SOS Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Translated by:Yuji Oniki
What They Say
Will anyone answer love's distress call? Find out in this funny and poignant collection of short stories!
S.O.S - When Raku, Nono and Yu start a secret dating agency at their school, none of them realize the trouble they're in for! One of their clients needs rescuing from a date gone dangerously wrong, and when a teacher finds out about the matchmaking service, these junior Cupids are in very hot water!
That Sweet Organ Song - In 1920s Japan, bookstore clerk and aspiring poet Setsu encourages her customer Shotaro to follow his dream of becoming an organist and composer. But could class differences and the vagaries of fate conspire to extinguish their artistic ambitions along with their budding romance?
The Easy Life - Spoiled male chauvinist Yohei takes his sweet girlfriend forgranted, but when she begins to tire of letting him walk all over her, will she turn to nice-guy Horie or try to get Yohei to change his ways?
The packaging is very simple and appealing with a mix of different pastel colors that enhance the large portrait of Yu with a finger to her lips and the title of the book in vertical next to her finger. The back features small, colored panels from the "S.O.S." story inside of a heart with summaries of all three stories below. There's no extras inside beyond advertising for other Viz shoujo series.
The art is fairly typical shoujo, reminding me somewhat of the Wallflower, especially when you see the characters in chibi form. A lot of attention is paid to the eyes here, as many of the character's facial expressions are based on them. The reproduction of the book here is solid, with both black and white and panels that were originally colored looking extremely nice.
This appears to be a solid translation with no noticeable copy editing or translation errors.
Content (may contain spoilers):
The bulk of the book is dedicated to the two-part story "S.O.S.," which got downright creepy toward the end. But the reason that it was creepy is that it is realistic and pulls at some emotions that many women feel over the course of their lives.
"S.O.S." is about three high schoolers who combine their talents to start a dating service. We see the story through the eyes of Yu, a champion matchmaker but always sacrifices the ones she has feelings for to see that others are happy. She quickly discovers that Raku and Nono, her two co-workers, are trying to find the same happiness as she is through helping others.
But things don't quite go to plan. Through a series of events involving one customer with low self-esteem, they learn that the dating service is being used by guys who want sex and nothing more like that. Just as they worm their way out of that situation, they are caught by a teacher who gives them an ultimatum - help him get rid of a stalker or else he'll notify the school about their club.
It's the story surrounding the teacher's stalker that really grabbed me. It's the manifestation of many emotions a woman might have about a man who either has rejected them from the start or has moved on from them and the woman carries a torch. It's a sad story that sees things from the side of the woman still in love with the teacher and Yu, who realizes how close she is to possibly becoming that woman herself.
The second story, "That Sweet Organ Song," is the most poignant of the three. Setsu is a bookstore clerk and poet encouraging Shotaro, a customer in a class above her own, to follow his dreams. The thing that intrigued me about the story here is the wonderful way the class system in Japan during the early 1900s is depicted and history is woven through the story. With its limited space, there's only two ways the story could go and I'm glad that in this case, the story didn't go for the common cliche - in fact, it reminds me somewhat of the movie Millenium Actress.
The final story, "The Easy Life," was the weakest story in my opinion. Mami has a chauvinistic boyfriend and is sick of it. So when another guy enters her life, she starts to consider her options. You really don't get much of a feel to the relationship as it's pretty rushed itself. Because of that, it's hard to really sympathize with Mami when Yohei is behaving like the stereotypical high school guy. But the theme here is that the easy life isn't so easy to come by, and it's something that these two manage to figure out by the end.
I received this book just as TOKYOPOP announced that they were remarketing some of their shoujo manga to attract women my age (young professionals in their 20s), including short stories, etc. With the release of S.O.S., Viz has proven that they're also appealing to the same market of readers, but without the marketing push. Some of the material in this book was previously seen in Animerica Extra, the now defunct magazine, as well.
And it's the marketing ideas that TOKYOPOP is trying to get across that makes me appreciate this Viz title a lot, and gave me a different method of viewing it. S.O.S. isn't a manga that I had to sit down and read in one sitting. It's perfect for when I come home from work and want to take 15 minutes or so to unwind.
This title, though it features high schoolers, really does appeal to a wider age span. Like Maison Ikkoku, I don't think it can really be appreciated unless you're somewhat older than high school aged - at least in college. The themes of lost dreams and trying to find happiness are something that is more easily felt when you've tried to accomplish that for yourself and have suffered some of the losses that these characters have had. I wish there were more anthologies like "S.O.S." out there, because it shows another facet to the shoujo genre and one that I like a lot.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left