Saturday, January 4, 2020

REVIEW: Off*Beat (OEL manga, vol. 1) by Jen Lee Quick

Off*Beat apparently counts as a "boys love" drama. I had to look this up on its Wikipedia page, because at this point in the series it's a little tough to tell what I'm dealing with.


Tory is an intelligent and imaginative 15-year-old boy who becomes obsessed with Colin, a mysterious new neighbor of his, to the point of recording anything even remotely odd about his life and activities and convincing his mom to enroll him in a private school that he has to spend two hours commuting to just so they'll both be attending the same place (yes, Tory is basically a stalker). Tory is convinced that Colin may be hiding something and, after a year, finally begins to find evidence that he may be right. His efforts uncover something about a mysterious Gaia Project. Then there's the fact that Colin seems to be sick a lot.

I decided that I'm going to try to attack my immense manga backlog by concentrating on some of the shorter series in my collection, as well as anything I only have one or two volumes of, and reviewing them as soon as I finish each volume. We'll see how long I can keep this up. Knowing my past history, probably not long.

Anyway, this series as a whole is only three volumes long but has a somewhat complicated publication history due, I'm guessing, to Tokyopop's general problems. It looks like Tokyopop was restructuring in 2008, at about the same time volume 3 was supposed to be published. In the end, volume 3 was completed in 2014, and the entire series has since been published/reissued by Sparkler. I only have Tokyopop's releases, volumes 1 and 2, and it looks like volume 3 isn't available in a physical format, so I'm going into this series knowing that I probably won't ever read the end of it.

At this point in the series, though, that doesn't really bug me. It's tough to tell what I'm even reading, so far. There are several moments that indicate Tory's interest in Colin has an explanation he isn't willing to admit, even to himself, but at the same time, like Tory's friend Paul said, it looks like there might actually be something mysterious going on. So will this series have sci-fi elements in addition to potential romance between Tory and Colin (or stalker-ish one-sided interest on Tory's part)? Mystery elements? Something else?

It can't be anything too complicated, or it wouldn't be possible to wrap it up in only three volumes. This first volume didn't even accomplish that much - Tory spent most of it sneaking around, trying to shake his classmate Mandy off (who is clearly interested in him but may have realized it's a lost cause), and coming up with a new plan to get closer to Colin and hopefully find out more. Volume 2 should give me a better idea of what's going on.

Art-wise, I'm not all that fond of this series. I don't particularly like Quick's style, and the quality seems to be a bit inconsistent. I noticed two thirds of the way through the volume that it was rare for two or more characters to be standing anywhere near each other, and I realized that the reason for this seemed to be due to Quick having difficulties with perspective and the characters' respective heights. Still, some panels are really nice and I've certainly seen worse.

All right, on to volume 2...

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