I had a fruitful trip to the bookstore the other day, so I thought I’d celebrate by cranking out a couple of quick reviews:
Cat Paradise volume 2, written and illustrated by Yuji Iwahara, Yen Press: After a fairly straightforward introductory volume, I was a bit surprised at how meta things got this time around. As the student council and their loyal cats continue to protect the world from demonic forces, Iwahara focuses on council member Tsukasa, who is a creepy little dork. He likes girls a lot, but he likes them in a patronizing way. This allows that thing where a creator can sort of mock a character that leers and condescends and teases while still featuring the leering and condescension and teasing. The criticism of the character, if that’s actually the intent instead of just giving part of the demographic a gateway character, is pretty thickly veiled. So the fan service is at a higher level than it was the first time around, and there’s also an increase in what might be called irrevocable violence. (Soft-hearted cat lovers beware.) I’m also of two minds on heroine Yumi. On one hand, it’s believable that she’s not a warrior by inclination and that she’d find these dangerous situations terrifying. (And I like that her milder nature leads her to question the council’s decisions and methodology.) On the other, she has a tendency to simper that can be a little grating. Still, there’s a lot to like in the series, particularly Iwahara’s concept of napping as a super-power.
V.B. Rose volume 4, written and illustrated by Banri Hidaka, Tokyopop: After three volumes told largely from heroine Ageha’s perspective, it’s nice to spend one getting the point of view of her love interest, wunderkind gown designer Yukari. In a lot of romantic fiction, you only get the protagonist’s point of view, and the feelings of the object of that character’s desire are left opaque. That’s a perfectly fair approach, as it allows the creator to increase reader identification with the protagonist. After all, that’s how we all approach romantic entanglements, wondering if our feelings are reciprocated until the moment when we find out for good or ill. While Ageha, with her exuberance and excitability, is more than character enough to carry the romantic tension, it’s nice to see Hidaka reveal that Yukari is almost as complicated and not just a love object. (I say “almost” because Ageha has enjoyed three volumes of focus, and it’s unfair to expect Yukari to catch up so quickly.) For bonus points, Hidaka gives us more scenes with Ageha’s frighteningly poised friend Mamoru and her deceptively adorable brother. This sibling dynamic isn’t anything new, but I always enjoy it. And nice as it is to have a well-developed central couple, it’s even better to have them in the middle of an engaging crowd of friends and family.