Comics artist and former Gainax employee Lea Hernandez joins us to talk about her turbulent time back in the late 80s with the company that gave birth to Evangelion.
Reviewby Carlo Santos, Jan 31st 2006
Mugi Tadano, having just broken up with his girlfriend, is trying to pass away his troubles by working with best friend Kazuki at a summer resort. One day, Kazuki sets up Mugi on a date with a beautiful girl named Yuu. All is well for the two of them—until Mugi accidentally walks in on Yuu while she's showering in the public baths. By the time Mugi musters the courage to apologize to her, Yuu's already left the island, and he figures he'll never see her again. Imagine his surprise, then, when he comes home and finds her taking a shower in his bathroom. At the request of a family friend, beautiful Yuu and her equally cute sister are moving into the Tadano house!
To understand Pastel, it's essential to look at the central theme of the series. And that theme is: boobs. From the first glossy color page, to Yuu's cheesecake poses, to Mugi's hormone-driven utterances, nothing is more important than the chest area of a woman's anatomy. Manga-ka Toshihiko Kobayashi occasionally explores other areas of the female form too, but ultimately, it's the concept of exposed cleavage that dominates. Oh, and there might be a storyline too. But who cares? Look! Boobs!
Whether Pastel even has a storyline will depend on your definition of a line. Mugi's exploits seem more like random coincidences than a logical narrative: the girl from the beach just happens to move into his house; a rainstorm just happens to soak his room so that they have to sleep together; his dad, conveniently enough, is at work all the time. While these setups lend themselves to delightfully embarrassing, fanservice-laden situations, Kobayashi strings them together ineptly, leading to a first volume that doesn't go anywhere, only hinting at future romance between Mugi and Yuu.
Unfortunately, if that romance ever develops, it'll probably be just as empty as their personalities. Mugi is, of course, the Average Loser Guy who somehow keeps getting into racy situations, and Yuu takes the role of the stunning beauty who could do so much better but keeps hanging around anyway. Whether this turns into a harem remains to be seen (Yuu's little sister only shows up briefly), and the characters' attitudes are thankfully not as annoying as those from other shounen romantic comedies. Indeed, this is a title that plays up romance over comedy—Mugi often lapses into saccharine reflections on how he's getting over his ex and falling for Yuu. When the two of them interact, it tends towards sweetness or shy embarrassment rather than being outrageously over-the-top.
Those embarrassing moments are often the result of Yuu "accidentally" revealing her skin, which takes us back to the essence of Pastel: boobs. And panties, and towels, and sometimes nothing at all. Whether stripping down to a bikini, soaked in a wet tank top, or just coming out of the shower, Yuu's curves and doe-eyed looks are a textbook example of pin-up illustration, coming dangerously close to the boundaries of adult material. By comparison, Mugi and Kazuki look like 3-minute character designs doodled on a napkin out of necessity. With so much focus on Yuu, it's easy to miss the detailed backgrounds of Mugi's seaside hometown—a setting so lush that it feels wasted on this bland boy-meets-girl story. The straightforward rectangular layouts also reflect that blandness; rather than trying to tell a story with pictures, it's more like a book of Cute Girl Drawings with a comic thrown in.
As usual, Del Rey's presentation of the volume is top-notch, with a glossy 8-page color insert greeting the reader before leading into the book. The print quality is consistently sharp, and the dialogue, although plain, has a smooth conversational flow. Sound effects are translated in small letters right next to the artwork; the font choices may not be terribly creative, but they get the message across in a non-intrusive way. Extensive but concise translation notes in the back of the book provide relevant information on both Japanese language and culture, and the raw preview of Volume 2 provides a promise of—you guessed it—more boobs.
Hopefully, we've now come to a better thematic understanding of Pastel: yes, it's all about the goods that Yuu's got under her shirt. Right from the start, this volume delivers heavy doses of male-targeted fanservice, falling somewhere between Ken Akamatsu and Oh! great in balancing the sweet and the sexy. That's about all it delivers, however, and Tadano Mugi suffers from the exact problem that his name suggests: he's just "plain old wheat," a boring guy stuck in a boring story. If you want to read about a boy growing up and discovering love, Beck tackles the same subject with much more finesse... and if you just want to look at hot cartoon girls, you can do that online for free.
Overall : C-
Story : D
Art : B
+ Enjoyable fanservice illustrations and surprisingly good backgrounds.
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