Video Girl Ai (Action Edition) Vol. #06 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Release Date: Saturday, January 01, 2005
Translated by:Yuji Oniki
What They Say
LIVE OR VIDEO TAPE?
High school student Yota Moteuchi is nicknamed "Dateless." When thhe love live of his life confesses she in love with his friend, Yota rents a video for comfort, but the shop is magical, and the cute star of his rented tape pops out of his TV and tries to fix his tape.
CUTTING ROOM FLOOR
Ai is bootlegged to a new tape by the sympathetic old clerk of the Gokuraku Video Shop and is living in Yota's house. As Yota's romance with his first girlfriend, Nobiko, enters its final stages, Video Girl Mai is sent by Ai's creator to edit out Ai's very existence!
Presented in a tall B6, in right-to-left format, the latest reprinting of this long running title leans towards the original look, but misses a few key points. Viz does well by using the original cover art on a light background. This design loses the clutter of Viz's first try and makes the framed image of new character Natusmi in her matching leather vest and cap the dominant part of this piece. The opposite cover has the same character piece placed on the title sticker of a VHS tape. I have to admit I love the creativity especially since I know that Jump Comics left their reverse cover completely void of Katsura art.
Inside, Viz uses new chapter headers (each are simply static backgrounds) and they modify Katsura's volume header to match. They also leave out a message from Katsura and the drawing collection that was featured in the Jump Comics version. The printing is also pretty dark. This is really obvious in the second chapter where may of the pages are set in the dark using a lot of screen tone. The tone blends together compromising the line work. This volume features character notes and a mangaka bio.
Katsura's art is some of the best received in the shonen genre. Not only are his designs cute and full of personality, but they tend to show a passion for fashion that Katsura has. At times, his costume designs can be a little outrageous; sometimes I wonder why his characters do not trip more. In general, they have unique designs with interesting lines that refine the bodylines of his characters. This volume is appears to be free of edits so for those who care there is some full nudity in Katsura's sensual designs.
While his layouts can be simple, Katsura tends to keep his panels looking good by giving his background art a good amount of detail. His detail is quite refreshing, especially when one considers how often his contemporaries in the shonen world ignore backgrounds all together. This volume shows off how much settings can really impact a scene. The powerful scene with Nobuko and Yota in the park would not have been as impressive without the proper shading and location. Moreover, the fight scenes between Mai and Ai relied on the scenery to show off the unique abilities Video Girls possess.
Having done a comparison with my original tankoubon, my impression of the translation is rather positive. There are a few situations where the dialogue was out of context, but neither time affected the story much. I will admit that this is becoming less of an issue as the series progresses.
Viz has translated all of the SFX in this series. The touch up is pretty good, but at times, I really wished they did not use such large overlays.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At one point in this series Moteuchi Yota was known as dateless. As much as Yota tried he could not find the right person that would accept and reciprocate his feelings. Therefore, he used to have a difficult time understanding and expressing those feelings. For a long time all of those emotions built up and become frustration that would come out in the most obsessive ways.
Now, Yota has a girlfriend and he realizes that he still does not know how to express himself. Instead of opening up to share all of his feelings, he finds himself consistently running away from those feelings and eventually he runs away from Nobuko, his girlfriend. Simply put Yota has had his time with Nobuko and he thought he was in love but he did not know what that meant. By holding back he has created a sense of fear and isolation that should never take control of a relationship. And the more he avoided his fears of rejection and depression, it became clearer to him that he was losing hold of his precious romance. Until the point where there was no real relationship, outside of nods and smiles at school.
Much of the same was going on for Nobuko, as her own doubts ended up creating a wall inside her she could not overcome. And when Nobuko finds a chance to change things, she decided to rather keep an ideal feeling of love instead of seeing it become something ugly and painful.
And while these two are struggling with their new lives apart, Amano Ai has to be there to cheer everyone up while she is quietly feeling torn. This is the time that Ai has been waiting for; a new chance to start her life with Yota. How can she start this when she feels he sees her as a sibling/friend? Now is also possibly not the time to change his mind as his heart is broken and her existence is in danger.
As Katsura's characters suffer through the pain of breaking up, he gives readers a chance to see how fickle hearts can be. Sometimes they feel strong enough to move on, but there will always be memories that will take people back to times they left behind. So many feelings can be tied to those memories and not being able to let go and accept those moment for what they are worth is so common among people who have trouble with love. Katsura makes that so plausible and real in this series.
Katsura’s ability to present both sides of the separation was what won me over. Seeing Yota’s world collapse was to be expected since he is the main character. His role has always been such where his feelings always seem to be best expressed when he is not with those he feels most passionate about. His depression is easy to relate to. So as derivative as riding a train sulking can be, I found it easy to feel for the young man. Moreover, as chances seem to open up before him, Katsura's decision to have him fight to get Nobuko back felt like the most dramatic direction to take.
Best of all was how Katsura tries to make Nobuko the stronger of the two former lovers, as she is the one able to move on. Her strength is clearly based on some fear, but her ideal to retain the memories of their once wonderful relationship was honorable. The easy way out would have had the two feel awkward with each other or maybe feel resentment towards each other, but Katsura took a direction rarely taken.
Conversely, I really did not feel that the action scenes between Mai and Ai were at all entertaining. In a way, it cheapened the drama for me. I think this happens to be Katsura's biggest failure in this series, as this ends up feeling like a distraction when Yota, Nobuko and Ai's feelings should have been the focus.
The action aside, the more I read VGAi the more I feel this is Katsura‘s best. The feelings are so strong and the pain so deep; reading this title again I get a feeling I will never forget these moments. And in some ways, they have been with me since I first read this story more than a decade ago. That is how timeless VGAi is to me, because even when the focus is not "Ai + Yota" their friendship is forever.
Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left