I thought I’d take a quick look at second volumes whose first installments I basically praised to the skies. Let’s see how they hold up, shall we?
The second volume of Karuho Shiina’s Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You (Viz) is as good as the first but in a somewhat different way. I could have been perfectly happy to read several volumes that were nothing but Shiina’s sly comedy of overturned expectations, watching spooky sweetheart Sawako try and win friends and influence people. That undercurrent remains, but Shiina focuses mainly on two of Sawako’s early converts. Rumors are circulating that Yano is a tramp and Yoshida’s a juvenile delinquent, and fingers are pointed to Sawako as the source. Yano and Yoshida rightly spot the absurdity in the notion of Sawako as a malicious gossip, but questions arise all the same. And they’re interesting questions about the nature of the girls’ friendship, if friendship indeed it is.
I can’t lie. The volume basically consists of the reader waiting for goodness to triumph and our heroines to recognize the truth of what’s in their hearts, but it’s a good kind of waiting. It’s anticipation rather than impatience, and the payoff is lovely, endearing and funny. Kimi ni Todoke is a quirky comedy, certainly, but it’s got heart. This is one of the most enjoyable new shôjo titles of the year.
The second volume of Kiminori Wakasugi’s Detroit Metal City (also Viz) is slightly more problematic, only because I had to factor out the revelatory experience of reading the first. Beyond being shockingly profane and subversively hilarious, there was the shock that someone actually licensed this thing. Add to that the shock that Viz – Viz! – licensed this wildly vulgar manga and translated it with apparent faithfulness, and that ups the ante even more. So a certain amount of letdown between the first and second installments seems inevitable.
But after factoring that out, and even though I missed the “I can’t believe I just read that” shocks from the first time around, it’s still very, very funny stuff. It’s still cruelly amusing to watch sweet, chic Soichi Negishi fail in all the things that actually matter to him and thrive in ways he finds repulsive. It’s like if Clark Kent hated Superman. Negishi’s death-metal alter ego Lord Krauser continues his ascent (descent?) into shock-rock stardom as Negishi’s dreams of Swedish pop stardom recede further and further. Add take-downs of rap, punk, and magical-realist independent film, and I’m a very happy reader. Nothing will ever match the first time, but that’s no reason to stop.