Sunday, January 19, 2020

REVIEW: Off*Beat (OEL manga, vol. 3) by Jen Lee Quick

Off*Beat is YA drama with gay romantic elements. The first two volumes were originally published by Tokyopop, and due to the wonders of interlibrary loan, I was able to read this third and final volume, published by Chromatic Press.


This volume begins immediately after the previous one, from the point where Colin hit Tory. The two of them finally sit down and talk about the things they've been hiding...for the most part. Colin talks about the Gaia Project and his involvement in it, and Tory no longer tries to hide the fact that he's been keeping tabs on Colin. The one thing they dance around, however, is their feelings for each other.

I didn't think I was going to get to read this volume. Physical copies are no longer available for purchase, and I don't like buying electronic manga or comics. I wasn't sure interlibrary loan was going to work out since the number of libraries that own this volume is in the single digits, but thankfully one of those libraries was willing to lend it to me.

I wasn't wild about the first two volumes, but I was interested enough in Tory and Colin's story to want to know how it ended. Folks who liked the first two volumes more than me should definitely try to read this last volume - it's the best one in the series and does a fairly good job of wrapping things up.

After two volumes of not even being sure what genre I was reading, it was nice to finally get some answers. I still think the overall pacing and clarity could have been better - I understand that the Gaia Project was a mysterious thing Tory could focus on and tell himself was the real reason he was interested in Colin, but readers got so little information in those first two volumes that it really did look like the Gaia Project might end up being more important than it actually turned out to be. Honestly, Colin's explanation of it sounded kind of silly - I still don't understand why he, in particular, had to be involved, and I agree with Tory that whatever Dr. Garretts (whose name was spelled with one t earlier in the series but is now spelled with two) was doing with him sounded illegal.

Tory and Colin's awkward attempts at recognizing and exploring their feelings for each other were sweet (and completely lacking in any sort of gay angst, even after other characters found out), and Tory demonstrated that he'd grown a lot since the first volume. His reaction to Colin's actions and later announcement was better than I'd expected. I braced myself for a bittersweet ending and was glad the series wrapped up on a happier note, but at the same time I felt a little let down. I'd have preferred it if the bonus story at the end had focused on Tory and Colin after the time jump, to provide a little more closure, rather than on Paul and his girlfriend.

  • A 5-page bonus story starring Paul and his girlfriend.
  • A letter from the editor.
  • A message from Jen Lee Quick.
  • Four 4-panel bonus comics.

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