Welcome back to my read-through of Skip Beat, one of my favorite mangas of all time. If you haven’t read the previous reviews, please do so before reading on. These reviews will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t read the manga, you might want to do that as well. Today, we’ll take a look at volumes 7-9, another great series of chapters that add a lot to the characters of Kyoko, Ren, Moko, and Sho. These characters weaknesses are on full display in these chapters with some great moments and major developments in story and relationships. It’s one of the things I love most about this series, the ways Nakamura explores her character’s weaknesses and how they overcome them in order to better themselves and their position in showbiz. Combined with our usual great art and page layouts, I really enjoyed these volumes. So let’s dive in and discuss what makes them so entertaining.
Shoujo Beat’s back-cover description goes like this: “Kyoko’s dreams are finally coming true! She’s landed a spot in Sho’s new video, and revenge is in sight! But vengeance isn’t as easy as she thought, and her rage starts to get in the way of her acting. When her performance catches the attention of some important people, Kyoko finds herself working with the terrifying Ren Tsuruga! Can she make it work, or will her growing fame be her downfall?!” So besides the plot with Sho’s promo video (and the obscene amount of exclamation points), we also get to see a story from Moko’s life as she runs into trouble with a new job in a drama, and see the beginning of the Tsukigomori arc as LME President Lory tries to prevent Ren from taking on his first role in a romantic drama.
The promo-video arc has some of the best art and panel design in these volumes. It’s a story filled with high emotion and clashing personalities, so we get to see some great variety in expressions from all the characters involved. The story of this arc revolves around the intensity of Kyoko’s emotions so of course we get to see a range of expressions and art styles for her including moments where her hate waves and shoulder demons are in full force. I think it’s the extreme variability in expressions and tone that really hits the most. One minute we have Kyoko coming out of the dressing room, shocking everyone with her angel portrayal, only in the next page to have Kyoko and Sho go at it after she kicks him in the shin. In this way the drama of the story ties in nicely with the dramatic tone of the art, the variability of the tone page to page upping that feel of drama. It’s a great example of how art can add to and enhance a story.
While we’re talking about tone, I think it’s interesting to note how Nakamura uses chibi’s to create contrasting or almost complementary tones in the manga. I’m referencing a color theory term here because of how the juxtaposition of her chibi style to her regular style enhances the feeling of drama much like how two complementary colors side-by-side enhance one another. Her chibi characters are used to show moments of comedy or less-serious emotions allowing for a huge amount of impact for her serious moments especially when these two styles are basically separated by one or two pages. You can see this happen specifically in the scene when Kyoko is sent back to the dressing room to reflect on her character of the angel. She starts out raging against Sho in her chibified form, her shoulder demons swirling around the room. Then, over the course of the next two pages she begins to become depressed, fearing that she’ll be fired as the reality of her role as an actor sinks in. We see this transformation from revenge obsessed Kyoko to professional actor Kyoko over the course of three pages. Her depression ends with a full-page splash of Angel-Kyoko, head in her hands, coming to the realization that her quest for revenge is interfering with her ability to act. I believe all of this is made more powerful by this juxtaposition of chibi versus regular style, giving us great full-page splashes and two-page spreads that can really bring out the raw emotion of a scene.
Nakamura’s use of art and design through her manga serves to enhance the story that she wants to tell, and the story for these three volumes is one of major character growth for Kyoko, Moko, Ren, and Sho. Kyoko, for obvious reasons, has the most character development in these volumes. In the beginning of volume 7, we see some resolution and growth for the problems she was facing last volume with her studying for her high school entrance exams. We’ve learned that Kyoko’s mother was extremely hard on her which forced Kyoko to think that she needed to get 100’s on everything or she would lose her mother’s affection. With Ren’s simple words, that past trauma lessens and she is able to pass her entrance exams with flying colors. More importantly, the promo-vid arc offers a major conflict for Kyoko to overcome in how her quest for revenge and powerful feelings surrounding Sho impact her acting. It’s through her conflict with Sho that we see her learn to love acting for herself and learn how to craft a character that she can really get lost in. This arc is the first step in Kyoko facing her emotions and beginning to heal from them. By facing Sho head-on, and thus her emotions and past head-on, she is able to overcome them and then create a positive experience for herself in the process.
Moko had a pretty big chunk of character growth in these volumes as well as we see a side-story that follows her new gig in a drama and a conflict she winds up having with one of her costars. In the process of resolving the conflict, we get a peek into Moko’s past and her family life. So far Moko’s character has been displayed as someone who doesn’t much care for people and will do anything to be able to act. When she takes this role in the drama, we see a change in her character as she begins to care for her young costar, but she has problems interacting and relating to him as a person. When she accidentally injures him, it opens up a chance for us to visit her family to see that Moko isn’t an uncaring person, she just has problems relating to people. We see that she cares about people in her own way through the way she plays with her siblings and family as well as the way she opens up to Kyoko about her problems. This little arc also offers Moko and Kyoko a chance to become closer as friends as it opens up a way for Kyoko to finally tell her about Sho and get advice for what she should do in the future.
One thing these arcs have in common is how Moko and Kyoko develop the characters they are hired to play and the idea that a professional actor can lose themselves in a role when they really get into character. We see this pop up with Kyoko when she finally crafts the character of the angel for the promo-video, but then finds herself still crying after the shoot as she struggles to separate fiction from reality. Moko faces the same problem in her drama role as she still finds herself acting like an older sister to her costar even after the shooting has ended. It becomes this idea that the interplay between actor and costar as well as the skill of the actor creates this environment where it becomes hard to separate themselves from their roles at the end of the day. It’s something we’ll see a lot more of in future volumes as well as the Dark Moon arc starts up.
Next time we’ll be looking at Volumes 10-12 and the beginning of the Dark Moon arc that will give us some new things to talk about when it comes to Ren’s character as well as Kyoko’s. It’s a really interesting arc, so I hope you’ll stick around and follow me as I continue to revisit my favorite manga of all time. Let me know in the comments what your favorite part of these volumes is or what your favorite arc of the series is.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~