Suzuka Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Matthew Alexander
Review Date: Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, August 29, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kouji Seo
Translated by:David Ury
Adapted by:David Ury

What They Say
Yamato is ready for a fresh start, and where better than in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo? So when his aunt invites him to stay rent-free in her big-city boarding house, it's an offer Yamato can't refuse. There's just one teensy weensy catch: it's an all-girls housing complex and spa!
Things get even more nerve-wracking when he meets his neighbor Suzuka, a beautiful track-and-field star. She's not just the cutest girl Yamato's ever met: she's also the coolest, the smartest, and the most intimidating. But living next door, Yamato can't help but get closer to Suzuka, and he'll soon learn that maybe his dream girl isn't such a nightmare after all!

The Review
Kind of like Love Hina with nipples.

Packaging:
The front cover depicts Suzuka wearing her school uniform and reaching her hand towards the reader, which actually gives a pretty cool sensation of depth. The pictures background is a blurry scene of blooming cherry trees along a roadside with a white border for the whole picture. The book title is written in an unobtrusive font, colored blue at the top and fading into white at the bottom. The back cover is solid white with a story synopsis and a color picture of Suzuka in mid jump at the high jump bar and wearing her track uniform.

I love this larger format but the printing for this volume has some disappointments. The original color inserts are monotone in this release and in the middle of the book there is a stretch where a lot of the pages have a smudged appearance, which is most obvious in the dialogue boxes. Del Rey's other mature release, Basilisk, had some problems in the first volume that were fixed in the second so I expect the second volume of Suzuka should be nice and clean. However, I have less hope that Del Rey will decide to include the color pages for the next Suzuka volume.

Artwork:
The artwork for this title is really good. Shading is well executed and there is a real sensation of different types of material making up the characters clothing. The character design is very attractive with lots of detail placed in everyone's clothing. As Ed mentioned in his 'Manga Peek' review, the school uniforms are a fanboy's dream come true with ultra short skirts and thigh high stockings that come to a stop just below the skirts hem. (Insert here, Austin Powers grawr) Facial expressions are pretty descriptive and I love Saotome's sex-kitten faces she makes to tease Yamato. The backgrounds are very detailed and a nice change from some of the titles I've been reading lately. But with all these kudo's aside, the thing that really made me realize this was some quality artwork were the windows. There are two instances when Suzuka has a sliding glass door behind her at nighttime. The background detail in these panels even shows a very believable reflection of Suzuka's back, the ceiling light, and other parts of the room's interior. I don't know why and maybe it's silly, but this attention to detail just really impressed me.

Text/SFX:
The text reads really well. There was a single incident where the wrong word was used and the sentence didn't make any sense but I thought the characters dialogue was very believable. The original Japanese SFX remain with small English translations placed alongside.

Contents: (Oh yes, there may be spoilers)
Yamato is a fifteen year old from a small town in the country. He's just moved to Tokyo to live with his Aunt and little cousin while he attends high school. Yamato is a bit of a joker and he got tired of his old school so he's hoping a new environment and a fresh start will help something good happen to him. Well, before his first day of school something good does happen. Living with his Aunt Ayano means he has to help clean the baths at the family bathhouse, but this also means he gets to live in a small apartment complex with a high school girl his age (Suzuka) and two college girls (Saotome and Megumi). All of which are spectacularly hot by the way.

Unfortunately, things aren't as great as they seem. Saotome is one of those girls that think all men owe her something and Megumi has some real issues with men and her insecurities over her ample bosoms. Then there's Suzuka. At first glance Yamato thinks Suzuka is the most amazing and beautiful girl he as ever seen, but she turns out to be pretty bitchy.

Yamato can't help but try and get Suzuka to like him. But along the way he finds himself sucked into compromising positions with Megumi, and Saotome is always teasing Yamato about Suzuka. So Suzuka turns out to be a hard nut to crack. But this is where the story really peaked my interest. Suzuka is a track star in her hometown and because of her abilities at the high jump, she was drafted by a prestigious school in Tokyo, which happens to be the same school Yamato attends. Because of all the pressure Suzuka's family, friends and school puts on her she's pretty unhappy all the time. The only time she gets excited and passionate about something is when she's talking about or participating in track.

The story could have been rather one-dimensional at this point but then the author introduces other students from Yamato's high school to spice things up. One of the girls from Yamato's class likes him, Yamato thinks he likes Suzuka, Yamato's friend Hattori is a big enough playboy that he likes all the girls, and Suzuka can't decide if she hates Yamato or just tolerates him. The web begins to get complicated by the end of this volume so I'm really looking forward to the next book.

Comments
Suzuka is a shonen romance that doesn't really break any new ground but it does have its moments, even if the author tries a little too hard in the first few pages. But once you get past the 'Oh a girl landed on my face with her crotch' moment everything seems less forced. The overall story is about a kind of dorky guy living in an all girl apartment complex attached to a girl's bathhouse that he has to clean, which leads to some boobalicious moments. He also has a hole in his wall leading to the room next door which houses Suzuka, the girl he falls in love with at first sight. Not that much new here, but I did enjoy Suzuka's character. She can be kind of bitchy and aloof, but at least it's the things going on in her life that makes her this way and not just the fact the author needed a snobby girl to fill a character niche.

Now I enjoyed this title and look forward to seeing the characters develop, but I'm not so sure about the 18+ rating. Yes there were nipples, but not any more than I've seen in other 16+ titles and Suzuka lacks the graphic gore of Basilisk. So on one hand I really appreciate this larger format for the mature line because I love the artwork for both Basilisk and Suzuka. But on the other hand I was disappointed at the lack of color pages for Suzuka, especially considering the higher price and the fact that Basilisk had its color pages included. I don't know, maybe Suzuka scored the 18+ rating because things get more graphic in later volumes.

Overall I enjoyed this title and I think most fans of shonen romance and nudity should be satisfied with this title. The artwork is really something to be admired. But then again maybe the lack of color pages and higher price tag will turn some people off.



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Del Rey
MSRP: 13.95
Pages: 208
ISBN: 0-345-48631-5
Size: A5
Orientation: Right to Left