18 Apr, 2010

On the Shojo Beat: Stepping on Roses and More!

By: Michelle Smith, Melinda Beasi and Jennifer Dunbar

Welcome to the April edition of On the Shojo Beat! Michelle starts us off with a look at the fourth volume of Honey Hunt, now available after quite a lengthy wait from volume three. Next, Jennifer takes a look at the debut title for this month, Stepping on Roses, a period romance from the creator of Tail of the Moon. Lastly, Melinda chimes in on volume nine of Wild Ones, which offers some resolution on the romantic front though the series has one more volume to go.


Honey Hunt, Vol. 4

By Miki Aihara
VIZ, 192 pp.
Rating: Older Teen

Despite having no prior interest in acting, Yura Onozuka, the relatively normal daughter of celebrity parents, discovers a talent for it when she resolves to surpass her mother in the dramatic sphere. She has achieved some moderate success pretty quickly, including a spot in a commercial and a supporting role on a new TV drama.

Yura’s career is less the focus in this volume than are her romantic prospects, however. While volume three ended with one pop star (Haruka) confessing his feelings, here Yura is swept away by his twin brother (Q-ta, also a pop star), to the point where she’s distracted during an audition and later ditches a dinner planned by her housemates—to celebrate her drama’s debut—in favor of spending a night on the town with Q-ta.

Although one might wish for a heroine more doggedly dedicated to her career, it’s not hard to sympathize with Yura as she faces the choice between two dreams—the nurturing family-type environment offered by her housemates and the love of a prince-like suitor. Even though she makes some mistakes, she’s still likeable. Q-ta, however, comes off as quite the brat here, and one can’t help but wonder whether his protestations that he likes Yura for herself rather than for her famous father are truly genuine. If not, I suppose it’ll make for good drama.

In the end, while Honey Hunt doesn’t leave a particularly strong impression with the reader, it’s still something I enjoy reading.

Volume four of Honey Hunt is available now.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith


Stepping on Roses, Vol. 1

By Rinko Ueda
Viz, 200 pp.
Rating: Older Teen

Sumi Kitamura needs to beat some sense into her older brother, Eisuke.

Not that this is proper for a girl of Meiji-era Japan, nor is it in her character to do so. They’re on their own, you see, and were it just Eisuke and Sumi—well, Sumi’s fifteen and Eisuke’s old enough to work, so they’d probably be able to make it on their own. That’s not how Eisuke rolls, though. He has this habit of bringing abandoned babies home for Sumi to care for, dumping them on her lap and heading out again to “work.”

“Work” is put in quotation marks here because Eisuke is essentially a gigolo. He’d probably bring in enough money to support Sumi and the children if he didn’t have a gambling problem on top of that. At the beginning of Stepping on Roses, he’s just dropped a fifth abandoned child into Sumi’s care right as one of the older children, a little girl named Tomi, has fallen ill.

It’s through the generosity of a stranger that Tomi gets the medicine she needs, but that hurdle is jumped only to run into another: Eisuke has been trying to romance the girlfriend of one of his thug creditors, and now said creditor has come to collect the 2,000 yen (worth about $33,000 in modern US dollars) Eisuke borrowed in Sumi’s name. Sumi ends up offering to sell herself to make the money (so the thug won’t sell the five young children on the black market).

Here’s where Soichiro Ashida comes into the picture. He’s rich, handsome, and stands to inherit his family’s fortune if he gets married by the deadline set by his dying grandfather. So he buys Sumi. She thinks at first that he’s just bought her body, but no, that’s not it at all: he’s bought her hand in marriage, so Sumi must relinquish her freedom to this man who can’t be bothered with romance. The biggest catch is this: she is not to love him, and he’s not going to love her.

So that’s the main story: destitute teenage girl, desperate to save the five children she cares for, sells her hand in marriage to a selfish rich boy. She’s forced into a crash course in manners (especially Western-style manners) and how to behave as part of the gentry, all the while not being allowed to even let Eisuke and the children know where she is or what’s become of her. She recognizes that she’s being treated like crap, but doesn’t feel like she has any choice in the matter since she’s been paid for. All of this is complicated even further by his sweet, affectionate treatment of her when they’re in front of other people.

While the art of Stepping on Roses is absolutely beautiful, the story is not. I have no doubt that such a concept could be done well in the hands of another storyteller, but Ueda-sensei’s storytelling leaves me feeling frustrated at the predictable way the plot moves and the horrible way that the bulk of the supporting characters behave toward the protagonist. I’m not going to give up on this one just yet, but I don’t have much hope for Stepping on Roses.

Volume one of Stepping on Roses is available now.

–Reviewed by Jennifer Dunbar


Wild Ones, Vol. 9

By Kiyo Fujiwara
Viz, 200 pp.
Rating: Teen

Having finally agreed to speak to the father who abandoned him so many years ago, Rakuto is confronted with the possibility that he may eventually have to leave Sachie’s side in order to make peace with his own past. Meanwhile, Azuma is determined to let Sachie know how he feels, whether Rakuto is ready to play his part or not. Who does Sachie truly love? Has this ever been in question? If so, this volume provides an answer at long last!

Finally the series’ romantic tension is resolved, exactly as it was certain to be from the beginning. Some formulaic romances are enjoyable to read simply because they are so predictable. With these stories, the charm is in the writing, and watching their familiar scenarios play out is, frankly, comforting and downright delightful. Unfortunately, this is not one of those series. Though the couple in question are undeniably sweet, their relationship is so labored and so painfully drawn out, one finds oneself wishing something truly shocking would happen (a deadly plague? an alien invasion? ) just to break up the monotony. With its unbelievable premise and its terminally clueless lovers, this series seems determined to remain lifeless until the end.

Well, almost, anyway. To be fair, this volume’s final pages are honestly sweet, and may even evoke tears from desperate readers grateful for a bit of romantic satisfaction. It may not be an alien invasion, but long-time readers are at least assured some payoff.

Volume nine of Wild Ones is available now.

–Reviewed by Melinda Beasi

2 Responses to "On the Shojo Beat: Stepping on Roses and More!"

2 | Wild Ones, Vol. 9 | Manga Bookshelf

April 18th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Avatar

[...] review is at Manga Recon’s On The Shojo Beat column, for volume nine of Wild Ones by Kiyo [...]

Tags