W-Juliet Vol. #03 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Translated by:William Flanagan
What They Say
Makoto Amano wants to become an actor, but his stern father has dictated that the only way Makoto can achieve his goal is to spend the last two years of high school as a girl! He pals up with tomboy Ito Miura, another gender-bending actor and his partner in crime - but are they more than pals?
A high school field trip to an amusement park has Ito and Makoto switching clothes just to hang out together, and their friendship is threatened when a classmate sees through the ruse. Later, back in the drama club, cute new student Kohei is determined to win the "woman" of his dreams: Makoto!
The front cover shows Ito and Makoto in European period costumes against a sky blue background. Ito's back in men's clothes. She's got on a matching brown hat and cloak, a red vest and sash, white shirt, and gray pants. Makoto's in the foreground and also has a brown cloak with a yellow fringed shawl underneath. The title logo, which is a white quill with W Juliet in brown script in the foreground, is at the bottom. There is a teal header and footer bar framing the cover. The top header bar has the Viz Shojo logo to the top left in white, and the bottom bar has author's credits in white. This cover's color scheme is much more vibrant than the previous two.
The back cover is the same teal as the bars in the front. A white story summary panel is placed in center and slightly to the top of the back cover. Inside the panel are the W Juliet logo, the summary in script font to the left, and a picture of Ito and Makoto walking hand in hand by the ocean. They look like they are wearing their café uniforms, except Makoto is wearing the guy's clothes and Ito's in the girl's. Below the white panel are publisher, book orientation, and rating icons.
Binding and materials are about average, and the print quality is pretty good, except for the last page of the afterward which looks extremely grainy. Extras include a "behind the scenes" manga afterword, cultural notes, and ads for other Viz titles.
Emura's artwork continues to improve. Character designs are still about average, but her consistency is better, and her action scenes are well communicated. However, the artwork could stand to be less crowded. In her author's notes, Emura mentions that she quits her day job at about the time of the drawing of this volume, and I think that that has had a notable impact on her product.
Backgrounds are pretty good, and, in true shoujo fashion, there are lots of hand-drawn flowers and sparkly light screentones popping up with the entrance of certain characters.
Viz keeps the honorifics (although this volume doesn't include a glossary) with the notable exception of the drama adviser, who is called "Ms. Ito." They also continue using pronunciation symbols, which were introduced in Volume 2, in Japanese names. Signs are translated with overlays. Japanese cultural references are explained in footnotes or the afterword. As usual, Viz has done a nice job of replacing the original Japanese sound effects with English sound effects and varying font styles.
Most of the dialogue is satisfactory although there are still some awkward points. For example, at one point, Makoto says, "the day of Ito-san's birth." While that is grammatically correct, most people I know would just say "Ito-san's birthday." Some of the font sizes are a bit small although that seems due to the sizing of Emura's speech bubbles more than anything else.
Summer is here, but even with so many opportunities to spend time with each other, problems keep on arising for our favorite cross-dressing high school pair. At the junior class' outing to an amusement park, Makoto and Ito have just managed to shake off their classmates when Makoto suffers a wardrobe malfunction--he loses his wig! Out of desperation, they do a clothes switch; Makoto trades his girly clothes for Ito's boyish outfit. The solution does the trick of making their classmates think that Makoto's some random foreign man -- until Toki unexpectedly shows up at the amusement park and sees Ito with that mysterious blonde guy. Fueled by jealousy, he takes after them, leading to a dramatic confrontation high above the amusement park in a Ferris wheel gondola!
Then back at school, summer means reduced class schedules and more chances for Ito to see Makoto at drama club practice, right? Wrong! For some reason, he starts skipping out on practice. To make matters worse, Ito has to take additional remedial classes because of her dismal grades. She eventually finds out that he's waitressing part time to take care of his expenses. Wanting to be with him more, she applies and gets the only other part-time opening at the same restaurant -- for a male waiter. However, Makoto seems none too happy about that, and Ito suspects that he's hiding something from her. She's determined to get to the bottom of it, but will she be able maintain her disguise at work in the meantime?
As if they needed anything else to complicate circumstances further, one of the new drama club freshmen, Kohei, falls for Makoto. At the weeklong drama training camp, Kohei's sizable contingent of supporters are constantly separating Makoto and Ito so that Kohei will have opportunities to be with Makoto and try to win "her" over. To make matters worse, Toki, undeterred by his earlier failures, shows up at the camp to make moves on Ito. And then there's the little issue regarding how exactly Makoto will bathe given the communal bathing facilities. It takes some ingenuity, imagination, and even a little supernatural help, but Makoto and Ito are able to make it through the challenges and come out closer than ever.
In this volume, Emura derives less humor from the stage and more out of the more practical issues related to Makoto's disguise (losing his wig at the amusement park, bathing problems in a school outing setting, and boys falling for him at school). Again, most of the story is fluffy and silly, sprinkled with random martial arts. Between the ridiculousness of Makoto's predicaments and the relative insanity of the drama club, it is a fun read.
The one thing that really jarred the lightness though is Toki's near-assault of Ito at the amusement park. Not only is attempting assault heavy business, but it seems incongruous that Ito, who is perfectly capable of taking out the hired thugs in the previous volume, would be unable to extricate herself out of Toki's grasp at the park (I think that Emura could have come up with better scenarios for Makoto to "rescue" Ito). That aside, I find Emura's portrayal of Toki realistic. Unfortunately, there are guys out there like him that play nice on the outside, but turn real nasty when they don't get their way, and a couple of my female friends have had the misfortune of dating such creeps.
Kohei is a less satisfying character. He strikes me as saccharine and superficial. The most interesting thing about him is that so many people are helping him in his effort to win Makoto. What I can't figure is why more boys at school haven't gone after Makoto themselves.
Throughout this volume, Ito and Makoto's relationship moves in fits and starts. It's interesting that they've already kissed (as they've played Romeo and Juliet at their school play), but their relationship is still at the very beginning stages and is moving as slow as most Japanese shoujo romances do. This is Volume 3, and they've just gotten over insecurity issues enough for Ito to share HER dreams with Makoto.
This title is rated teen for some swearing, an attempted assault, clothes ripping open in a fight scene, and hot springs bathing scenes (all vital parts are covered though!).
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
ISBN: 1-59116 -600 -4
Orientation: Right to Left