From the stack: V.B. Rose

Tokyopop had the good sense to package a manga preview with the final volume of Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket, introducing four series to readers of its most popular series. For me, the results were mixed.

Ten pages weren’t nearly enough to have any idea what Taro Shinome’s KimiKiss is about, if anything, though the cover with the busty girl pulling her shirt off makes me wonder exactly the nature of the crossover audience might be. Kazuko Furumiya’s Bloody Kiss is about hot vampires and has an awful title, so I feel safe in assuming it’s not for me. The first line of the sample of Princess Ai: The Prism of Midnight Dawn (created by Courtney Love and Stuart “D.J. Milky” Levy, story by Stuart “D.J. Milky” Levy, written by Christine Boylan, art by Misaho Kujiradou) is “Mama! Who pays the birds to sing?” which made me both snicker and cringe, and I really want the time back that I spent typing that sentence probably as much as you want the time back that you spent reading it.

vbroseFortunately, the sampler also includes some pages of Banri Hidaka’s V.B. Rose, which I liked enough to head out and buy the first volume. Having read the first volume, I plan to buy more. So, marketing has yielded at least some return.

The things that grabbed me about the sample were that the heroine did stuff – designing and sewing handbags – and had a personality – not a great one, but a plausible and interesting one. Her name is Ageha, and she’s a high-school student. As the story begins, her older sister, Hibari, announces that she’s pregnant and going to be married. Hibari and her parents are delighted; her boyfriend is a good guy, and they’d planned to marry anyway, so it’s just an acceleration of the inevitable with the bonus of a grandchild.

Ageha is less pleased; in fact, she’s furious. She resents anything that she perceives as taking her sister away, and a new husband and baby feel like the final straw. This makes Ageha sound unbearably selfish, and she kind of is, but she’s aware that she’s being unreasonable. She makes concerted efforts to support Hibari, but her adolescent temper bubbles to the surface as often as she’s able to suppress it.

She accompanies Hibari to an appointment with her dressmakers, a handsome pair of young men who run the titular design shop. To Ageha’s surprise, Ageha’s already met them, and they know her by reputation; Hibari has proudly shown them Ageha’s accessories. Mitsuya, the pattern maker, thinks Ageha is adorable. Yukari, the designer-owner, thinks she’s an insufferable brat, though talented. The beauty part is that they’re both right. After some predictable but well-executed twists, Ageha ends up helping the boys make Hibari’s dress, partly to atone for her bad attitude and partly to prove her promise as a designer.

I really like the way Hidaka handles Ageha’s shifting moods. Her outbursts aren’t predictable, but they’re realistic. I like that Ageha is working to be less of a brat and that she doesn’t experience some instant epiphany that turns her into a bland, shôjo princess. The rest of the cast is fun, too. Hibari has a sweet, unflappable serenity of someone whose life has come together. Yukari may be a bit of a lite version of George from Paradise Kiss, but V.B. Rose is kinder and gentler, so it makes sense. And it’s fun to see how Yukari has got Ageha’s number.

It’s an attractive book with lots of visual sparkle and style, which is only appropriate given its subject matter. Hidaka is also up for low comedy, which keeps the shimmer in check. My only complaint about the book is the singular blandness of its cover, which does nothing to communicate its energetic charms.

10 Responses to From the stack: V.B. Rose

  1. […] Foolish (Comics Village) Eva Volin on Swallowing the Earth (Graphic Novel Reporter) David Welsh on V.B. Rose (Precocious Curmudgeon) David Goodwin on vols. 1-7 of The World Is Mine (The Eastern […]

  2. lys says:

    I gave an audible “Yay!” at the end of your third paragraph. This is one of my favourite series, so I’m really glad to see the renewed interest the sampler has inspired for it, even if the rest of the sampled series were terrible choices.

    I also love reading about a heroine who has some neat talents, and who seems likely to grow in maturity throughout the series. From what I’ve read, those points don’t get lost in later volumes. I liked your comparison of Yukari and George too (and thought it extra funny with “Yukari” being the heroine in that series).

    Your comment about the cover was interesting, and one I hadn’t really thought about before. But you’re right, the design is more quiet and elegant than the high-energy storytelling inside (though it has its elegant/quiet moments too). On the other hand, it’s so pretty (especially early volumes with the gold-foil scrollwork design!) and I do like having pretty books on my shelves…

  3. Mitch H. says:

    Half-sold. Is Tokyopop going to orphan this title, too? Because I’m starting to accumulate a disturbing pile of half-finished series from that company.

  4. Mitch H. says:

    Wait, is this Banri Hidaka who drew the unbearably smarmy I Hate You More Than Anyone?

  5. davidpwelsh says:

    Can’t personally speak to the book’s level of smarminess, but she’s the one. Hidaka also created Tears of a Lamb (CMX).

  6. lys says:

    I’m not sure what’s “smarmy” about I Hate You More Than Anyone, but I love the series. I find the characters incredibly funny and lovable and never thought the tone seemed insincere.

    VB Rose was put on hiatus by Tokyopop earlier this year, but they recently announced a new release date for the next volume (6). I’m glad that Tokyopop has stabilized enough to start bringing back some of the titles they had previously left on hold.

  7. Blintz-chan says:

    I love V.B. Rose. It is one of my favorite series and I have all five of the other books. I am so glad that Tokyopop is not dropping the series. I think that Ageha is not an insuferable brat though. I think that she just needs to get her priorities straight. Would she rather force her sister to be by her side selfishly or let her sister be happy with the man she loves? I don’t mean to dispute your opinion, it is your right to have your own opinions.

  8. davidpwelsh says:

    Oh, dispute away! That’s half the fun of opening comments, hearing different opinions. I guess I should have been clearer that Ageha can act like an insufferable brat but isn’t happy about that aspect of her temperament. It’s not that she is a brat so much as she reacts like one at key moments.

  9. Blintz-chan says:

    I just didn’t want to start one of those idiotic internet wars but I’m glad you don’t mind being disputed. I actually am on a month-long trip right now and the one series I decided to take with me was this one. I love seeing how Ageha’s reactions surprise me! There is one point(spoiler-ish) in the fifth book where she says “I’m a very positive peron right now!” And I love seeing how her whole viewpoint on certain people in the story changes. It’s very well done and I think that the transitions she makes are with ease rather than a quick complete turnaround. I think that is hard to do and Hidaka does it very well. (Sorry this is so long!)

  10. […] party, but I’m still happy to see the sixth volume of Banri Hidaka’s V.B. Rose (Tokyopop). I’ve enjoyed the first three volumes of this story about a promising amateur designer who goes to work for a […]

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