Story and art by Yoshiki Nishimura
Translated by Tomo Kimura
Lettering and retouch by Sabrina Heep
It's been a while since I last checked in with In the comments to my last Skip-Beat! post, Miki wrote:
Ex: You call Kyoko and her character design, "wild and unpredictable but very conventional at the same time."
That's the main problem with Skip-Beat! right there. It sounds like it's twisting a cliché into something different, (and I do agree it uses its cliche and makes them enjoyable) but even though it seems to strive to be different, it is still SO conventional. Wants revenge. It devilish but good inside. Falls in love with another more deserving but at first unlikable guy. Kyoko has more quirks than that, and makes it more interesting, but it's still very conventional. Her character comes off as flat for me too.
Another aspect that you seem to enjoy and I don't is the physical comedy. I like humor that's witty and sharp, done with clever images or great dialogue that makes me laugh out loud. The totally obvious ones don't work for me. I think "that's suppose to be funny" instead of laughing.
I don't disagree with most of Miki's assessments. Kyoko really is a very conventional character beneath a veneer of edginess, but I would argue that's part of her appeal. It's like Mean Girls — we get a brief frisson when a good girl turns bad, but what we're really looking for is that moment when she comes to her senses and gets back on the right track. We're not rooting for Kyoko to destroy Sho, we're wating for the tiny moments when she's able to rebuild her life. In some ways, that's very unconventional. A lot of romance manga are filled with girls who escape from the normal world into unusual or fantastic situation. Here's a manga where the character is surrounded by celebrities and dreams of nothing more than being able to go to high school and ice cream with her BFF.
It's also true that Kyoko is more caricature than character in the early volumes. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing for a character in a comedy. Half of the fun is watching her careen from violent emotion to violent emotion, wholeheartedly embracing whatever mood she's in whether fair or foul. (On the other hand, as the book becomes less of a madcap comedy and more of a romantic comedy, a toned down version of Kyoko that emerges that is a lot less compelling.)
As for the physical humor and low comedy, we're just going to have to agree to disagree. Don't get me wrong, I love sophisticated humor and clever with as much as the next guy — heck, my favorite author is Balzac — but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy Man Getting Hit By Football too.
When we last left Kyoko, she'd manage to claw her way up from cleaning floors to dressing up in a chicken suit on a variety show and starring in a television commercial. In the process, she's managed to win a new friend, discover a vocation that she actually enjoys, and pass her high school entrance exams. Of course, she's also managed to antagonize Ren Tsuruga, the most popular movie star in Japan — though maybe they don't hate each other as much as they think. Ah, to be young, and in love, and also an emotional cripple.
In these volumes, she's offered a role that could give a tremendous boost her career — a starring role in a music video for, you guessed it, Sho Fuwa. It takes a bit of convincing, but she eventually accepts with the idea that she'll sabotage Sho's video by standing out more than he does. Of course, to pull that off, she'll have to work side by side with Sho without revealing her true identity...
You've gotta love those grudge Kyokos — it's like they've been scientifically proportioned for maximum cuteness, and the sheer incongruity of all that saccharine cuteness and the overly-sinister shading is really amusing. I'm actually kind of curious to see what sort of voice they've given them in the anime adaptation (I'm imagining a sort of Talky Tina voice, myself).
Of course, Kyoko's plan completely backfires. Sho sees through her act and her revenge is denied. It's an interesting step backwards for the character, but one that seems entirely appropriate, and it's to Nishimura's credit that Kyoko's backsliding takes the book into new directions rather than just forcing the series to cover the same ground over and over again. In this case, her thwarted desire to one-up Sho actually winds up deepening her appreciation for the art of acting.
In these volumes Kyoko also has to deal with a jealous classmate, a bratty child star trying to destroy her career, and the craziness of her co-worker Moko's private life. Plenty of comedy to be had. Volume nine ends with Kyoko getting an offer for a role that might make her an instant superstar (as well as eat up at least the next five volumes of the book).
Unfortunately, there are a lot fewer visual metaphors in these volumes than in the previous six. Fortunately, there's enough wackiness from the grudge Kyokos to make up for it.
So more great stuff from Yoshiki Nishimura. Unfortunately, the next couple of volumes almost wind up bringing things to a screenching halt...