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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson! 
15th-Feb-2007 10:29 am
The Number One Superhero Comic on the Internet© continues apace. Frankly, this is the most action I've ever written.


Also, Andrew has updated The Chronicles of William Bazillion.


And what's this? Another installment of the Overlooked Manga Festival? Why, yes! It is!

Although I cover shojo (girls') manga pretty frequently in this feature, I've ignored most of the newer shojo titles. As I've explained before, this is because old manga is better than new manga. Or at least more overlooked.

But this week I thought I'd check out some contemporary shojo manga. Since Viz and Tokyopop now publish approximately 250 million billion zillion manga with smiling saucer-eyed girls in front of pastel flower backgrounds on the cover, I wasn't sure where to start. I needed help. For that, I turned to Viz editor Pancha Diaz, who handles a lot of shojo manga (including Nana, one of the best manga you're probably not reading, which I have solemnly promised to save for a later OMF once the Viz edition gets to the first big bombshell) and generally stays a lot more on top of the scene than I do. She gave me this:

Like most modern shojo manga, Skip Beat! starts with the heroine being treated like a doormat by a handsome asshole. Unlike most modern shojo manga, it doesn't continue this way for 18 volumes. Kyoko, our teenage heroine, is living a fairy tale, sort of. She's moved to Tokyo with her true love Sho, to support him in his skyrocketing music career. An ordinary girl secretly living with a handsome, sexy superstar, she's a modern-day Cinderella.

Well. Sort of.

(Yes, the sound effect for the pudding is "PUUDDINNG!" Thank you, Pancha.)

But then Kyoko's fragile little fairy tale shatters: Sho coldly confesses that he only sees her as his live-in (and, it's implied but not actually shown, sleep-in) maid, and that he can get girls a million times hotter and cooler than her. Instead of destroying Kyoko, however, his cruel dis unlocks a Pandora's box of festering resentments inside her.

Kyoko vows to destroy Sho manga-style: by becoming an even bigger star and beating him at his own game. She enters showbiz at the ground floor and laboriously begins her ascent to superstardom. She's handicapped only by her apparent lack of marketable talent and her now-powerful dark side, which routinely manifests itself like so:

At LME Productions, a talent agency run by an eccentric fellow who usually enters accompanied by some kind of musical number, Kyoko is placed in the "Love Me" section, a department for talents whose potential is marred by the hate in their souls. I'm reminded of a bit of dialogue from The Simpsons: "Why do you want to join the Bigger Brothers?" "Don't say revenge...don't say revenge..."

Revenge is poor motivation, apparently, because stars need to be driven by LOVE. Frankly, though, the manga seems a lot more sympathetic to the characters driven by hate. After all, the desire to be loved isn't always an attractive quality.

Along the way, Kyoko meets kindred souls, including Kotonami, a fellow Love Me member who very, very reluctantly becomes her best friend, and the LME president's adorable granddaughter, with whom she bonds over their shared fondness for casting evil curses upon those who have wronged them.

Obviously, one of the things I like most about this manga is that all the sympathetic characters are unrepentantly evil and vindictive. But there are other things I like. The female friendships, for instance. The heroines of teen shojo manga are often strangely devoid of friends, or indeed any female acquaintances who aren't bitchy rivals, but Skip Beat! builds up a funny, believable relationship between Kyoko and Kotonami, a professional rivalry that develops into an us-against-the-world partnership. I also like the antagonistic but non-abusive relationship between Kyoko and hot young actor Ren Tsuruga. Ren is just as good-looking as Sho, is an even bigger star, and doesn't appear to be an enormous asshole, so obviously he and Kyoko are destined to hook up.

Ren, however, has something of a dark side of his own, which freaks Kyoko out. Come on, you can't not crack a smile at this horror-movie moment:

Other things I like: Kyoko's backstory, which establishes her as an apprentice at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Ryokan are traditionally run by women, with the female head of the household serving as the manager and public face of the establishment. We learn that Sho left home to become a star in Tokyo because he's the ryokan owner's son and didn't want to inherit a life where he wouldn't be the center of attention. Kyoko is also trying to distance herself from the inn, but her education in the ultra-traditional end of the Japanese service industry often comes in handy in showbiz, whether she's called upon to perform a tea ceremony for a movie scene or trying to score big in the talent portion of an audition:

Finally, I like that Kyoko's struggle to make it big really is a struggle. The portrayal of show business in Skip Beat! can't exactly be called realistic, not with the Love Me section going on, but this isn't the kind of manga where the heroine is spectacularly more talented than everyone around her and it's only a matter of time before the world falls at her feet in awe. As of Volume 5, the most recent volume in English, Kyoko has managed, through intense effort, to make it to the level of dressing in a chicken suit at a variety show.

(Again, let's all give Pancha a round of applause for the FX.)

As Kyoko's long climb up the mass-media ladder continues, she gradually ("gradually" being the key word here) grows less obsessed with revenge and more genuinely interested in becoming a great performer. She grudgingly admire's Ren's acting talent and vows to outshine him. And she does enjoy her fleeting moments of star treatment:

And that's a lot to like about Skip Beat!, a new shojo manga almost good enough to be an old shojo manga.

Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Dr. Slump
Your and My Secret
Wild Act
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi
Banana Fish

15th-Feb-2007 09:13 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness, I laughed out loud at more than one of those issues. It's almost like Never Give Up, except thousands of times more hilarious and less dysfunctional!
16th-Jul-2008 02:11 pm (UTC)
Posted by: Julie at May 2, PM Sarina "Except for that one time I called her a dumb cunt" made me laugh out loud at my cubicle.
15th-Feb-2007 09:44 pm (UTC)
Yay, something I haven't heard of and it's probably Obtainable in Canada.

People aren't reading Nana? The hell? That surprises me, between the post-Parakiss Ai Yazawa goth-loli cocksuction and the huge push. (That said, I haven't had an opportunity to hit it up yet.) Or is it just not getting much crossover between market segments?

Then again, I'm still shocked that everyone on English-speaking Earth didn't dogpile on Dr. Slump. Not surprised, just shocked.
16th-Feb-2007 12:06 am (UTC)

I must buy this.
16th-Feb-2007 06:03 pm (UTC)
I like Skip Beat, although sometimes the way phrases are broken up across the page weirds me out. Like a character's thoughts will be separated into a series of two-to-three word phrases across several pages... it's difficult to read. Although the problem seems to clear up by volume three.

I've been catching up on "Life", which is also a ridiculous title.
16th-Jul-2008 08:00 am (UTC)
Words, thoughts, phrases, stories - release your fancy and tell me what you think. Then I'll tell you what this picture triggers in me and we can all admire the fruits of our imagination.
16th-Feb-2007 10:56 pm (UTC) - Kyaaaa!
Skip Beat is my own favorite manga! I'm so glad other people are willing to give it a try after reading this great review. I hope you all enjoy it! XD Skip deserves our love!! *dances happily around the room* Kyaa kyaa! XD
17th-Feb-2007 03:45 am (UTC)
Skip Beat is amazing. It just gets better and better. This is one shoujo manga I WILL be buying as it comes out. I read like, all 15 volumes in one night on New Year's Eve 0.o I don't know how I did it in retrospect. But it is that addicting. As someone with a BA in Theatre, it also makes it that much more real for me, listening to all the thoughts that go through Kyoko's head as she's preparing for her characters. Probably my favourite shoujo manga that I'm reading right now.
9th-Oct-2008 03:40 pm (UTC)
  Come one, come all to our Lost Planet tournament extravaganza.   Entry is first-come, first-served and space is limited, so make sure to show up early to secure your spot.
17th-Feb-2007 02:24 pm (UTC) - Skip Beat !
I love your Overlooked Manga Festival and I am really happy that you are reviewing and recommending one of my favorite Manga (Icon!).
I´m reading it in the german shojo - anthology DAISUKI and recently bought all seven tankoben currently available here. Skip Beat started a bit slowly, but soon picked up speed and I fell in love. In the popularity poll in Daisuki it started out occupying the last two places ( out of six), but lingers recently somewhere in the Top Three, sometimes even snatching away place one off of Fruits Basket. And THAT means something, doesn´t it ?
13th-Jul-2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
  Just because a person says they will do something doesn’t mean they have the faintest intention of actually doing it.
9th-Oct-2008 03:05 pm (UTC)
Still, that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, it just means you need to be prepared for small numbers and lots of misunderstanding.
17th-Feb-2007 05:25 pm (UTC)
Skip Beat is indeed awesome, but you like older and better? Try Yoshiki Nakamura's series directly before Skip Beat--Tokyo Crazy Paradise, a Hana to Yume staple throughout the 90's. 19 volumes of a badass girl in drag working as the bodyguard of a hot young yakuza classmate. It's hilarious, action-packed, insightful, and has one of my the best love stories I've ever read. Her art wasn't as good back then, but who cares? It is SPECTACULAR.
17th-Feb-2007 06:06 pm (UTC)
The Overlooked Manga Festival is reserved for manga that have been published in official English translation (and overlooked). But one of the things I found amusing, and forgot to mention in my post, is that the sales blurb on the back cover of Skip Beat! advertises it as "By the creator of Tokyo Crazy Paradise!" That's so very Pancha Diaz: advertising a manga by way of another manga that isn't actually available in English.

Well, of course it is on the Internet. But Viz editors never read scanlations and know nothing about them. [koff koff]
4th-Mar-2007 08:35 am (UTC) - skip beat
do u have any sites of basara (18+) and skip beat(9+) in english?
11th-Apr-2007 10:30 pm (UTC) - huh?
what is with that ren tsurga????? he doesn't recognize kyoko until book 4... and then completely acts as if he still doesn't know her!!! ugh! man, will namakura ever put ren down liking kyoko?? grumble.
18th-May-2007 02:12 pm (UTC) - Skip Beat!
I love Skipp Beat and i Read books 1-5 on the internet and i was wondering if you would like to update it and i would love tyou to pplease i am a big fan
23rd-May-2007 06:06 pm (UTC) - skip-beat!
hay it's great you have some skip-beat! add more!!!**
16th-Jul-2007 08:44 am (UTC)
Oh, brilliant work! I ♥ Skip Beat and have all the Viz volumes (as well as, er, some other releases...) and had been planning on writing a pimp post for this excellent manga. You've said everything I would have (and with a great deal more humour than I could manage), so I was wondering if you'd mind if I linked back to this entry, urging people on my flist to get into the series?

Let me know, and regardless, this is a fantastic post! *mems*
4th-Nov-2007 03:20 am (UTC)
heheh, now that it's November and I'm only now reading, this is kinda sad. But now that it's hit volume 9, I must say, I grow more and more fond of this manga with each release. I am continually taken by surprise (which is a surprise in itself), by both the content, and the humor, and the artwork. You think Kyoko is going to do one thing, and she turns around and does the opposite thing. It's great. *drops hints about getting Tokyo Crazy Paradise licensed*
5th-Dec-2007 12:01 am (UTC) - Interesting situation ...
So dear readers forum! What in your view should be present man? What qualities have? What should be able to do?
Interested in your opinion?

P.S. Please administrator shaenon.livejournal.com. If the thread is not to be in category this, I ask you to move my thread to the correct category.
30th-Dec-2007 11:45 pm (UTC) - Re: Interesting situation ...
ok i have a prb i went to a web site and ead all of skip beat up to capter 116 in 2 days im serious its good but i nee the ret soon how o i get it???
30th-Dec-2007 11:47 pm (UTC) - Re: Interesting situation ...
i read them on the internet oh!!! same person here! www.onemanga.com!!!!!
6th-May-2010 02:20 pm (UTC)
About Skip Beat!:
Kyoko always thought that Sho, whose family took her in when she was small, was her prince charming. However, when Sho heads for Tokyo to make it big as a musician, Kyoko goes with him and has to quit high school to support his dream. But soon, being in the big city makes Kyoko realize that she has show business ambitions of her own!

you can buy Skip Beat! at manga astore



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