What I Read Last Week — August 25th – August 31st

“Helter Skelter” by Kyoko Okazaki
General Impression:  I was hesitant to purchase this title because I don’t like fashion/actor/idol manga. And given the cover, I didn’t feel like reading anything about a character with body dysmorphia. Yeah, yeah beauty is skin deep. I already know this.  And the series started off exactly as I expected: the main character Liliko is a crazy bitch who transformed her ugly self into a beauty through excessive plastic surgery and now her body is falling apart.  So… that was the first 3 chapters… I also most stopped there because I was bored and the frenetic drawing style was grating on my nerves. But, I pushed on.

Beginning around chapter 4 things got interesting as a prosecutor starts looking into a series of suicides linked to the same plastic surgery clinic Liliko frequents. This part of the story more than made up for the crappy beginning and I was finally hooked. During all of this, a bunch of weird sexual stuff happened that I didn’t understand. None of this made a difference in the story to me, and therefore could have been and probably should have been dropped.  Because the art is shit, I had a hard time telling one black-haired character from another and I didn’t know until the end that Liliko’s manager was female. There is sex in this manga, but it’s in no way titillating or pleasant. Honestly, most of the time, I didn’t know what the hell what happening and I assumed it was some kind of weird torture (???) and then moved on.

To sum things up, I ended up liking “Helter Skelter” taken as a whole, but the beginning is craptastic and preachy and there’s a lot of fairytale BS sprinkled in the narrative that seem very forced.

Art: F — it’s ugly and frenetic and some characters can’t be distinguished from others because it’s so crappy. There were facial expression I couldn’t read and I was so annoyed that I almost couldn’t get through the series.

Story: C (first three chapters — D:  totally unoriginal and annoying. Chp 4+ — B — the suicide investigation was interesting, the rest was throw-away) Basically, this is a possible narrative for  every starlet who burns out spectacularly and end up dead before the age of 40.

Overall:  I recommend reading this for the strong mystery story that unfolds after chapter 3, but if possible, don’t pay full price. (Yay, for josei, but how about something that doesn’t try so hard to be deep?)

“The Betrayal Knowns my Name” Omnibus 1 by Hotaru Odagiri
General Impression:  Yuki is adorable and Zess is HAWT!  I didn’t expect to like this series this much.  I figured it’d be the usual supernatural save the world from evil story with BL undertones. But the main relationship is a love that transcends times and gender, and is very much like the main relationship in “Kyou Kara Maoh”. I’m a sucker for this kind of relationship, so I’m onboard with Yuki x Zess. Of course, Yuki is needed to save the world, and that’s meh; but surrounding that are a bunch of interesting side characters who make up Yuki’s “family” and short connected story arcs that present sub-villains whose mysteries must be unraveled before they can be defeated.  It’s the typical formula for a neverending supernatural shoujo. This of course worries me, because I hate neverending stories. I imaginee at some point the story will jump the shark and I’ll give up on this series, but for now I’m enjoying it.

Art: A — it’s gorgeous flowery shoujo. Everyone is handsome and beautiful and the backgrounds are detailed. The action was easy to follow and I wasn’t so distracted by the beauty of the artwork that I couldn’t actually read the dialog.  The story and art meshed well together.

Story: B+ — It a typical supernatural shoujo, but the characters are enjoyable and the narrative is well told. It’s easy on the mind and on the eyes. I do hope that there is some kind of twist coming to distinguish this series from other supernatural shoujo series so I don’t get bored.

Overall:  I recommend this first volume for the beautiful artwork and well told, but predictable story. Give Yen Press all of your money so we can have more manga like this.

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