Manga Review: “Kageno Datte Seishunshitai” (“Even Kageno wants a Lovely High School Life”) Volumes 1 – 4
Title: “Kageno Datte Seishunshitai”/”影野だって青春したい”
Mangaka: Yuka Kitagawa / 北川夕夏
Publication: Bessatsu Friend (Betsufure)
Genres: Shoujo, romance, comedy, High School Life
Volume 1: 9784063418835
Volume 2: 9784063419047
Volume 3: 9784063419405
Volume 4: 9784063419610
Use the ISBNs to search online bookstores for these books. Volume 1 – 3 are available through third parties on Amazon US under the title “Kageno Wants to Love”. You can purchase all four volumes from Amazon JP, Yes Asia, and Kinokuniya
Yuki Kageno is a 15-year-old high school student who’s a plain-looking, gloomy and shy introvert who blends into the background. She’s never been able to make friends, but she really wants to. Mizunaga is her popular classmate who every girl falls in love with in one glance. Tired of girls getting the wrong idea, confessing to him, and getting vindictive after he turns them down, Mizunaga asks Kageno to be his fake girlfriend in exchange for friendship. Kageno promises to be the shadow to Mizunaga’s light and protects him from other girls while enjoying the benefits of friendship. This is the beginning of Kageno’s romance and friendship filled lovely high school life.
First Impression — Kageno is so cute! I remember feeling this awkward when I was junior high school.
Art A: I like the way Kageno is drawn as a deformed chibi. It exaggerates her personality, and I, who was the smallest in my class through junior high, connected right away with that feeling of being much smaller both in stature and presence. Perhaps for people who have never been the small one, this may help them relate. The pages are fairly simple for shoujo and aren’t overwhelmed with screentones and sound effects, unless it’s for comedic effect. There is excellent use of infrequent exaggeratedly drawn pages for comedic impact. I like the simple character designs, and despite their simplicity, each character has their own look. There’s an emphasis on facial expressions, some of which got very contorted for comedic effect. Conversely, Kageno is drawn undeformed at moments of high drama.
Presentation B: This is a standard shoujo tankoubon. The book is small and there are no color pages. I needed a magnifier to read some of the handwritten text. As usual, I really would have liked to have color pages for those chapter frontis pages that were in color in the magazine. Each volume has some extra short stories, gags, or oneshots at the end.
Story A: What’s best about this story are the characters. I thought Kageno and Mizunaga were going to be a sickeningly sweet and cute odd couple, but it turns out their pairing isn’t so odd once you get beyond their outer appearances. Also, both of them have extremely dark sides that come out when you expect the shoujo heroine and hero to be at their moral peaks. Interestingly, neither Kageno’s or Mizunaga’s dark behavior is used as talking points for morality monologues. This story can’t be bogged down with morality speeches, which is nice for a change. Needless to say, Kageno isn’t a “bland girl” and Mizunaga isn’t a “prince”. Neither one of these characters should be messed with. And the cheering on goes both way. This isn’t about Mizunaga giving one-way support to Kagano as with most shy-girl stories.
The story is fast paced and each chapter kept me wanting more. I like the slow progress of the romance, but it’s not so slow as to be a never ending dialog of “does he/she like me?” and “what should I do”. Rather it’s more of a look at how a pair of normal teenagers builds a strong friendship through fun activities like going to the zoo, snorkeling at the beach, and learning to play ping pong. Everything goes at Kageno’s pace, so we get deep into her head and are taken on her journey through high school. The question is always “what’s the proper pace for Kageno?” There is no focus on pretty princess production. The one chapter that does deal with outward appearance goes somewhere I didn’t expect. In this sense the series is very refreshing, very much in the vein as “Pochamani”.
Readability — Easy: This is on par with “Let’s Dance a Waltz“. There’s furigana and the vocabulary is well within the expected shoujo vocabulary, so there were very few times that I had to consult my kanji dictionary. The sentences are also fairly straightforward, without crazy run-on sentence to frustrate the reader.
Overall A-: All that’s lacking are color pages. Otherwise this is a story tweens and teens can relate to and fun nostalgia for shy women like myself. I also think that this is a series boyfriends and husbands might sneak to read because of the humor, occasional dark behavior, and the story’s no-drama sensibilities. I’d love to see this licensed in the US.