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Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Riko Kunimi just wants to be a normal girl but unfortunately her super powers make that difficult. After having her heart broken, Riko has decided to dedicate her life to making it one as normal and average as possible. Things seem to be going well until a seemingly irrelevant event leads to a young man kicking in her classroom door, gun in hand. His objective? To make Riko his bride and he won't take no for an answer. With an arsenal of money, wits and charm to ensure he gets what he wants, the game of cat and mouse begins as Riko's dreams of normalcy fall to ruin.
A gun-toting rich boy lays claim to a super powered schoolgirl – sadly, Flower in a Storm doesn't entirely live up the expectations insinuated by its own synopsis. Ran Tachibana is more selfish than bad-ass and Riko Kunimi's super powers fall flat on the coolness scale when they're reduced to a mere sideline quirk, one used to ensure she survives until the next time something wacky happens because of Ran.
Ran has the building-block potential to be something more compelling then his traits result in – young, rich and powerful, his personality ends up feeling too reminiscent of other spoiled, wealthy and subsequently flamboyant young men in the manga-verse out to win the heart of their impoverished love. His manner of showing affection is predominantly financially backed stalking and readers may find themselves feeling as frustrated as Riko does at his constant marital advances and self-proclaimed competitions to ‘win’ her hand in marriage.
On the other hand we have Riko, a seemingly average young girl who was born with super powers (that mostly just result in fast reflexes and the ability to flip in the air). After having her heart broken by her first love, she's made it the utmost importance to live life as a normal girl, a stability that Ran's appearance has now threatened.
As the volume progresses through a collection of incidents including car bombs and forced marriages to jealous childhood friends, Riko seems to become more at ease with Ran's presence. However, the mutuality of their growing feelings is less based on evolution and more on Riko merely succumbing to a situation out of her control. It also hails back to Riko's sadly unfulfilling super powers which one could assume would be more than enough to deal with all the situations she now finds herself in, but instead feel unimportant when Ran suddenly appears to do what needs doing himself. Let the girl save herself! She comes close in some instances but it all tends to fall to Ran in the end. Sure she wants to be ‘normal’ but does that need to mean being a damsel as well? Despite the decisions Ran often makes for Riko, this story at least proves itself less non-consensual in nature than other recent Shojo Beat fare such as Black Bird and Stepping on Roses.
It's almost a shame the romance between the Ran and Riko just doesn't click, because the scenarios the two find themselves in are often entertaining – from a festival interrupted by an assassin to flipping out a stained glass window to an awaiting helicopter getaway. The most stirring of those in this first volume is a run-in with aforementioned assassin whose job to kill Ran has him kidnapping Riko, leading to a high-speed chase down an empty highway. A flashback to the moment Riko and Ran first meet also proves short but sweet as it offers some love-at-first-sight reasoning for Ran's infatuation. Visual moments like these with Riko also stand out as she's rendered with grace and fluidity in her movements when utilizing her above-average physical ability. All the character designs are appealing overall and it makes individual panels nice artistic diversions from the actual layout, which occasionally proves difficult to follow when things get too cluttered.
In contrast, Viz Media's design work on the series is attractively simplistic including a complimenting photo on the back of a flower sitting atop a gun. The text work in the inside is well handled as they work to emulate replaced sound effects while fitting them in with the artwork. One small quip however is an even white strip that appears on the top and bottom of the pages that looks as though the cut size is too large or the prints not properly matched to fit the page.
At the end of the book is an unrelated short story that manages to feel both romantic and somehow a tad unsettling before coming to a rather sombre end. It begins with a young man losing his first kiss to a female classmate notorious for her rampant kissing with other students. Instead of dismissing her actions as others have, the young man gets to know her well enough to see her actions cover a pain she's trying to escape.
Flower in the Storm feels like a series that could work – eventually. With a couple more volumes to help readers forget about what began their relationship, the quirks of Ran and Riko's interaction could become more endearing than it is exasperating. Still, future-volume prospects don't make up for the fact we'd need to forget a portion of what happened in this first volume just to potentially enjoy things more later.
Overall : C
Story : C-
Art : B-
+ Exuberantly rich lead male character allows for some energetic situations and Riko has abilities that make her slightly more than an average heroine
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