Pastel Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, January 29, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Translated by:David Ury
What They Say
Poor Mugi Tadano... The sixteen-year-old is heartbroken after his girlfriend moves away. To ease his troubled state, Mugi takes a summer job at his friend Kazuki's beachside snack bar/hotel on a tropical island. It seems like the perfect plan - until Kazuki sets Mugi up on a date with Yuu, who's supposed to be, well, a little less than perfect. When Yuu arrives, however, she's not the monster that either of the boys had imagined. In fact, Yuu is about the cutest person that Mugi has ever seen. But after Mugi accidentally walks in on Yuu in the bath, the girl is steamed. When trying to apologize the next day, he discovers that Yuu has left the shores of paradise. Mugi vows to search high and low for the beautiful Yuu, but will he ever see her again?
The main character's name translates to "plain old wheat," first and foremost.
Once again, Del Rey does a fantastic job with their presentation. The cover retains the same illustration as the Japanese edition, a rather nice color illustration of Yuu in the ocean, and the logo for the series is very playful and understated, and very much mimics the Japanese logo with its use of flower/asterisk cutouts and the yellow color with the orange glow behind it. The illustration is enclosed on the left side by a blue reverse circle that makes for a nice border. The back features the same graphic on the right hand side of the page, with another illustration of Yuu in the upper right corner and the text for the summary taking up most of the back cover. I've never been a big fan with the way Del Rey uses type on the back covers of their manga as it's a bit large and clunky and spread out... but hey, what else is the back cover for if not for a large summary? The font chosen in this instance is also rather hard to read, which is a shame. The other thing is that the summary on the back cover doesn't really give you a good idea of what the volume is about. I went into the series thinking that it was about a boy trying to find this long lost love at first sight, but that's not it at all... in fact, the summary on the back only really does justice to most of the first chapter, which is fine, but it more hints about what that chapter is about than what the whole volume is about.
Inside we get everything you've come to expect from Del Rey. Right off the bat, we get six color pages, followed by the title page, copyright page, the table of contents, a two page spread on honorifics, and a page that contains a note from the author. We then get the same pages we saw in color reproduced in black and white. Each title page has its own illustration. At the end, we get a page for an "about the author" feature, five pages of cultural notes (necessary since there are a few puns dealing with Mugi's name), then five pages for a Japanese preview of volume two. I love the color pages and all the extras Del Rey put into every release, but a few minor nitpicks I have with every volume of theirs include the lack of page numbers (which normally I don't mind, but they become necessary with the cultural notes in the back) and the reproduction of the color pages once again in black and white, which seems sort of redundant, but I can sort of see a reason or two for them doing it. Aside from those couple of nitpicks, I enjoy Del Rey's presentation more than anyone else's, and I'm always glad to pick up a new series from them.
The translation is good, there were no spelling or grammar errors, and everything read really well in English. I didn't really care for the "Mugi Snacks" nickname since it's a bit clunky when that's all some of the characters call Mugi in the beginning, but it's hard to deal with Japanese puns like "Mugi Choco" and I don't really have any solution to offer up over "Mugi Snacks." The SFX were left intact, and an English translation was added nearby.
There's no doubt when one reads this that it ran in Shounen Magazine, which is home to some of the biggest breasts, most outrageous fanservice, and cutest girls in manga. I really like Kobayashi's character designs. They're not terribly original or even that notable when out of context, but all the characters are extremely adorable without being overly cute (both Yuu and Mugi have big puppy dog eyes), and he differentiates between the characters with changes in facial features as opposed to different hair styles, most notably between Yuu and Kazuki's date at the beginning of the manga, but there are other instances of it. His facial expressions are also extremely communicative, especially on Yuu, and I really enjoy their subtlety as well. There is also a great deal of fan service, as I mentioned, and there are very few scenes with Yuu where we don't get a good look at more skin than we ought to. It's not quite as humorous as when Mazakazu Katsura does it, but it's definitely comparable to a character like HEVN in GetBackers, another Shounen Magazine series. Otherwise it’s fairly plan and standard shounen artwork, with simplified backgrounds, fashions that tend to blend in, and only as much detail as necessary.
After he broke up with his now distant girlfriend, Mugi Tadano found himself in a deep depression over summer break. Determined to bring him out of his stupor, his friend Kazuki invites him to work with him at his aunt's hotel. While making up for Kazuki's complete slacker attitude concerning his job, Mugi runs into a very beautiful girl stripping out of her clothes to reveal her bathing suit. Embarrassed, he apologizes for peeping, the two have a conversation, then they part ways. Later, when Kazuki sets Mugi up on a blind double date so he can have the benefits of going out with the girl of his choice, Mugi's date turns out to be the girl from earlier, whose name is Yuu. The two have a wonderful time, and part on pleasant terms, but Mugi is a bit sad he didn't think to ask for the kind girl's number. Later, under the impression he was supposed to drain the women's bath, Mugi walks in on Yuu taking a shower, and he blames it on Kazuki (who sent him), but Yuu resents him even more for placing the blame elsewhere. The next day, when Mugi tries to find Yuu and apologize, he finds she's already left the island and resolves to track her down wherever she is and make amends as well as take responsibility for his actions. Deciding he's had enough of Kazuki and his job, he goes back home to find none other than... Yuu, soaking in his bathroom when he thought he was bursting in on his dad.
It turns out Yuu and her little sister are going to be staying with Mugi and his father, as Yuu's father (a good friend of Mugi's father) has recently passed away. Mugi begins to take responsibility for his actions, and Yuu and Mugi get along quite well while Mugi plays house and finds that Yuu is no good at chores. Mugi is extremely awkward around Yuu as he is head-over-heels in love with her, but can't confess his feelings since if she didn't feel the same way it would make living together almost unbearable, and Yuu has no place else to go. A few awkward situations pop up every now and again, including a scene where the house floods and the two wind up having to sleep together. The volume ends on a cliffhanger when the unsuspecting Kazuki comes over and is prepared to barge in on Yuu's bath.
Once I figured out the series was not the tale of lost love I thought it was, I adjusted my expectations and found it to be quite a sweet shounen love story. It's something akin to Oh My Goddess (specifically the relationship between Keiichi and Belldandy) in that it's almost entirely innocent as far as bawdy jokes and over-the-top personalities go, and it's a rather straightforward shy love narrative where the relationship development moves at a slow pace. There's nothing that stands out about it too terribly much at this point, except for the fact it was a really cute, endearing story. There's something about Yuu and Mugi's personality that's extremely pure, and to see the two interact and to see Mugi squirm when it comes to niceties surrounding Yuu is quite satisfying in its own way. The whole thing is sort of vanilla at this point, and while I enjoy the sweet, slightly melancholy direction the series is taking, I'm hoping there will be more to it than the rather predictable fanservice that's been going on in this volume (the shower walk-in, walking in while Yuu is changing, floods causing awkward sleeping arrangements, etc). There are a couple flamboyant personalities to spice up the plot, and basically everybody except Yuu and Mugi is outspoken, but not much focus is placed on others, and the flamboyant characters don't steal the show like Urd might in Oh My Goddess. I sort of appreciate that, because it differentiates itself from other series by not having a really outspoken character involved in the main plot, and I really like the break from loudness. There's really not much to say about the plot other than that... I really enjoyed the volume because of the sweet relationship, and I can see the relationship development working out well and being quite addictive in future volumes, but the events played out in the string of bad fanservice jokes that I mentioned earlier, and I don't think I can put up with more than a volume of that. The thing about the fanservice here is that it's almost as if it's not treated as a joke. There's nothing really comedic when Mugi gets an eyeful of Yuu, it just happens, Mugi is embarrassed, and Yuu gets mad. Over and over and over again. The fact that the next volume is set up with another such joke doesn't bring me much hope, but I have faith in Mugi and Yuu’ relationship, so I'm hoping it can overcome its weaknesses.
Yuu and Mugi are really strong characters so far, and I'm surprised by how well their personalities were developed in this one volume. Yuu is quite a strong female character, with her own opinions and boundaries, and she doesn't really force anything on you and isn't afraid to tell you what she thinks in her own innocent way. She's an extremely nice girl, and the way that she bolsters Mugi's confidence at the beginning of the story made for a rather nice scene. She's a great deal more mysterious than Mugi though... she's almost always shown in high spirits, but there are hints that her father dying has really affected her, and you aren't really aware of how she feels about Mugi even though she’s so nice to him. You wind up knowing a great deal about Mugi, especially how he's feeling about Yuu every second. He's a pretty nice boy, and the only real flaw that was presented was that he didn't take responsibility for his actions... but really, I didn't see anything wrong with him mentioning that he was only doing his job when he walked in on Yuu in the bath, nor did I see why his old girlfriend got mad at him and blamed him for ending their relationship when she was the one moving away. But the character flaw that was apparently lack of responsibility is ironed out, and we get a rather nice boy as a result. He's very sweet around Yuu, very considerate when around other people he knows less well, but still a bit boisterous when he's dealing with his delinquent father or his best friend Kazuki. He's also something akin to a housewife and well-equipped to take care of Yuu and her sister, and he's quite likable overall... you really wind up empathizing with him. The other characters don't really play that big a part thus far, and are only around long enough to get a bit of a feel for them... Kazuki's sort of the laid-back, meddling best friend, Yuu's sister is sort of the same way except not as loud or crude (though maybe a little crude), and Mugi's father is a rather loud and somewhat irresponsible guy who cares a great deal about Mugi and the daughters of his best friend despite all appearances. I'm hoping some of the characters get developed further and more plots spring up, because I think there's quite a long ways the series can go with these characters at this point.
Overall I wound up liking this volume a lot because of Mugi and Yuu, and because they have such a strong relationship after just one volume. It's quite sweet, pure, and almost drama-free since both are rather shy and forgiving, and it's hard not to get sucked in. The plot is not so hot thus far though, and I'm really hoping for better things for the relationship to play out over. If you're looking for a good fanservice-y shounen romance akin to something like Oh My Goddess or maybe a breast-filled magic-less version of Fruits Basket, look no farther. It's got a lot of potential, so I'm sort of looking forward to where it's going next.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Released By: Del Rey
Orientation: Right to Left