Due to some family circumstances, last week fell into a black hole. So here’s what I would’ve written about had I actually been in the mindset to write anything!
• Skip Beat, volume 23
Volume 23 of Skip Beat! came out a while ago and I had forgotten how much I missed reading the misadventures of Miss Kyoko! This volume, however, focuses much more on the psychological problems of Kyoko’s current co-star, Chiori. In the last volume, Chiori pushed Kyoko down the stairs, unaware of how crafty Kyoko can be when getting revenge for such an act. Chiori was a child star, but became traumatized after committing fully to her role as a child. The TV drama with Kyoko is designed to be her comeback role, and she can’t stand the fact that up-start Kyoko is stealing the scene. Kyoko had such a hard time coming to grips with playing another bully, and now she is being confronted with one off-camera as well!
Unlike some of the previous female rivals that I’ve complained about, Chiori seems like a person with legitimate problems. She is not simply a spoiled rich brat to provide favorable comparison for Kyoko. She displays the habits and behaviors of someone who really needs therapy, BAD. Chiori does small things to bully Kyoko, like messing with her nameplate, giving her advice that is contrary to the director’s wishes, etc. Kyoko takes these things in stride, until she is physically hurt. At this point, Sneaky!Kyoko appears. Instead of confronting Chiori directly, Kyoko uses their positions within the bullying scenes to punish Chiori. She pushes Chiori’s acting boundaries to the limit, and in doing so, finds a new connection with her own role. The two come to an understanding when they both acknowledge how their roles have changed them, and Chiori appears to be getting over her past trauma.
Since it’s been so long between volumes, I’m unsure if Kyoko knows that Chiori was the one who pushed her – her behavior towards Chiori was very uneven. Since Chiori is now a member of the “Love Me” team, I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll see of her. The end of volume 23 focused more on bringing Kyoko back into contact with the regular cast, with brief appearances by Moko, Ren, Yashiro and Reino. (Ugh! What this story needs is not more Reino!) The setup is cast for a birthday/valentine’s day themed story next time. I certainly hope that Kyoko doesn’t simply bounce back and forth between Ren and Reino now that she’s done curing Chiori’s mental issues, but we’ll see…
• Claymore, volume 18
At some point, Claymore is going to simply consist of battle scenes without dialogue. That’s my theory, anyway. Claymore seems to isolate its dialogue and exposition to a few volumes here and there, leaving the rest to focus on the fighting. This volume sees the long-awaited meeting between Clare and Priscilla, the possible defeat of Riful, and minor characters get some time in the spotlight fighting the Rafaela/Luciela combo monster of doom. My favorites, Helen and Deneve, are thankfully still around, faithfully supporting Clare as she tries her best to go ape-shit. And beyond that, honestly, there’s not much point in summarizing the plot of Claymore; there are big battles and small battles, there are important characters and not-so-important characters, there are plot turns that may or may not make any sense at all.
I plan to (eventually) write a post about Claymore specifically, and how I see it fitting into the larger canon of Shonen Jump titles. So I won’t go into too much detail about this volume, except to say that I’m glad to see Priscilla back in action. Clare has never been the most expressive or interesting action heroine, so bringing her back into contact with her enemy injects a sense of urgency to the story that has been severely lacking. At a certain point, when one catastrophic thing happens after the last, the reader becomes inured to it all and begins to expect a constant leveling up of the threat. The threats to the Claymore crew have become so crazy and overblown that they don’t inspire much feeling. But since Priscilla has such a personal connection with Clare, things become interesting when she’s put into the mix.
• Wandering Son, volume 1
Before I say anything about the content of this book, I just want to say that Fantagraphics has done a spectacular job with it. The book is hardcover and quite a bit larger than other manga. The paper seems to be of high quality, and the extra pages are quite tastefully done. Bravo Fantagraphics! And all this for $11, too. Go buy this book!
Having quit watching the Wandering Son/Hourou Musuko anime early on, I’m glad that I was able to really get into the manga version. It’s very similar, but I think that the manga format is much easier for me to digest. The story is painstakingly slowly paced, and this is just the right approach to take to show the step-by-step evolution of the character’s identities – but it doesn’t make for very gripping television, at least to me. It’s so much easier for me to pick up this book and delve right into the daily lives of Nitori, the boy who wishes to be a girl, and Takatsuki, the girl who wishes to be a boy. By showing their everyday lives and routines, we see how the disconnect between who they are and who they are supposed to be is so subtle and so complicated – it’s more than the idea of getting one’s period, it’s the everyday ins and outs of being a girl or boy that many people take for granted.
I’m also glad to start the story at the beginning. The anime version started the story later, and the viewer had to piece together the character’s relationships and histories. This was particularly difficult since the characters often looked similar to each other, and since there are so many characters to introduce.
Interestingly, I think that Chiba ends up being the most fascinating character out of the bunch. Nitori and Takatsuki are transgendered, but otherwise have (mostly) happy families that support them. Chiba, on the other hand, is cisgendered but lonely and strange. She wants to become a Christian, so that she can atone for her sins. No other religion allows her to understand the guilt she feels, so she wants to convert. Keep in mind that these are middle-school kids we’re talking about! I’m fascinated by Chiba, because I cannot understand her. Does she simply have a crush on Nitori? If so, the way she expresses it is very strange. Does she see Nitori as someone who is isolated like her? If so, why can’t she see that Takatsuki is in the same boat? I can understand Nitori and Takatsuki’s frustrations and trials and tribulations with their gender expression, in a way that anyone who isn’t naturally a “girly” girl can. But I don’t get Chiba at all. I’m looking forward to seeing her develop in the next volume!