Over at Comics Should Be Good, Danielle Leigh once again demonstrates her great taste, listing her top five current shôjo series. This reminds me that it’s time to make a few more Great Graphic Novels for Teens nominations.
The sixth volume of Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare (Go! Comi) features some juicy forward plot motion and some ruthless character development. Back when I used to watch soap operas and participate in that branch of online fandom, many of us would decry what we called “Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome.” Mizushiro thrills me to no end by ripping one of her characters to shreds for indulging in this kind of behavior. Seriously, you won’t find a more psychologically acute melodrama in this category.
The 19th volume of Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket (Tokyopop) makes me geek out a round of “The Gang’s All Here.” After some extensive focus on individual characters, Takaya rounds everyone up for what feels like the beginning a very satisfying endgame. It’s a testament to the excellent work she’s done developing her cast that I’m delighted to see so many of them return and that their complex dynamics are still so clear and emotionally effective. As usual, threads that previously seemed extraneous are woven into the story’s larger tapestry, which tells me that I should just assume that everything matters. It’s a marvel, and it really shouldn’t be dismissed on the basis of its commercial success.
“Mature Content” rating be damned. Teens are probably reading Ai Yazawa’s Nana (Viz) anyways, so I’m throwing the ninth volume into the mix. More to the point, if there’s a better portrayal of the fallout of capricious behavior, I can’t think of it. The happy, shiny world of the entire cast has been thrown into disarray by an unexpected turn of events, and friendships, romances and careers are fundamentally changed. Yazawa doesn’t give the material anything resembling a punitive quality, but hard choices and hurt feelings abound, taking the well-crafted soap opera to a higher level. And Yazawa even reveals the secret origin of Trapnest. (I have to watch the movie, as Kate Dacey swears they’ll seem less cheesy. I don’t know how that will alter the reading experience, to be honest.)