Love Roma Vol. #02 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Release Date: Saturday, January 28, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Minoru Toyoda
Translated by:David and Eriko Walsh
Adapted by:

What They Say
It was love at first sight for Hoshino and Negishi, but can it really last? Will it survive a killer track meet? The telling of ghost stories? A knock-out Christmas? Negishi meeting Hoshino's family?

The Review
One of the top titles to look out for this year, Love Roma continues to be a wonderful romantic comedy, free of the clichés of its genre that anyone can enjoy just so long as they have a pulse.


Packaging:
The cover features the original illustration from the Japanese tankoubon release. It's a very colorful cover featuring Hoshino and Negishi in front of the whole cast of the book in the background doing their thing. I also like how the back cover uses sample colored panels from inside as a summary. The print reproduction is pretty solid, with only some minor fading issues in the heavy black areas.

A two-page honorifics guide and a translator's notes section are included. Chapters include headers, occasional inserts from the author, and chapter epilogues ("Bonus Track") which work as a humorous finale to the previous chapter. At the back of the book is commentary from the creator, a “hidden track” that features a tsukkomi and boke routine, as well as a 4-page preview for the next volume which is left in its raw Japanese format.

Art:
Simple in form but solid in execution, Minoru Toyoda's artwork is a style that most likely will throw off readers who are expecting more of the standard shounen or shoujo romantic comedy affair. Character artwork is blocky and rigid, resembling a style that I associate more with strip panel comics, but yet Toyoda is able to get across the appropriate emotions on his characters' faces, bringing them to life.

He also has a great sense of composition, as well as panel direction, nicely stringing events together and building up to pay offs usually done in large panels that are nicely put together. There are also plenty of backgrounds that provide nice depth and perspective, but keep with the simple yet extremely clean style. The more and more I read this title, the more I really begin to appreciate and enjoy this style.

Text/SFX:
SFX are translated with subs placed in small fonts next to the original. Translation is quite solid, keeping the honorifics in place which is critical for this title (notice how Hoshino always refers to Negishi with “-san”). All the cultural references and jokes are kept in place with a nice "Translation Notes" section in the back of the book that features good bits of information. There are even some things that can’t really be translated correctly, which Del Rey points out in the notes. Translation notes are a big plus in my book, especially when they are needed for an appropriate title like this one. The humor and character quirks all remain intact and reads perfectly.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
The story continues to really ignite feelings of nostalgia within myself as I watch this couple interact with each other and their group of friends. I can relate to Hoshino sitting around with his group of boys whose are only interested in whether or not he’s done the big deed, S-E-X! When there was no news to report, they of course reply with disappointment. And it’s not just good friends that are trying to pry their noses into your business, but the whole school seems to take a sudden interest in whether or not the two of them have reached the Plateau of Done It. When the local school paper prints lies about the status of their relationship, Hoshino and Negishi must learn to tune out the crowd of gawking and clapping onlookers and concentrate on themselves, making them stronger in the long run.

But a relationship is not always like the sunny skies and good smelling roses that are suddenly apparent in Hoshino’s bright new world. With every touching scene of late-night river viewing or bicycle training, there are bound to be differences of opinion and that dreaded jealousy bug rearing its ugly head. Even a simple difference such as the existence of ghosts will only serve to bring Hoshino and Negishi together, as long as it doesn’t kill them first. When Hoshino takes up a part-time job, his slacker co-worker will take an interest in Negishi, leaving Hoshino huffing and puffing and having to deal with his own social insecurities.

While I am enjoying the aimless pacing of the story, which works well with the theme of sweet innocence here, there could be some readers out there that might wish for something more complex with their relationship. Things also get a tad predictable with the big, lovey-dovey moment at the end of the chapters. However, this is all part of my enjoyment for this title and at this point I’m really just reaching for some very minor negative aspect that is squashed by everything good that happens here.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful background cast that Minoru Toyoda has created. The recurring group of friends are always entertaining with the jabbing one-liners and sarcastic observations. Even the Sub-Characters Domei or “Alliance” (S.C.D), as Toyoda affectionately calls them, all add their stamp of humor and warmth to the volume. I still get a big kick at the cheering crowd of classmates that seems to be present at every big moment. The humor overall is just very well done, from deadpan to great sarcastic quips, that I find myself grinning from ear to ear during the entire reading.

Comments
Reading Love Roma just puts me in a good mood. It’s nostalgic and humorous, leaving me in a state of mind that is so peaceful and giddy. The characters are absolutely wonderful, both Hoshino and Negishi as well as the background cast which is becoming more and more familiar. The interactions between the two leads and their friends offer up some witty banter and humorous discussions, sometimes even occurring in the backgrounds while the actual main story elements are progressing.

The story of their budding relationship is incredibly simple, which could turn off those looking for something deeper and more complex here, but it’s the simplicity that really highlights the innocence found here in these relationships of old. Ahh, sweet young love! It’s also the lovable personalities of the characters that makes this low-key story a success.

Del Rey also continues to handle this title very well with great translation notes, all the included Bonus Tracks, extras, and good looking print reproduction. In the opening line of this volume, Hoshino remarks, “I can see brightness in the whole world lately.” Well, every time a new volume of Love Roma arrives, my day becomes a bit brighter as well. Highly Recommended.



Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Del Rey
MSRP: 10.99
Pages: 208
ISBN: 0-345-48263-8
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left