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Friday, June 29, 2018

Selah's Manga Mania: Skip Beat!, Vol. 1 (Skip Beat! Graphic Novel) by Yoshiki Nakamura

by Yoshiki Nakamura
August 27, 2013
184 pages
Genre: Comedy, romance Manga
Publisher: VIZ Media: Shojo Bea
Demographic: Shōjo
Volumes: 42
Kyoko knows she's not plain and uninteresting, no matter what Sho says. With the help of a little makeover, Kyoko's ready to exact her revenge. But first she needs to land an audition, and she sets her sights on the agency where Sho's lead rival works. Her persistence pays off, but her broken heart turns out to be a disadvantage. Kyoko has lost the will to love anybody, let alone fans she's never met. Can the agency see past this problem to Kyoko's true star potential?

Sometimes the right title just finds you and it is everything you ever wanted and needed but never realized. Skip Beat is one of my favorite titles, and it’s a unique blend of story, romance, character growth, and wackiness. There’s equal emotions and comedy here, and it all blends into something really special.
Kyoko Mogami is a sixteen-year-old girl who runs away the dude she’s in love with, Sho, to Tokyo where he tries to make it as a musician. She’s worked for his family for a while and they have a lot of history together. So, when he becomes famous, it becomes a massive betrayal when he dismisses and humiliates her, pretty much leaving her on her own far away from home after she left school and took multiple jobs to support him while he was trying to get started.
Any other title, this would be played as a sad, tragic thing and it would focus on getting them back together and reaching understanding.
In this series, Kyoko’s inner ‘pandora bos’ opens and all her inner rage is unleashed. She determines that the obvious course of action is to take revenge and become more famous than Sho. She walks into a talent agency with no experience to audition, catching the attention of the eccentric president when she claims she doesn’t believe in love. The president is all about love. What follows is a long-running series of events where Kyoko slowly trains and develops as an actress, makes multiple friends and enemies in the industry, and slowly develops feelings for her friend/mentor Ren Tsuruga, though they both fight it and he has secrets of his own.

Part rom-con, part I don’t even know what, what really makes this thing work are the characters. Kyoko starts off so spikey and angry, and slowly develops a sense of self through acting and begins to regain her empathy, it’s really a character arc to behold. She’s also fairly naïve and oblivious, which makes a lot of interactions (especially with Ren) super amazing. Ren also is something of a dark horse, and as more of his past is revealed other than just his acting ability, you really get two fantastic characters learning to deal with their emotions before they hopefully get together.  
There are great side characters along the way, and a lot of this series is just so funny. Not even in an unintended sense – there’s some great, great comedy here. There are a lot of fantastic mini-arcs that are just absorbing and you truly grow to feel for everyone in the cast. The pacing is pretty smooth, and it’s always fun to suddenly revisit certain people from volumes upon volumes ago. I also have no idea how accurate any of the entertainment industry stuff is in Japan, but it feels legit, and Kyoko learning her craft is given a really nice amount of time throughout the whole thing.

I started this one on a lark because of the subject matter, but it’s become one of my very favorite series.

The good: everything I just mentioned.

The bad: For me, nothing. Because it is long-running (we’re up to volume 40), it is a time investment, but one that’s well worth it. A lot of the subplots also take their time, so for some people, some bits may feel a bit draggy if you’re not into the subject matter covered.
The ick: I can’t really think of anything. Anything that might raise eyebrows is usually put there because it might (the Cain Siblings arc comes to mind), but it’s fully addressed and the characters’ feelings often mirror what presumably are the reader’s. There’s nothing over the top graphic or violent, though. 
Rating: 5 superstar sheep.

About the Author:
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.

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