Quick comic comments: Thirds

February 9, 2007

After reading the third volume of Yû Watase’s Absolute Boyfriend (Viz – Shojo Beat), I think I’m done with this series. The love triangle that drives the story fails to make me care about any of the potential outcomes, mostly because Watase hasn’t convinced me that Night is an actual character. I’m not all that interested in the characters that aren’t custom-made love robots either. Even fluffy romantic comedies need some emotional suspense.

There’s also something creepy about supporting characters trying to stage the heroine’s first sexual experience for commercial purposes.

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On the other hand, Meca Tanaka’s Omukae Desu (CMX) invests pleasant, episodic diversion with some very appealing romantic tension with its third volume. Without sacrificing any of the appeal of the ghost-of-the-chapter structure of the stories, Tanaka is gradually adding more layers to the characterizations of her core cast.

I liked the book’s quartet of afterlife travel agents to begin with, so it’s very rewarding to see more shadings emerge. It gives their interactions more purpose and weight. The extra effort is also spilling over into the guest ghosts; the unfinished business that’s keeping them tethered to their old lives is more affecting because it’s more resonant for the people trying to help them move on.

Tanaka’s illustrations are becoming progressively more polished as the series moves along as well. I liked the loose, scratchy quality of the early chapters, and there’s still some of that in evidence, but it’s used more specifically for comic effect. It creates nice visual balance.

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And back on the subject of omake, both Tanaka and Watase cover the usual territory – overwork, side projects, and fan appreciation. The difference is that Tanaka seems to take a light, self-deprecating approach while Watase… Seriously, what’s going on with Watase? Sometimes they sound like messages from a political prisoner smuggled out of a manga sweatshop by an international aid agency.