by Natsumi Ando
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I decided to re-read this quick 3 volume series while I was sitting at home with a cold. The only thing is, I didn’t remember the story at all. Was it the cold? Did I really not read it before? Or, was it just so unmemorable that it felt like a completely new story?
This is a story about Chino, a teenage girl who only wants to fall in love. Her father, a great explorer, has just returned home and he always brings her a souvenir from his travels… this time he’s brought the wild boy Hyo (think Tarzan). And Chino is surprised to find herself falling for him.
Now, why is this cute premise of a story not memorable? Probably because it’s cute without real conflict. And it’s not believable in any way. The author (or probably also, the translator) has made a mistake with this story. I have many problems with it:
1. Chino’s father claims he taught Hyo how to speak Japanese. In the early pages/volume Hyo clearly has second language speaking deficiencies. Word order, and Word use are considered and properly assumed. But by about the second volume he is already speaking fluently. The language translation is fluid and there is rarely any reference to his wild upbringing. Was this intentional, or did the translator make a mistake? It’s hard to tell when I don’t have the Japanese edition in hand. But, this is clearly a problem. He hasn’t stayed in Japan long enough to assume that strength of language understanding and use. He even goes so far as discussing and understanding complicated and theoretical terms like “love”. Something is clearly missing…
Not only this, but about mid-way through Hyo joins Chino at school. He says he doesn’t understand school, but that is only in reference to social norms. It’s doubtful that he’d be able to understand the skills required to be in a junior high class: reading, writing, arithmetic… taking notes, writing tests, etc. This just was too unbelievable and unexplained for my logical mind to handle.
2. Hyo is passively involved. It’s not that he doesn’t display feelings but, when Chino gets herself into somewhat “dangerous” situations, Hyo comes swinging in to the rescue. He never has a display of fear, of regret, or of panic that Chino is in a difficult situation. He’s too in control. If you compare this to the similarly premised Beast Master by Kyousuke Motomi. In Beast Master Aoi is afraid, must make sacrifices, and feels strongly that his girl doesn’t get involved in dangerous situations. The character of Hyo is just too placid. If a character is too in control it becomes boring – no girl is looking for “boring”.
3. The character design is too generic. I think this is characteristic of Natsumi Ando. But her art style just isn’t memorable. It looks more like “fan work” than “professional work” to me. There is just no depth, exuberant design, or strong feelings. I’ve read a few of her series, and this is one of the reasons I rarely re-read her work. If it was prettier, or weirder, or over designed, or under designed, or had some special flourish it would probably be more memorable. But, it isn’t. It’s kind of too perfect, and normal — just like her hero.
Ok. So obviously there is a lot here to convince me that I had read this title before — and that I’d just forgotten it. But, there is at least one aspect to the story that I appreciated: the “rival”. Of course in true shoujo style, a wealthy rival appears who wants to have Hyo as her own. But instead of her wanting him as her boyfriend, she is looking for him to become her big brother. This is a nice twist to a usual scenario. And because she wishes he was her brother, the usual tricks won’t work to make her go away.
For me, this is about the only thing about this manga that redeems it. And I’m certain that when I read it again 5 years from now I will be wondering if it was the first time…
Who do I recommend this for? Natsumi Ando is clearly a shoujo author for the pre-teen age range. If you don’t fit into her intended audience range — I would suggest giving this one a pass.