Boys of Summer Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 202
  • ISBN: 1-598165453
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Boys of Summer Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     May 31, 2006
Release Date: May 01, 2006


Boys of Summer Vol.#01
© TOKYOPOP


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Writer: Chuck Austen / Artist: Otsuka Hiroki
Translated by:N/A
Adapted by:

What They Say
Meet Bud Waterston, a decent looking guy who happens to be in full hormonal bloom. He's on his way to college, and drools over the sexual liberation he will no doubt face living in a coed dormitory full of hot babes. Unfortunately for Bud, things don't go exactly as he planned - he meets the girl of his dreams, who won't give him the time of day. But just because he strikes out on his first attempt doesn't mean he won't keep trying to hit a home run... as long as he doesn't drop the ball!

The Review
Packaging:
Boys of Summer is a pretty good looking release that takes advantage of this titles better qualities. I don't know why Chrissie is wearing a bikini on the cover, but it works. I like the awkward look on lead character Bud's face. That really shows the type kind of guy he is " inexperienced but definitely interested. At the same time, this does give a bad impression of Chrissie, who we don't get to see in a bikini inside the covers. The opposite cover has an image of the two standing back to back with each other. It's a somber image, with each character in thought, but it shows the nature of this developing relationship.

The logo and baseball bat motif is great. I love the font used, definitely gives a good sports vibe. And using the bat on the spine along with the traditional red on white lettering made for a fun but easy to read design.

Inside the print is perfect but what do you expect from the company that owns the original source material. Inks are spot on and the tone looks good. I was a little thrown off by the lack of chapters. Especially, when bumper art would just randomly be tossed in between scenes (the timing was a little awkward at times).

Finally, I don't if this is really note worthy, but there is some partial frontal nudity and some underage drinking in this manga, even though it is rated 16+ (funny how some titles are shrink wrapped for a single exposed nipple and this one has a two-page series where girls are stripping and welcoming the student body with their chests and this is rated 16+).

Artwork:
I love Otsuka's sense of style in this manga. It just oozes youth and sexuality. For those who are not familiar with Otsuka's works, he has had his art on exhibition in the US and UK before. However, he is more noted for his adult comics. He has created 7 original titles prior to this one and you can tell from early on in this manga that he really knows how to draw the female body. WOW! His women are knockouts. He has form and shape just right. You can tell from the cover that he can really make them look special in color, but they can look just as good with his thin inks. His guys look pretty good as well. They have a young urban look to them that is fresh which compliments the personalities Austen gave them. Characters also have a decent sense of proportion. Not all of his characters are buxom and perky, some are petite and others a rolly-polly. If Otsuka does have a problem its with his guys. Their bodies look good, but Otsuka tries to draw in their faces with a good amount of detail. Overall, he really tends to overdo his eyes, and with his male characters he tries to show their emotion that way. So sometimes the detailing really becomes almost distracting. Costume designs are fine, but I have yet to see much need for detail for the uniforms yet (they are plain whites/greys no numbers or lettering, which is traditional practice/try out colors for schools in Japan but not always the case for American schools).

As noted above there is uncensored partial frontal nudity.

The backgrounds can be pretty darn impressive. Some of them appear to be photos or images that are rendered and occasionally altered, but there are some nice originals that show off his architectural style. While at times they look a little generic (the ball field is a great example), he can really put in a lot of art into his landscapes. One good looking scene was with Bud and Chrissie having lunch outside of campus. There are a few layers here with trees, people and buildings in the background. The layout has some interesting perspective, but I feel Otsuka overuses the close-up too much. It was cool to see him try to create mood with that, but after a while, I felt that the technique began to loose its significance.

SFX/Text:
Obviously there is no translation to talk about, but I will comment on the SFX and their usage. One of the things about manga is how these are placed. Different genres employ different styles and generally a title with sports and comedy like this would use them to full effect. Otsuka does not use them enough and it hurts both elements. On the field, you never really get a sense that there is something going on outside of Bud and Manny's conversations. Even when a ball bounces off a characters head, there is no sound. So when a person gets beaned in a manga without an SFX does he feel pain? I know I didn't feel it! Then there is the slap-stick. Come on without sound, this is just violence. This title doesn't take itself seriously, but without proper SFX and manpu a manga often ends up feeling serious (or just a little off).

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Summer is coming toa close for Bud and in a matter of days he's going off to college. He is going to miss his family. Definitely sad to leave his girl (mom) behind, but Bud has too much history in his town. When you first meet Bud you might think his troubles might be related to his random perverted behavior, but as an 18-year-old virgin that might be expected. He feels that if he cannot leave this town, he will never be his own man and he won't be able to shake the memories of his dad.

See moving away is going to give him another chance at life. College is going to be a new place to call home, with new faces and new sights. It is going to be a whole new home field and that will require a new game plan/outlook on life. Who knows this might be what he has needed all along? And if college is going to be anything like his first day, with all the parties, girls and paperwork, it is definitely going to be a big change.

He is not leaving everything behind though. Seems he is going with his best friend, Manny. These two have a long history. They are literally like a pair of infielders or more like a battery rotation. One does the pitching and the other is around to clean up the slop. But when either one is in a jam they are there for each other. You can tell which one plays which role from the start, but as in every battery each player works off the other and trust is extremely important. And with a big move like this, having good support at home is going to be crucial - with class, money, food and maybe even extra-cirriculars.

Unfortunately, there is something or to be more precise someone that ends up in the middle of these two. This person not only brings back some of the bad memories Bud has tried to keep hidden, but she is also going to cost his best friend's dreams right from the first weeks of school. She also happens to be Bud's first crush in college. Talk about curveballs! No one gets in the way of a pitcher-catcher combo. Not even a girl. But when the playing field is not even like it is here, there is going to be a tough try out period for everyone involved - on and off the field.

Comments
Okay I will be frank, I do not read much global manga. I tend to go after titles I run into in manga anthology magazines and rarely step out of that mold when I buy stuff in English. But on occasion an interesting genre or maybe a unique theme might catch my eye and this is when I take my chances. Boys of Summer caught me off guard from the time I heard of it. Maybe the baseball element would be cool and admittedly that was the only reason I was interested at the time but I was not into some of the stereotypes I was vibing from the description of volume one on TOKYOPOP's website. This was starting to sound like a manga version of "Girls Gone Wild" fantasy set in college; which is definitely not what I wanted to start my global manga experience with.

Months pass, I did a little more research and when got to read some solicitations for this I decided to go against the prejudice I created and gave this title a chance. I was pleasantly surprised. This is nothing like what TP had originally written up. It was more like a coming of age title for a young man who is trying to make his own life as he struggles to let go of his past. Now for a romance/comedy that is serious stuff. There are obviously moments where Austen decides to go "girls gone wild" in this title and the welcoming committee scene at the end of chapter 2 is a great example of that. Nevertheless, this title instead focuses on a pair of friends that are trying to change their lives now that they have left home and have a new start on life. Austen does not shy away from some of the fantasies that revolve around college life, but he also tries to make sure that there is some true to life moments as well. For all the underage drinking and partying, there are issues with paperwork and roommates. There is a balance to this title that I really was not expecting.

Austen has best buds and lead characters, Bud and Manny rely heavily on each other. Supporting each other from the start, their relationship might seem one-sided on the surface. However, as Austen begins to show how introverted Bud has become in his late teens, he decides to use Manny (the lighter half and the more open half of the battery) as the catalyst in this partnership. And like the perfect pitcher/catcher combo, these two know each other like brothers. So when Austen decides to throw a curve and change that team up with a love interest, we get to really understand how deep the bond is. This element alone is worth picking this book up. The friendship reminds me of sports manga in Japan. Look at H2 where two long friends have their own relationship but they are in love with the same person (... who is in love with the game). Austen does not try to make readers take sides, he just shows how true the field is and how hard it is to break bonds in this game. Eventually, Austen might have to choose but I feel that when we get to that point these characters will not skip a beat in their relationship.

The weakest elements to Boys of Summer are actually only weak in comparison to the rest of the title. Female lead Chrissie is very inconsistent. For how well Manny and Bud are written I would have liked to see her not be the standard trophy girlfriend type. Yeah she's a beauty and a talent but when the guys have so much resolve, why is she just a tease? One minute she is slapping people and then she is in love with them; rinse and repeat. That might work in a slapstick title like Love Hina, but because of how poorly Otsuka draws manpu and humor that does not work. Instead, Chrissie is just what you might have thought of her when you see her in a bikini on the cover. And that is disappointing when the rest of the main characters are rather complex.

Ultimately, when I have to complain about SFX and drawing comedy scenes along, you know I am having a hard time finding problems with a title. Boys of Summer might be a little light on the baseball action, but it is high on baseball metaphor. The relationship of the battery and the mix curves and change-ups these guys have seen so often now that they are in the bigs; everyday is a game even off the field. This might not be Ookiku Furikabutte but even I can see that this title has the potential to hit it big.

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