Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
After the Valentine's Day debacle, Kyoko is a little unsteady on her feet. Unfortunately she, Moko, and Love Me newcomer Chiori all admit to the director that they have less than warm feelings about that holiday, so he devises creative retributions. For Kyoko that means role-playing Ren Tsuruga's latest character's little sister...and moving in with him.
Ren Tsuruga is a bit of a mystery. He has a not-quite-hidden past (as far as readers are concerned, anyway), a deliberately gentlemanly exterior, and a serious issue with his own crush on Kyoko. Up until last volume, Kyoko herself was a bit oblivious to all of these mysteries, but with this volume's new story arc “Violence Mission,” it looks like she's going to learn a whole lot about him very quickly. In some respects, he is the more central character of this volume for all that he gets fewer pages and internal monologues. When he is around, however, he takes center stage as he agonizes over his feelings, torn between “controlling” himself and, presumably, tossing Kyoko down on the nearest bed and ravishing her. Part of what makes him interesting is that he is considering her reactions and emotional maturity as much as his own. One scene has him on the verge of deliberately hitting on her in order to scare her away; another has him fixated on putting more clothes on the girl. All in all, when Ren's on the page there are very few dull moments.
Not that dullness has ever been a problem for Skip Beat. This volume takes us back to the president's central goal for the series, to get Kyoko, Moko, and now Chiori to understand love. After he hears that the three girls detested Valentine's Day - “It was a day that polluted society! It was a nightmarish evil day!” they tell him – he decides that they have become too settled and comfortable in their acting lives. So he devises special torments for each of them, tailored to their specific dislikes. Or at least that's the case for Chiori and Moko. For Kyoko he clearly has an ulterior motive. The president has more than a little of the matchmaker in him, and he, along with the woefully absent Yashiro, long ago figured out that Ren was in love with Kyoko. Knowing this, and given some of his facial expressions and thoughts, it is hard to see his plot to make Kyoko and Ren cohabitate for a bit as anything other than a blatant attempt at setting them up. Since this leads to a situation that is likely to engender both comedy and romance, it is difficult to complain.
Nakamura is setting up to deliver on both of those fronts, with a bit of angst thrown in. While Ren is anguishing over his love, Kyoko is busy fretting that she is not playing her role to his satisfaction. She is so caught up in her worries, in fact, that she several times misses moments when Ren is being Ren rather than his character, misinterpreting his need to, for example, stop staring at her cleavage for exasperation with her faulty acting. Nakamura is subtle with these scenes, however, so the reader could very easily miss the moment as well if she hasn't been paying close attention. These little details are part of what makes Skip Beat such a good series, particularly at a length where many romance and comedy stories begin to peter out.
Another highlight of the series is the creativity Nakamura is able to use for her characters' clothing. While the “Dark Moon” cast didn't wear exceptionally interesting clothes, Ren's character this time is a yakuza-style thug, allowing Nakamura to clothe him in bad boy black. Kyoko's character, likewise, dresses like a punk rocker from the 80s, with big, gradient hair, giving her a totally different look than the other times she's been in costume. Both Kyoko and Ren have to get used to seeing the other dressed like this; this is noticeably more difficult for Ren. Nakamura also adds some nice touches in other places, such as the president having a swim with his pet anaconda and the title page image of Kyoko sitting with the famous Hachiko under the banner “I'll wait with you.”
If there's one thing that can be said about Skip Beat it is that it has been consistently enjoyable. This volume is no exception. It has the feel of set up, but it remains entertaining and interesting, and what it seems to be setting up holds a lot of promise on both the romantic and comedic fronts. It is a shame that this is Nakamura's only English language release, because this is a woman who knows how to tell a good story.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Both funny and a bit romantic. Interesting new looks for both Ren and Kyoko; setting up for a good story arc.
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