Sunday, November 17, 2013

Skip Beat! (manga, vols. 16, 19, 24-30) by Yoshiki Nakamura

Skip Beat! was my absolute favorite out of all the manga series I read during my vacation. I really need to buy it, because it's one of those series that I think would hold up really well on a re-read.

Kyoko is lots and lots of fun, steadfastly refusing to be a dreamy, wimpy romantic heroine. Ren loves her, but he also realizes that love isn't on her radar at all and does his best not to expect more than she's ready to give. Sometimes Kyoko and Ren read each other completely wrong (leading to much hilarity for readers), and yet Nakamura has them avoid a few Big Misunderstandings that other authors might have milked for at least a volume or two. Thirty volumes in, and this series has yet to feel stale. That's pretty amazing. I honestly think I could have spent my entire vacation reading nothing but this series and I would have been happy. It's that good.

Read on for spoiler-filled synopses of the volumes, plus a few brief comments.

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 16) - Ren finds out that Sho saved Kyoko from her stalker and is distraught, worrying that she feels more comfortable confiding in Sho than in him. Sho realizes what Ren's true feelings for Kyoko are, but Kyoko, of course, still has no clue. Meanwhile, Sho has figured out a way to defeat Vie Ghoul's spy and keep his songs from being stolen.

This was one of the volumes that didn't come in in time for my last vacation. Unfortunately, my last vacation was long enough ago that I could barely remember what happened in the volumes just prior to this one. My blog helped me out a little, but I still had a hard time orienting myself. It's too bad there's no "the story thus far" section.

Even so, I enjoyed this volume. Ren is completely and absolutely in love with Kyoko, and Kyoko has no clue. ::sigh:: Nakamura always seems to spend the perfect amount of time on relationship angsty moments. Ren and Kyoko are briefly unsure about how to talk to each other after the whole "you confided in Sho but not in me!" thing, but they clear things up between them fairly quickly.

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 19) - Ren and Koo reunite and mend their father-son bond. Meanwhile, Kyoko really enjoyed being Koo's son and is upset that he's leaving soon. Both Kyoko and Ren decide to stop playing it safe and take roles that scare them and that they don't like (Ren - cold-blooded killer; Kyoko - a villain who's a bully).

This was another volume I was forced to skip during my last vacation, since it didn't come in in time.

As usual, I enjoyed the artwork. I'd love to see Kyoko and Ren visiting Koo and his wife as a couple. ::sigh:: I'm sure it would be lovely and fun. This volume's father-son stuff might be a bit too mushy for some, but I enjoyed it.

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 24) - Kyoko has gotten Ren a birthday present, but he'll receive it on Valentine's Day. Meanwhile, much misunderstanding ensues. Sho thinks Kyoko is making chocolates for Vie Ghoul's lead singer because she has some kind of twisted love for him - in reality, he's holding one of her grudge spirits hostage and will only give it back if she gives him home-made chocolates. Ren thinks Kyoko has made Sho chocolates while at the same time skipping giving him chocolate. To round out this whole mess, Kyoko isn't giving Ren any chocolate because she doesn't think he'd like them.

OMG, I liked everything in this volume. Sho freaking out over who Kyoko was going to give chocolates to. Yashiro freaking out over the same thing. Especially Yashiro freaking out. His fretting over Ren and Kyoko's relationship (potential relationship?) is hilarious. He frets enough for the both of them. And his face upon receiving a little stuffed Pomeranian with his chocolates was adorable. I also loved Kyoko's rage at having to make chocolates for Vie Ghoul's lead singer. Nobody does rage like Kyoko.

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 25) - Sho comes in and almost ruins everything by giving Kyoko expensive flowers and French kissing her in front of everyone (to get a piece of chocolate out of her mouth, which is just gross). While the issue of the hate chocolates for Reino is resolved, Kyoko is now filled with rage over that kiss. After Kyoko gives Ren his present (a home-made gelatin), he kisses her on the cheek - which shocks her too. He has to tell her the kiss didn't mean anything (which we all know is a lie), just so she can concentrate on her work again.

Woohoo, Ren finally kissed Kyoko! Also, woohoo, the kiss completely drove Sho out of Kyoko's brain for a while. Since it's worrisome how much Sho can still dominate Kyoko's thoughts (with all-consuming hatred rather than all-consuming adoration, but still), this made me happy.

I wish Ren hadn't had to backtrack on the kiss and what it meant (dang, he's a good actor), but, if he hadn't, Kyoko would have fallen to bits. I hope she can get to a point where she can love someone and still have a life and existence of her own.

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 26) - The three Love Me members agree to do mystery jobs. Kyoko's job is listed as Dangerous. Moko's is Unglamorous. Chion's is Fun. Kyoko's job turns out to be pretending to be Setsuka Heel, Cain Heel's sister. She must be devoted to her brother (who will be played by Ren, who is doing a role not normally associated with him). Ren, meanwhile, is freaking out at having to share a room with Kyoko, particularly while she's dressed in such revealing/sexy outfits.

Twenty-six volumes, and this series still makes me happy and excited. That's a rare thing. Usually I burn out on long-running manga series long before this point.

The intensity of Kyoko's focus can be...astonishing. Seriously, she studied Ren so well in order to make little Ren dolls (because that's not creepy at all) that she was able to recognize him immediately, even when he looked so different from his normal self.

The part of me that looks forward to every scrap of romance Nakamura throws readers' way was bouncing with happiness at the thought of seeing where this Setsuka and Cain Heel thing would go. Ren and Kyoko seem to practically be surrounded by matchmakers trying to nudge the two of them together.

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 27) - Ren, as Cain, flips out when a group of guys accosts Kyoko/Setsuka. Kyoko barely manages to get him to snap out of it, and then Ren spends most of the rest of the volume worried that he may not be able to keep his darker side in check. Meanwhile, Kyoko frets over being Setsuka while at the same time not doing anything that she, personally, thinks is embarrassing, like going out into their hotel room in lingerie.

The most disappointing aspect of this volume is that it featured less of Kyoko and Ren working than I would have liked. I love seeing them at work. Even so, I still enjoyed this overall. There are snippets of Ren's past, indications that maybe he killed someone. I think it's probably more likely that he was indirectly responsible for someone's death and ended up blaming himself. There are worrisome hints that Ren may soon get himself hurt trying to do his own stunts. Maybe his emotional turmoil causes him to lose focus at a crucial moment?

On the lighter side, it looks like the romance aspect may be inching forward. Kyoko freaked out upon accidentally seeing Ren naked. Unfortunately, she hid her freak out too well, and Ren became depressed because he assumed she was unaffected. Ha! If those two could only peek into each others' heads.

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 28) - Ren almost hits a child while doing his stunt driving for Dark Moon. This throws him into shock, which only Kyoko is able to break him out of. There's a flashback to Ren's past. Apparently, Rick was a guy who took care of him when he was younger. Ren was blamed by Rick's girlfriend (?) for Rick's death. Kyoko tries to cheer Ren up and offers him the Princess Rosa necklace as a good luck charm - at which time she realizes she's falling in love with him.

Wow, Kyoko has finally realized she loves Ren. The only thing is, I'm still not sure she knows how to balance feelings of love with living her own life. I'd rather she not replace Sho with Ren as the next all-consuming force in her life.

As far as Ren and his past goes, to be honest, I'm not all that interested in it. It's dark and makes him all brooding and mopey, and I'd rather focus on his life as it is in the present.

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 29) - During the Dark Moon after party, Kyoko doesn't realize at first that Kijima is really asking her out. Ren is pissed that she agreed to let Kijima give her a make-over, but that's soon sorted out. Then Kyoko and Ren begin their next job - being Cain and Setsuka. Cain is playing Black Jack (BJ), a serial killer who may be immortal.

Kyoko is still incapable of realizing that she's actually pretty good-looking (she thinks it's the Princess Rosa or her make-up that makes her pretty) and has attracted the attentions of Kijima, Murasame, and Ren. However, she has at least finally realized she likes Ren, and, to my great joy, hasn't fallen to pieces because of this realization.

I had a lot of fun, watching Ren and Kyoko interact as Cain and Setsuka. Actually, I have fun anytime Ren and Kyoko interact, period. I hope they turn out to be just as much fun when they're a couple as they are when they're an almost-couple.

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 30) - In a rehearsal fight between Ren and Murasame, Ren gets taken over by BJ/Kuon, reverting briefly to his days of being a violent delinquent. This scares him badly, so much so that he is only able to sleep while wrapped around Kyoko. Kyoko, worried, begins calling Yashiro and Lory, hoping to learn more and help Ren.

I enjoyed this volume, even if Ren did go all dark and mopey. This is the volume when it occurred to me that dark, mopey Ren was a little like Gravitation's Eiri Yuki, except that Yuki also had a tendency to act like a jerk. Thankfully, Ren doesn't lash out at the people who love him.

Kyoko's reaction to sleeping with Ren in his bed was milder than I expected, and it was kind of nice that her instinct, the next day, was less "must freak out now" and more "must do some investigating so that I can do more to help."

I love this series so much.

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