Reviewby Zac Bertschy,
Tenshi Ja Nai!!
Hikaru's relatively normal life was flipped upside down after she was offered her first modeling job; instead of becoming more popular, Hikaru suddenly found herself the target of jealous bullies who went out of their way to make her life a living hell. Desperate for an escape and a chance to start over and blend in with the scenery, Hikaru enrolls at a prestigious all-girls academy. Unfortunately, “blending in” isn't in the cards for Hikaru; her roommate, Izumi, is far and away the most popular girl in school, thanks to her amazing beauty and her new recurring role on a popular TV drama. But there's more to Izumi than meets the eye: she's not even a she! Hikaru quickly discovers Izumi's secret and once again she finds herself at the eye of the storm…
A brilliant freshman effort from fledgling publisher Go! Comi, Tenshi Ja Nai is a sweet, light-hearted little shoujo comedy that deserves a look from fans of the genre. There's nothing particularly new or groundbreaking here, and a few of the plot elements are standard fangirl pandering falderal, but the quality of the book itself and the clean, elegant linework should be enough to keep most anyone happy.
While it's really nothing too special and at times dips into cliché, the basic plotline is easy to follow and hard to dislike. While seasoned readers might be quick to call the story a little too derivative, the fact of the matter is that the story seems to have been assembled from a wide variety of different elements common shoujo plotlines, resulting in a pastiche that doesn't feel fresh, but also doesn't feel too clichéd or familiar. It'd be nice if other shoujo authors bothered to mask their influences instead of simply copying whatever was popular at the time.
That's not to say the story isn't without its problems. Frankly, the “are-they-or-aren't-they” romance subplot between Izumi and his pretty-boy bodyguard Yasukuni seems tacked on, designed specifically to fuel the doujinshi crowd and reel in the yaoi fangirls. Furthermore, the Izumi character's personality jumps around a lot; one moment he's demure and ladylike, the next he's an aggressive yet enigmatic tough guy. There's a lack of strong personalities and the characters seem to serve the story rather than the story serving the characters, which is kind of a shame. Otherwise, it's a harmless, fun little romp and it's a fair sight better than a lot of the other generic shoujo stuff on the shelves right now.
The artwork is surprisingly beautiful. Clean, very elegant linework complements the character design, which can be a little repetitive, but it's still easy to tell the characters apart. Izumi in particular is drawn differently given his demeanor and it's interesting to see how the author drawns “manly” Izumi versus “girly” Izumi. The author has a real eye for page layout, too; it's never confusing to follow and sometimes the panel configurations are downright beautiful, complementing the artwork perfectly.
The book itself rivals Del Rey in terms of what you get for your money. A beautiful, flowing translation is complemented by a very clean font; letter placement is never awkward and the pages are crisp and clear as day. The book includes a short “next volume preview” that, rather than simply excerpting random pages, only shows the three or four most shocking or important panels from the next volume. The cover is glossy and really quite pretty, and they've even included all of the author's margin notes (however insipid they may be). All in all, Go! Comi learned a lot from Del Rey's excellent presentation and the result is a really beautiful book that's worth every penny.
If you're curious about the genre, a long-time fan or are simply curious about what Go! Comi is capable of, Tenshi Ja Nai! will serve you well. The story's fun enough, the artwork is great and the book itself shows a real commitment to quality from the publisher. It might not be the most groundbreaking thing you've ever read, and there are better titles out there, but if you're looking for something to pass an afternoon that's of a slightly higher quality than your average attractive-people-in-love manga, this book will be worth your time.
Story : B-
Art : A
+ Fun story, great art, quality publication.
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