Sensual Phrase (aka: Kaikan Phrase) Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Thursday, May 26, 2005
Release Date: Monday, March 01, 2004
Translated by:Kelly Sue DeConnick
What They Say
As a budding poet and lyricist, Aine is determined to make it big in show business. On her way to an audition one fateful day, she absentmindedly steps into the street and barely avoids getting struck by an oncoming vehicle.
Not only is the cute teenager lucky to alive, but her brush with death turns out to a date with destiny. The driver of the car just happens to be Sakuya, the charismatic and fabulously handsome lead singer for a band called Lucifer.
In short order, Sakuya and his crew compose a song using Aine's lyrics. The tune proves popular with the band's fans and Sakuya decides he wants a relationship, both professional and personal, with Aine.
But does Sakuya actually care for Aine, or is she just another sexual conquest for him? And more importantly: has the nascent wordsmith finally struck gold in the world of pop music, or has she simply sold her soul to the devil?
Viz’s presentation is solid. Starting with the cover art, Viz uses the original cover featuring a split piece with portraits of the leads, Aine (left) and Sakuya (I am not sure why Viz switched the order but it still looks good). The piece is blown up from the original, but it does a good job presenting the main characters and their personalities. The logo is pretty simple and is a little big, but I love how Viz incorporated the kanji for “Kaikan” in it. Very classy.
The printing is great; I did not notice any moiré problems or alignment issues. Viz kept the mangaka notes and they also included an essay from Brandon Nevin.
While I love Shinjo’s more current designs, I have to say her art for Sensual Phrase rubs me the wrong way. That is actually a little harsh, because I like how her layouts are very active – providing insight to Aine’s emotions and the tone for each scene – and I have enjoyed her background art and how it captures existing locations like Shibuya very well. However, her character designs are not very imaginative. I have to say I have seen the male designs done by at least a dozen other mangaka – long legs (only from a distance), thin waists (once again up close they have manly chests and lean abs), huge chins, and messed up dark hair. And if I look at her lead Aine, she is a mess. Very inconsistent; chins, eyes, chest size, shoulders all change from chapter to chapter (sometimes page to page). I found this very frustrating and after looking up her current works (including the covers for the superban versions from Shogakukan) I have to say this just looks sloppy.
SFX are all translated and overlaid. Viz does this in a tasteful manner, making sure the SFX look good and sound good. More than a decade of experience is apparent, as the retouch is very clean for SFX and aside text.
I am not sure why but practically all of Viz's shojo titles, Sensual Phrase included, has a solid translation. This is the second DeConnick translation I have read, and I have to say she consistently seems to enjoy the manga she works on. Similar to another title she translated, Matsumoto Taiyo’s Blue Spring, Kaikan Phrase is not an easy series to work on. While Blue Spring was filled with slang, graffiti and yanki attitude, Sensual Phrase has song lyrics which had to be translated, reworded to make them rhyme and arranged to make sense. DeConnick also had to maintain the concepts of seduction, jealousy and sexual frustration. She does not shy away from any of these themes, translating them honestly but also putting in her own appreciation for the manga. So while I might laugh at lines like “he’s completely ruining my panties,” I get the context and I appreciate the translator’s unique perspective and the work put into this title, as well. Very fun read.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Aine has been a poet for a while. Her poetry is the envy of her classmates. So when her friends heard about a songwriting contest, they talked Aine into entering. Her best friends talked up the pop and rock lifestyles, so on a whim, pushed by peer pressure and the star struck look in her friends' eyes, she tried her best to understand the sensuality of pop. The idea sounded cool enough, however Aine felt the likelihood of her winning is almost nothing. Writing for a singer, especially a male, required new ideas on perspective and was a challenge. But imagine if she did win, Aine and her two friends would share a nice ¥500,000 prize and a real band would record the song as well. Maybe it is all wishful thinking but trying does not hurt anyone.
Writing songs has tested her imagination. Aine has admitted that writing poetry was generally writing from her point of view, but to write a song for someone else to recite requires a new perspective. She knows she must write to the signer's talents.
Well, Aine has only been able to generalize about the industry as a whole. Apart from what her friends have told her, pop stars have been young hunks that tease and seduce on TV shows and music videos. She has seen them titillate on the stage, and she knows how she has reacted to every stanza, chorus and dance move. She was lured in and heated up, as if each word and action was specifically for her. All of those emotions she put into words, but who would want to listen to them? Would people want to hear song from the perspective someone who is being seduced?
Absolutely! People will gobble songs like these up, especially if the singer is oozing sensuality. And Aine just met one that fills the bill. Actually he ran into her. Actually he also ended up stealing and using her song after almost running her over with his Ferrari. And actually he ended up being seduced by her writing and is desperate to meet her. Sounds like she has got the right idea, but is she made for the music industry? What started as a whim has become an intellectual romance! This was not in the contest rules!
Is it not many people's fantasy to be able to meet the idols we look up to and adore? Would it not be amazing to spend time with them, get to know them, grow close to them and eventually become like family to them? What if you could work with the stars? Would you be star struck or would you want to see their off-screen/off-stage personality as well? What would you do to if one came on to you? The imagination can run wild with all of these scenarios, but honestly how many of us will have a chance like that right? (And seriously how many of you would really want to experience something like that?)
Aine has seen the stars on TV; she has wished to be playing the roles along side her idols. She fantasized the romances she could be in. She imagined the people and places she could see. These have been merely dreams, but the emotions felt were very powerful. I guess people can relate to those feelings. They can day dream and imagine the same things with “insert your idol/heart throb here.” This is a fantasy of romantic proportions and is possibly the dream of a large number of young people. At the same time, Shinjo-sensei does not stray away from the potential cruelty that could come from such a lifestyle change. Jealousy, isolation, self-doubt and more are present and Shinjo tries to present them as the negative alternatives to the dream life. I felt she has tried too hard to present that side of reality and maybe if this were spread out more, I would have felt it more appropriate.
Overall, a fun title that is just over the top enough to get my imagination going. I have to say, I am not a pop fan (punk and jazz is my thing), so going gaga over a singer is not really something I can relate to (well, the Beez is still a looker, so are members of SuperSnazz and the Donnas…). However, as a fantasy this is easy to take and expand on, yeah the ideas can be corny and re-hashed but the delivery is so out there often making fun of seduction and sexual frustration I could not help enjoying it.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left