Crossroad Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Translated by:Kathy Schilling
What They Say
Less than siblings, more than friends.
Kajitsu has never known a proper family. Her dad’s a deadbeat and her mom changes husbands like most people change socks. Kajitsu isn’t alone in her dysfunction--Taro and Natsu, the hottie step brothers she hasn’t seen in seven years, are also refugees from negligent parents in search of a home. Abandoned by everyone but each other, the three not-quite-siblings make one last attempt at building a family. It’s hard enough getting along in a home with rampant hormones and no adults, but when an unexpected bundle of joy is dropped in their laps, can they learn to be parents, too?
Go! Comi makes an impressive debut offering with Crossroad, a title excellent in both story and production.
Go! Comi has combined a mix of original elements with new to produce the cover packaging here. The original cover image of a smiling Kajitsu in her school uniform is used, but it has been placed over a new red background featuring a dot pattern with a black and white picture of Natsu cutting in from the edge. Bringing in the romantic element gives the reader perhaps a better idea of the subject matter, and still makes for an appealing cover, though I thought the original’s use of a compass as a complimenting image, was a nice play on the title. The logo has been improved a bit for this release, though still comparable to the original, even to the extent of including lettering accents. I do think it clashes a bit with the red cover, though the softer lettering and fuchsia color is admittedly better than the hot pink version found on the original. The back cover uses a cute illustration from an inside panel of Natsu in the same color.
Inside the print quality is beautiful, easily among the very best on the market, although color plates are not included. Translation notes and a guide to honorifics are included, as are the author’s free talks and bonus comics. Ads for other Go! Comi titles close up the volume.
The artwork for this title is typical of modern shoujo style. It’s pretty; the linework is light and frequently wispy and the character designs are very attractive. Everyone has a great sense of style and there are plenty of little fashion details. The comedic art (mainly used with faces) is cute and makes use of chibi styles without them being traditionally super-deformed. The backgrounds occasionally include details or scenery but they mainly consist of the staple white space sprinkled with tone in various geometric designs, sparkles, or flowers. Panels are laid out rather simply but have a nice rhythm and the passage of time between them, be it moments or mere seconds, feels comfortable.
The text and translation both look and read great here. Overall this book sports some very impressive production. Honorifics of all sorts are retained and SFX are translated using a variety of methods, depending on their placement. Those that are integral to the artwork are subtitled in a matching font and those that can easily be overlaid in the white space are. No matter how one likes their SFX handled, the important thing to note here is that it is all done with care, using a method that best suits the panel. Go! Comi has the right idea, to treat them on a case-by-case basis, and will surely please many fans in this manner.
Contents:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kajitsu is an independent but lonely 15-year-old girl who lives with her grandmother. She's never known her real parents and the only mother she's ever had bounces from husband to husband, collecting stepkids like accessories. It's been seven years since she last had something that resembled a real family, which included two stepbrothers whom she adored -- in particular her younger brother Natsu, who was a great comfort and source of her happiness.
When her granny dies, Kajitsu suddenly finds herself reunited with her mother and brothers - and all of them are in need of a new place to live! Her mother, Rumiko (or "Run-Run" for short), is her usual flighty self, which does nothing but aggravate poor Kajitsu, who feels certain she'd be best left on her own. She's also struggling to get along with her now-grown older brother Taro, who's pushy and bad-tempered, and her beloved Natsu, who's no longer the sweet kid she once knew. Now also at 15 he's become a gorgeous, smart young man, but he's cold and unresponsive to Kajitsu, which she attributes to a hurtful letter she once wrote to him.
Amongst all this budding teenage turmoil Rumiko takes off yet again, and this time she leaves behind 6-year-old Satsuki, her newest stepchild. Feeling akin to this unfortunate little girl, Kajitsu insists on taking her in even though Taro wants to turn her over to the police in hopes that she may still have a normal family life in foster care. The first family battle out of the way, finding suitable housing for the four of them becomes their next task. Natsu and Kajitsu find this is extremely difficult without responsible parents, but in the end they manage a solution.
The housing crisis settled, the kids need to pick their lives up where they left off, and that means going back to school. Natsu enrolls in Kajitsu's high school, where he seems quick to make friends, something Kajitsu has never been able to do. Jealous and threatened by Natsu's seemingly easy transitions, Kajitsu blows up at him, her feelings of resentment and loneliness over the last seven years boiling over. The result is good though, as Kajitsu gets to clear the air over the letter she sent. It seems like the two can finally move on from there, a spark of their childhood happiness and innocence returning. Kajitsu, having harbored a great love for Natsu (one that looks to run much deeper than a familial bond), is relieved to be free of her burden of guilt, but just how much their troubled past still affects Natsu remains to be seen.
It's painful to watch Kajitsu as she struggles to overcome her feelings of grief and helplessness, but in the process she stands to gain something much more important -- a sense of belonging. As much as she fights against it, and as much as she tries hard not to lose to her emotions, Kajitsu's new family (dysfunctional though it may be) helps create a crack in the wall she has erected around herself. She doesn't realize it herself, but everyone else does -- once back at school her classmates begin to approach her and Tokihito, a boy who has a crush on her, even becomes her first real friend there. He shows Kajitsu that it's ok to be true to herself and to realize her happiness for what it is. A series of overwhelming changes for Kajitsu to be sure, but nonetheless a pretty good start for a girl who thought she had nothing only a scant few days before.
I read a lot of shoujo but it’s a rare treat to find a story that I just know I’ll want to journey with, right from the start. With only this first volume, I’ve easily become engulfed in the lives of these characters and I feel certain I'll revisit this series often. It has a really nice mix of key shoujo elements, which alone may not be unique but when brought together work really well. Panels filled with looks of longing or aching sadness ensure that the angst meter has the potential to run high, though some well-placed (and well-paced) humor keeps the seriousness at bay. This book has an easy, addicting vibe to it.
I especially liked how apparent Kajitsu’s transformation was once the great weight of her regrets was lifted from her, and how the years of considering Natsu to be her sole confidant and comfort, regardless of their lack of communication, has wedged a whole range of feelings deep inside of her. There’s also the mystery surrounding Natsu, too -- why he no longer lives with his aunt and uncle and what his past with Kajitsu meant to him -- which I can’t wait to read about. Taro’s a pretty crazy guy, and though he seems a bit harsh, he's been given an unexpected burden and really just wants to do the right thing. Taken all together, the whole family situation is rather volatile, but they’re just kids raising themselves, and I think this story will find its heart in what mistakes they make and how well they muddle through them.
Forced to grow up before any of their times, these kids must endure the struggles normally left for adults to face, and hopefully in the process find happiness together. I like the promise of some angst and the makings of warm-fuzzies that I'm seeing here, but most of all I liked that, even so, there is still fun to be had. (The “no incest in the house” rule was really funny!) Definitely recommended.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Go! Comi
Orientation: Right to Left