based on her still not knowing the truth about Ren/Corn.

Although I really enjoyed the direction the series seemed to be taking (which maybe factored into my final rating a bit too much – I'm not sure this volume deserved what I gave it), this volume felt like a very abrupt switch of storytelling gears. And no wonder – I just looked at my volume summaries, and I think the last time Kyoko worked on her current show much was maybe volume 28, almost 10 volumes ago. I had forgotten she even had any other work besides being Setsu.

But, like I said, I'm really looking forward to what might be coming up next. I want to see if Kyoko's show recovers from its low initial ratings, and I want to see what happens with Kyoko's mom. And whoa, Sho was actually a pretty decent guy in this volume. And of course I'm still looking forward to seeing where things go with Ren and Kyoko. I'm glad that Kyoko's at a point where she can be in love with Ren (albeit semi-secretly) and yet not be so consumed by her feelings that she abandons her acting career for him.

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