Skip Beat never ceases to pull me back over and over again. It’s been awhile since we last took a deep dive into the manga, and I was definitely starting to feel that pull to read it again. Each time I pick up a volume I’m reminded why this series is on my top manga of all time list. One of the things I love so much about this series is how much time Yoshiki Nakamura takes to explore the backgrounds and weaknesses of each character, even the smaller ones. In these three volumes alone, we get an exploration of Ren’s big weakness in acting, the growth of Kyoko as an actor, the origins of the director’s mental illness, and a lot more. The romance is real in these volumes too with a some big revelations and explorations of what it means to fall in love with someone. Every volume feels like a journey where we get to see the characters grow and change fully, with us reading along every step of the way.
Volumes 10-12 continue where the story left off last time with one of the biggest and most important arcs for the series: the Dark Moon drama arc. Kyoko has been scouted for one of the most important roles in an upcoming remake of a popular drama. It’s not only a chance for her to have a big break, but also a chance to costar alongside Ren who will be playing the starring role. The only problem, the president of LME has recommended Ren turn down the role, citing a weakness in Ren’s ability to act in deep romance dramas. As Kyoko succeeds in creating her character of Mio that is sure to surpass the original, Ren struggles to understand what it means to love someone.
Skip Beat has always been about overcoming and coming to terms with the scars we hold on our hearts and souls, working past weaknesses, and discovering that getting close to people isn’t always a bad thing. Each character in this series has something that they have trouble coming to terms with. Kyoko can’t forget that Sho used to be the love of her life and dumped her after taking her to Tokyo with him. That break-up has forever turned her off to future relationships because of the fear of getting close to someone. Ren has a secret he’s hiding deep in his heart and refuses to let himself get close to anyone personally, which becomes a detriment to his acting. Director Ogata feels like he can’t escape his father’s shadow and become a director in his own right, which holds him back from asserting his own desires in the beginning of the production of Dark Moon. It is only through the interaction and support of each other that these characters begin to step outside their shells and discover new parts of themselves.
That’s what the Dark Moon arc is best at, allowing characters a chance to expand their view of themselves and discover new talents or ways of being. We see this most readily with Kyoko who is given the first big role of her career and the chance to create a character of her own for the first time. We saw a bit of this talent last last arc in the Sho’s promo video, but I think we see it much more fleshed out here. The process Kyoko goes through to create her character, thinking about Mio’s wants and personality, and then breaking from the guidance of her mentors to go off and craft that new persona. It’s a major step for Kyoko’s character, as she gets to see that her talents are wanted and worth while. That first step of independence as she figures out how to be an actor will eventually form the foundation for future roles.
However, I think the main focus of these three volumes and the Dark Moon arc as whole is Ren. Kyoko’s creation of Mio is definitely striking, but seeing Ren’s character growth as he faces his weaknesses head on and comes to the realization that he does love Kyoko in a way. In the process we get to both see his major weakness that he has very little experience in love and the hints to the fact that something bigger and darker is hiding under the surface. Why can’t he have anything precious here? What’s holding Ren back from forming lasting relationships? We’re not quite to the point of the series where this gets discussed, but it does offer a nice feeling of depth to his character to know that there are parts of him we haven’t explored yet. How much deeper does his past and character go? It makes you want to keep reading to find out, which will eventually lead us to one of my other favorite arcs of the whole series. But more on that in future reviews.
A key part of the Dark Moon arc is the character of Mio and the feelings she instills in the cast and crew around her. In this Nakamura does a fantastic job of taking Kyoko’s basic character and crafting an almost new visual image from her. The feeling of Mio both in her expressions and looks are reminiscent of Kyoko when she’s at her worst, but you definitely feel the difference. That difference comes from Nakamura’s art. They way she creates division between when Kyoko is herself and when she is Mio is clear in face shapes, the use of contrast, and expressions. You see it the most around her eyes. They’re more narrowed and pointed than Kyoko’s typical expression. That small change creates an overall different feel to her expressions, becoming darker and more serious in nature. In this, Nakamura clearly displays her idea of an actor being taken over by the character they create through her visuals.
One of my favorite parts about Nakamura’s style is still her wide varieties of expressions. It not only plays well with the story she’s crafting, of actors slipping in and out of roles, but also adds a great deal of variance in visual interest. The mix of chibis and more simplified character designs creates that needed visual contrast with serious moments to really make both pop. It’s this intermixing of of styles that forms the basis for the overall tone and feel of the series. Combined with interesting panel and page layouts and the knowledge of when and how much to use shading and effects, I guess you can tell how much this manga appeals to my own tastes in artistic style. I won’t say there aren’t problems. I don’t necessarily always enjoy her overly pointy male faces and sometimes her face proportions can be a little off. But more often than not, Nakamura is able to convey her character’s personalities well through her designs and art.
So what’s the big take-aways from these three volumes. Well, one, Kyoko is slowly becoming a better and more independent actress with her growing abilities and understanding of crafting new roles for herself. A talent she’ll be able to take with her and expand on in future arcs. Two, Ren has had a break-through in his own feelings towards Kyoko, something that allows his own acting to mature as well as his personal relationships. We’ll be seeing Ren and Kyoko getting closer in the future and finding out just why Ren’s personal relationships up to this point were always cut short. Three, Dark Moon will be the catalyst for a lot of the future arcs of the manga, becoming Kyoko’s main big break into showbiz. This is both good and bad news as we’ll see in the future, so make sure you stay tuned for the next three volumes!
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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