Whose style came in first? What about the best suit? It's all in here!
Reviewby Jason Sondhi, Sep 10th 2004
A cute girl longs for her steamy hunk of a brother. She tries to resist, but the sexual tension is inescapable. After all, he lives in the next room over, it would be so easy...
Those crazy manga writers. Only they could take as provocative a premise as the above situation and create something as wholly innocent and benign as Marmalade Boy, a lighthearted romantic comedy that is neither steamy or sexy, but instead sweet and endearing. A classic shoujo title aimed at teens (we know these intended audiences mean nothing though ^_^), Marmalade Boy is hardly ground breaking--it treads well-covered territory--yet it still manages to be engaging and enjoyable.
Miki Yoishikawa is an average high school freshman: she worries about her grades, belongs to the tennis club and has an uncertain, under the surface romance with her best guy pal Ginta. Her world is given a bit of a shake though when her parents cheerfully announce they are getting a divorce. It seems that while on a romantic vacation Miki's parents met a couple about their same age, the Matsuura's, and fell in love. They decided to partner-swap and all move in together as a big happy family. This Brady Bunch arrangement of everybody living in the same house is played for a few laughs throughout the course of the series, but mostly its just pretense for allowing Miki to live under the same roof as Yuu, the Matsuura's handsome son who happens to be Miki's age.
Yuu is the titled “Marmalade Boy,” a name Miki gives him early in the first volume because of his penchant to alternately tease and act sweetly towards her. But even though she is confused by his attitude, Miki finds herself attracted to the confident and popular Yuu. As with most shoujo though, Miki is possessed by doubt for her feelings, apprehension about his feelings, and experiences of course those inevitable love triangles which seem to sprout out at every turn. Still, despite the cliched nature of Marmalade Boy's individual elements, it is greater than the sum of its parts. Marmalade Boy combines elements of sports action, comedy, forbidden love and an air of mystery into an entertaining package of high school romance. The reason these elements go together as well as they do is in large part due to the likability of its solid cast of characters. Supporting characters such as Ginta, Miki's friend Meiko and Yuu's old girlfriend Arimi are given well-fleshed out subplots, and though Miki and Yuu's relationship suffers from the usual self-doubts concerning confessions and misunderstandings, they more often than not act forthright and courageously, avoiding the kind of annoyingly long and drawn out periods of self torture which often typify other shoujo fare.
Written and drawn by Wataru Yoshizumi, the manga-ka responsible for the recently adapted anime Ultra Maniac, Marmalade Boy enjoys very good art. The backgrounds are low in detail and sometimes non-existant, but Wataru's characters enjoy clean lines, good proportions and excellent expressions. Her work on hair and eyes is also some of the best in the business and serve her well in the type of dramatic closeups that Marmalde Boy frequently employs.
The series is released by Tokyopop unflipped, and is currently complete at 8 volumes. Fans of the anime series will note that 8 volumes does not completely correspond to the 76 episodes of the anime, so necessarily some plotlines from the show are missing in the manga, most notably the Yuu in America arc. Yet the 8 volume length for the manga is a blessing. It allows suitable time for plot and character development without allowing time for it to grow stale or repetitive. Indeed, it's a well balanced story which rarely slows down or lags. Thus Marmalade Boy is a wholly engaging read that does not demand as much in terms of time or money as many longer shoujo titles. Yes, it is cliched, and yes, there is never any doubt in how the story will eventually turn out, but yes, you will enjoy following it nonetheless.
Overall : B+
+ a classic, endearing characters, light(er) on the angst
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