Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
It's time to meet Ren and get on with the last of the Heel siblings masquerade, but Kyoko is still reeling from Corn's unexpected kiss and isn't quite sure how to handle it or why she feels compelled to tell Ren. Ren, meanwhile, is hoping that she'll somehow discover that she has feelings for him rather than his other self, resulting in some awkward conversations. But this isn't even the biggest problem Kyoko is facing: when she gets home to Tokyo, Sho is waiting…and he has some news that will shake her up even more.
Yoshiki Nakamura's Skip Beat! may appear to strictly be about the tangled potential loves of heroine Kyoko Mogami as she struggles to crush her softer feelings, but if you trace it back to its roots, you'll see that her unhealthy relationship with now-star Sho Fuwa isn't really where everything started. Technically speaking, Kyoko's attachment issues began when her mother, a high-powered attorney, abandoned her daughter and went away, leaving a hurting young Kyoko with the Fuwa family and creating a deep sense that she's not worthwhile in her daughter. Kyoko may have turned those feelings into anger and grudge-monsters, but they're still there, and now that she's unlocked her box of emotions, there's more of a risk of them surfacing. We started to see that when she was told that she needed her mother's signature in order to obtain a passport, and now it looks like that may have been just the tip of the iceberg, because Sho's got some news for her about Mommy Dearest that could very well destroy the stability Kyoko has built for herself.
It doesn't help that Kyoko's already feeling off-kilter when the volume opens. Last book she was shaken by her encounter with “Corn,” Ren Tsuruga's other (real?) self whose name, Kuon, she mispronounced as a child. Whether Ren or Kuon is the more “real” person at this point is only tangentially important, although that's likely to change as the romance plot develops further, but the fact that he kissed Kyoko has thrown her into a tizzy. Not knowing that Corn and Ren are the same person has created an emotional conflict within her that Kyoko isn't sure how to handle, and Ren appears to be suffering from a similar issue as he watches her struggle. Interestingly he seems to see himself and Kuon as two separate people while Kyoko is dithering, clearly not sure how he feels about her wanting to talk to his Ren self about her day with his Kuon self. All in all he appears to be hoping that it will make her realize (or discover) that she has romantic feelings for him as Ren, which seems a little odd. Is he so disconnected from his other self that he doesn't want her to figure out that he and Corn are one and the same? Or does he worry that that will alienate her and he won't get her in either form? Tangled as Kyoko's emotions are, Ren's are more complicated, and about the only thing he seems sure of is that he's in love with Kyoko. This makes him pretty entertaining to read about, and the faces he makes (almost hidden by his Cain Heel hair) are great. It's also amusing to watch the great Ren Tsuruga get unconsciously shot down time and again by the oblivious Kyoko, who has no idea what he's trying to do…or how she might feel about him. (And if she does, she's trying her damnedest not to know.)
This volume marks the return of Sho Fuwa as a bigger player, and he's portrayed in a more positive light than we've seen for a while. His trip to see Kyoko may not have been entirely his own idea (that doesn't seem clear; she accuses him of having come because his parents told him to, which he doesn't deny, but he also doesn't confirm it), but he does appear to be genuinely concerned. He's also clearly sick of her treatment of him as the blanket bad guy, which may suggest some newfound maturity on his part…or be a symptom of his massive ego as he tries to shift the blame to her; either way, it is a different role for him, and fans of the character should be pleased with his return.
Working less well at the moment is the subplot about the Box “R” drama that Kyoko is acting in, and which she will presumably devote her energy to more now that she's done being Setsu. One of the other actresses is upset by the drama's low ratings, and Kyoko becomes her cheerleader, making her think about her professional life and how she ought to conduct herself. This is well within Kyoko's character range and will likely lead to a similar situation with her mother's looming entrance on the scene, but it is almost lost here since the other two plotlines are so much more interesting. Not that it could have been helped, but it would have worked better to save the start of this arc for the next volume.
Slow Start to the new section of the Box “R” storyline aside, Skip Beat! remains just as addictive as ever. Kyoko's tender emotions are in for another beating as the person who crippled them initially is set to make a return and Ren's own emotional struggles, as well as the possibility that Sho has more soft feelings than any of us give him credit for, are lined up to make sure that the story keeps moving in terms of both plot and subplot. This may be more of a transitional volume, but it looks like Skip Beat! isn't done being a good story yet.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Lots of good emotional content and the next story arc is looking to be a doozy. Return of Sho portrays him in a different light, Ren can be pretty funny.
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