Reviewby Theron Martin, Jun 25th 2008
The Domus Aurea School is an elite boarding school with a deep love of freedom, though of late its assorted clubs have come under the tyrannical oppression of the Public Safety Commission headed by Natori Nijo, who is intent on abusing his power to eliminate “weak” and “useless” clubs. He is also, regrettably, the fiancé of newcomer Rui Kobayakawa via a family-arranged marriage, and despite coming to Domus Aurea to seek freedom from her family Rui finds herself threatened by her fiancé's extremely aggressive methods and Neanderthal attitude about Rui's place in his future. Required by school rule to join a club, Rui soon falls in with the Believers, a downsized subgroup of the renowned Public Relations Club that consists of three side job-oriented senior girls and two handsome computer geeks. When the Believers' very existence is also threatened as “worthless,” Rui pushes them to form their own new club: the Cy-Believers.
The second of manga-ka Shioko Mizuki's shojo manga titles to see release in the U.S., Cy-Believers somehow manages to be far more entertaining than it feels like it should be. It offers nothing special conceptually, fails to impress artistically, and throws out lots of traditional shojo romantic comedy hooks, including spunky heroines, beautiful guys sweeping the heroine off her feet (literally, at one point), school-based buffoonery, and even a bit of a shonen ai vibe. It does, however, prove that putting the right combination of quirky characters together in quirky situations, and giving them snappy dialogue to toss out, goes quite far in making up for any other inadequacies. Despite blatant shojo conventions and situations, even male readers may find this one juicy enough to warrant a taste.
And the characters are what will win readers over and keep them coming back. Natori is one of those deliciously evil characters you love to hate, with an attitude that might be compared to an abusive boyfriend if the content took itself even slightly more seriously. (“You don't need human rights,” he says to Rui at one point. “Just obey me.” But then he says he'll die to protect her if she does that.) Dark-hair Azumi, meanwhile, has this thing about 107 spirits hanging around him, while lighter-haired pretty boy Rio has a tendency to flip out if he doesn't take his pills. The three senior girls in the Believers, all deliberately designed to be barely distinguishable from one another, are basically a cute comical chorus existing to counterpoint Rui's spunk. A loony class president rounds out the core cast.
The writing gives them some great things to say, too. “Natori Nijo might possibly be a little bit dead in there,” Rui says at one point after fending off Natori's amorous advances. Just as snappy are the things the characters do. Yeah, none of this progression is all that credible, but it isn't supposed to be. Few manga get more effective value out of milking exaggerated scenes for humor than this one does. Naming the school after the legendary opulent villa the Roman Emperor Nero built in the wake of the Great Fire of Rome in 64 A.D. is also an interesting move.
Although not bad, the artistry does not represent one of Mizuki's strengths. Most characterized by light lines, bizarrely long bowties on both guys and girls, and a girl's school uniform specifically designed for a robot-like effect, her artistic style does not stray far from shojo artistic norms. Most characters (especially male ones) have traditional lanky, long-limbed builds, most of the guys have the typical bishonen look, and numerous scenes pose characters in classic shojo romantic style. The way Mizuki handles Natori, especially with his wicked expressions, does distinguish her work some, and deliberately giving the Believers' senior girls a consistent generic appearance is an amusingly satirical touch, but the high striped socks that contribute to the girl's uniform seem a bit out of place and backgrounds get little attention.
Go! Comi's release of the title opens with a page explaining honorifics and closes with a Post Script page by Mizuki and a page of invaluable Translator Notes, especially those explaining peculiar Japanese expressions. A preview page for volume 2 referenced in the Post Script is not included, but occasional sidebars are, as is nicely colored cover art. Original Japanese sound effects are only retained in places where the panel offers sufficient room for both them and an English translation; in other places only the translation exists.
Cy-Believers may not overwhelm you with its greatness, but it does deliver solid entertainment value that mostly justifies its higher-than normal (at $10.99) price.
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : B-
+ Entertainingly quirky characters, sharp writing.
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