Calling You Vol. #01 - Novel -

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Mania Grade: B-

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  • Art Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 7.99
  • Pages: 184
  • ISBN: 1-59816-852-5
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Left to Right
  • Series: Gakuen Heaven - Calling You (Endou version)

Calling You Vol. #01 - Novel

By Greg Hackmann     July 09, 2007
Release Date: June 30, 2007

Calling You Vol.#01 - Novel

Creative Talent
Translated by:Agnes Yoshida
Adapted by:Django Wexler

What They Say
A girl creates a cell phone in her imagination, from which she can communicate with others...

A young boy discovers his new friend has the power to heal others -- and learns about true friendship and sacrifice...

The healing power of love confronts the tragedy and horror of a deadly train accident...

The Review
There are some clever ideas here for fans of the supernatural, if you're willing to overlook the underdeveloped plots and paper-thin characterizations.

The cover artwork is simple, featuring two high school students on either side of the title connected by a series of blood-red tendrils. Tokyopop uses an unusual yellow/red/black color scheme here; while the bold contrasting colors draw attention to the cover, they're also a little bit garish. The back cover is similarly Spartan, with the obligatory marketing synopsis occupying most of the cover and a small illustration of a grieving woman at the bottom.

Tokyopop doesn't include extras of any kind in this volume, unless you count an advertisement for their line of light novels.

Calling You's English text is simple and quick to read, with no glaring typos and only a couple of awkward-reading sentences. Tokyopop seems to be targeting this book toward a broad young adult audience, and as such has removed Japanese honorifics. (I'll leave it to the reader to decide if this is a good thing or not.)

The novel is peppered throughout with full-page and half-page illustrations. The print quality gives them a slightly muddy look, but without being overly indistinct. Character designs and shading are appropriately gloomy and mostly unobjectionable. There are a couple of unattractive or awkward illustrations that stick out like a sore thumb, such as an unintentionally funny illustration of an 11-year-old boy who bears a striking resemblance to The Cure's Robert Smith.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Otsu-ichi gives the reader three unrelated tales of supernatural dealings in this novel. In "Calling You", Ryo dreams of owning a mobile phone -- both figuratively and literally. As an awkward high school student, she envies the other students' active social lives. Ryo views their mobile phones as a symbol of their social success, and spends most of her day fantasizing about her own ideal mobile phone. When this imaginary phone begins ringing in her head one day, she initially takes this as a sign that she has completely lost her mind. In reality, she has established a psychic connection with a college-aged girl and a high-school boy from another city, both of which share her social awkwardness.

"Kiz/Kids" follows the friendship of two grade-school boys enrolled in a special education class. After the unnamed protagonist injures himself in art class, the reclusive Asato demonstrates a unique supernatural power: he can transfer the scars and injuries of anyone he touches to himself, and vice-versa. The two boys befriend Shiho, an ice cream store owner who hides a large facial scar behind a surgical mask. Inspired by Shiho's loneliness, the two boys carry out a plan to "dump" the illnesses of innocent people onto the protagonist's abusive father, now confined to a hospital bed in an alcohol-induced coma.

In "Flower Song", a train accident victim wakes up in a hospital bed, only to be forced to confront the loss of a spouse and unborn child. During a walk in the hospital garden, the patient discovers an unusual flower growing beneath a tree, which bears the face of a human woman and softly hums. After transferring the flower to a pot, roommates Nakagawa and Haruki quickly discover the newly adopted plant's supernatural powers. They persuade a resident nurse to reveal the tragic story of Misaki Karantani, who recently hung herself from the tree in question. After deciding that the flower houses the spirit of Misaki, the three formulate a plan to return the flower to the house of Misaki's beloved cousin.

The best and worst thing that you can say about Calling You is that it's solidly mediocre. The basic plot points that hold the stories together are clever enough; it's clear why this novel was chosen as the basis for a manga and feature film adaptation. It's also a nice change of pace that Otsu-ichi includes stories told from the perspective of a grade-school student and a widowed adult. With so many anime and manga storylines focusing solely on the hijinks of high-school students, a little variety is always appreciated.

Unfortunately, Otsu-ichi fails to build anything truly substantial around these basic premises. What we get here feels like a Reader's Digest version of some bigger work, distilled down to only the essential plot points. Many characters are little more than cookie-cutter stereotypes, ranging from the once-loving, now-abusive alcoholic father to the star-crossed lovers driven to tragedy. Dialogue is sparse, leaving the impression that people only talk about things needed to directly advance the storyline. The inevitable plot twists feel forced and predictable, and the endings are unfulfilling. Granted, with three unrelated stories spread across a slim 184-page volume, some of these problems are to be expected. Still, with all of these issues combined, I couldn't help but feel like there was some great potential here that was ultimately left untapped.

On their own and with a little more care, any of these basic ideas could have been adapted into a compelling short novel. But with so few pages to develop and so little done within that meager space, the result is a little bit too straightforward for its own good.


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