Welcome back to the next installment of my Skip Beat manga reviews where I take a look at the next three volumes of the series. As I mentioned in my last review, this series is my absolute favorite manga and is probably one of the longest series I’ve kept up with, now standing at over 40 volumes. I’ve been slowly adding the 3-volume combined editions to my library and thought it would be a good idea to create this read-along review series as I revisit my favorite characters once again. Volumes 4-6 are packed with characterization and backstory that helps really solidify the motivations of each main character while providing stories of personal growth. Yoshiki Nakamura does a great job of slowly revealing the backstories of her characters like Kyoko and Ren, choosing which pieces to keep from us and which to keep from the rest of the cast. It creates this sense of suspense that makes you want to keep reading to see how they find out or what else is going to be revealed.
These three volumes continue the story of Kyoko Mogami as she climbs the ladder of the showbiz world in order to get her revenge on Sho Fuwa, her childhood love turned pop star who left her stranded in Tokyo. We left off in volume 3 with Kyoko confronting the acting school class in order to prove that she was worthy enough to join them. The story continues from there to how she got her first regular appearance on a TV variety show as the Chicken Bo. Events begin ramping up quickly after this debut with an audition for a soft drink commercial and being forced to sub in for Ren Tsuruga’s sick manager.
One of my favorite parts about this series is Nakamura’s art style and the way she sets up her page layouts. Her art switches easily between comedy and drama styles, but I think really comes alive when she focuses on expressions and highly emotional scenes. There is a scene in volume 4 where Kyoko is forced to talk about her mother, and you really get to see her expressions change from happy to sad to pained to happy again. But it’s also the small details and movements of the characters that add to this feeling. The slight movements of her fingers as she waves goodbye to Maria, and the way she sets up each panel to lead into the next, keeping the pages turning.
I’ve been starting to notice more how comic artists set up their page turns, what panels they put right before you turn the page, and how those flow into the next or effect your reactions to the panel on the next page. There are a couple good examples in these volumes. One is from the story arc above where Maria asks Kyoko about her parents, and as she is waving goodbye to Maria, we see a shot of her raised hand right before the page turn. The next page shows the mood shift from happy to sad or even wistful as Kyoko thinks about her own mother. This page turn and panel set up creates a break in mood as it shifts from one to the other. The other example I love is a few pages later when Kyoko gets surprised and drops her stone down a staircase. Right before the page turn, we see Kyoko take three panels to realize it’s missing, then turn the page and the art has shifted dramatically into a full-on, high-contrast scene as she begins to panic. I love seeing how these little details end up impacting how we, as readers, perceive a scene.
These volumes are packed with great scenes like the above. Reading through this again, I honestly forgot just how much characterization and growth is packed into these three volumes. We start off with the conclusion of Maria’s arc, watching as Kyoko convinces her that her father does still love her through acting out a scene at the school. It’s an important step for Maria, who was struggling all through the last volume to see her father in a different light. It also gives us another important look at Kyoko’s acting skills, seeing just how much both natural talent and skill she has as an actress already. She’s able to come up with a way to completely change the meaning and feel of a scene while still keeping to the original script and original outcome. It’s really quite a clever scene that leads us into President Lory’s confrontation with Kyoko about her mother, another moment of tightly packed characterization.
Not only do we get more backstory of Kyoko, but we also get some of Moko and Ren. Nakamura gives us these little tidbits of information slowly overtime in most cases. In Moko’s case, we do get a bit of an information dump, but I think it’s spread out enough that it’s not too heavy. However, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the character of Erika. She seems too much like a stereotypical rich girl villain for me to actually care about her character at all. I know she gets some character growth later on in both this volume and later ones, but right now it’s too little to really make me care or look forward to seeing her character again. But she, combined with Kyoko’s huge strides in acting, serve as a great motivator for Moko’s character arc which is infinitely more interesting. Slowly over these volumes we see Moko reaffirm her passion for acting by standing up to Erika and then come to appreciate Kyoko’s friendship after the audition. I really do think her more serious and focused nature is a great foil to Kyoko’s more light-hearted and naive tendencies.
What really keeps me coming back, like many others for this series, is the relationship between Ren and Kyoko. We get a lot of interesting bits of background in these three volumes, like Ren somehow knows Kyoko from his childhood in Kyoto. We also get to see how Kyoko’s relationship, or lack thereof, with her mother is still impacting her relationships with other people and her sense of work ethic. As Ren begins recalling memories of them from his younger years, we begin to see his harsh nature towards Kyoko dissolve. It’s a sense of understanding that only Ren and we, as readers, are privy to, leaving Kyoko wondering about his changes in personality. We also see a deepening of Kyoko’s feelings for Ren as well in these arcs, though she refuses to admit that she has any sort of feeling for him. But that’s kind of the purpose of the whole series, isn’t it? Following Kyoko’s journeys through stardom and seeing how she regains her ability to love herself and other people again.
I hope some of you will join me in my read-through of the next three volumes coming soon. Let me know in the comments below what your favorite or not so favorite moments of these chapters were. I may be biased in my love of this series, but I can’t help but enjoy every comedy and drama filled moment of Kyoko’s rise to becoming a star.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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