Penguin Revolution Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, January 01, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Translated by:Sheldon Drzka
What They Say
High school student Fujimaru Yukari knows a potential star when she sees one... because she sees the special "aura" they give off, in the form of angelic wings. Yukari's fellow student, the beautiful Katsuragi Ryoko, has a small pair of wings herself, and is one of these aspiring talents. She's so talented, in fact, that no one even knows that "she" is actually a boy in disguise! Now, to make her own down-to-earth dream come true, Yukari has to help her new friend become a star.
The front cover features Yukari sitting with a penguin in her lap with three golden peacock feathers in the backdrop. Yukari looks absolutely adorable in a very feminine pink dress with red ruffled trim. Centered at the top is the title in green letters with the mangaka's name in smaller plain black capitals below it. In the bottom left corner is the volume number. While the image of Yukari and the penguin is very pretty, the cover's plain white background and rather boring title logo gives the overall design a simple feel.
The back cover is much livelier. It features Ryo,Ayaori, and Yukari amid a swirl of feathers (mostly peacock) against a bright yellow backdrop. The colorful image of the three takes up the top two thirds of the back cover. On the remaining cover space is the teaser, "A girl with the power to literally SEE talent goes into the crazy world of Japanese show business," followed by the story synopsis in smaller black font. At the very bottom are publisher's and age icons, a genre designation, and ISBN number.
In terms of materials, there's something about the weight and texture of the pages and glossy cover that make them feel thin/delicate. The binding seems fine, but I'd be careful about handling the pages or cover too roughly.
Extras include table of contents, character profile, a five-page afterword from the mangaka, and ads for other CMX titles.
Tsukuba uses fine lines in her artwork and varies panel shapes and spacings, keeping the layouts interesting. Character designs are very pretty with large eyes, gorgeous hair, heart shaped faces, and slender, long necks. Yukari is cute, but the boys in the manga tend towards the effeminate side. The transformations of Tsukuba's cross-dressing characters are convincing, but she could make her male characters more distinct than they are. I had the worst time trying to differentiate Ryo from Peacock's Number 8 Man Fukatsu. In keeping with the Peacock Talent Agency's ranking system, Tsukuba uses a lot of feathers and birds in the backdrops in addition to the usual sparkly light and flower shoujo screentones.
Overall, CMX's translation of this manga is pretty good. Dialogue flows well, and they even manage to work a couple of puns into the "Boiling Bathtub PR" chapter (I don't know if there were actually puns in the original Japanese script, but they work okay in English). CMX has done a good job of removing and replacing the original Japanese sound effects with English ones. Signs, text message screens, and most pieces of paper are also translated with overlays. A nice variety of fonts are incorporated throughout.
My main complaint with the text/translation is that the text is very, very, very tiny in a couple of places and, with the exception of Peacock President's "Shacho" title, there's no explanation of Japanese honorifics, which they use in this translation. It probably won't make that much of a difference for seasoned manga readers, but it might make it confusing for newbies.
High school freshman Yukari Fujimaru has a unique ability. When she looks at gifted performers, she can literally see their talent, manifested in the form of angelic wings. However, Yukari wants nothing to do with the world of entertainment. Her home life has been tumultuous, and what she desires more than anything else is stability. In fact, her dream is to become a public servant!
Unfortunately, all of her plans fall apart when her father's latest business venture fails. Abruptly, Yukari finds herself penniless, homeless, and abandoned by her father. When her friend Ryoko learns of her predicament, she offers her a solution: a job as Ryoko's manager!
Ryoko is among the talent that is represented by the Peacock Talent Agency, one of the best in the business. However, the agency is strict to the extreme about keeping all the personal data on their talent classified. As such, except for Yukari, no one at school knows that Ryoko is involved in show business. In fact, female second-year high school student "Ryoko" is actually an alias for Ryo Katsuragi, a MALE talent, something Yukari only learned through accident.
Ryo takes Yukari in for an interview with Peacock's Shacho (President), an eccentric with an extraordinary eye for talent. She manages to meet the man's demanding standards and wins the job. However, Shacho has a condition: Yukari must pose as a man when acting as Ryo's manager. Should anyone figure out that she is a girl, she will be immediately fired. In addition, he dictates that Yukari and Ryo must live together.
While this arrangement solves Yukari's housing and income problems, it brings on a whole new set of problems. For starters, Ryo already has a roommate, Makoto Ayaori, another Peacock talent, and Yukari will have to keep her true gender a secret from him as well. Then there is the whole issue of Ryo's ranking within the Peacock agency. Ryo is a "penguin," Peacock's designation for the lowest ranked talent within the agency. As such, he is scrambling for opportunities to work. Ryo feels his position all the more keenly as Peacock's number one talent is roommate Ayaori. But Yukari is willing to take on the challenge to help her friend and encourage the budding talent she sees within him. But posing as a man proves more problematic than it appears. The duo somehow manage to survive "Boiling Bathtub PR" with Yukari's secret intact, but will a fellow Peacock actor with a mean streak blow her cover?
Idol stories and cross-dressing appears to be extremely popular in shoujo manga these days. However, Tsukuba seems to have gone a bit overboard in the amount of cross-dressing and disguises she crams into Penguin Revolution. Within the very first chapter, Yukari has discovered that her female sempai is actually a guy, is abandoned by her father, becomes a manager for Ryo's talent agency, is forced to start cross-dressing herself, and moves into an apartment with two boys. It's a lot to take at once and rather feels like the story lines of W Juliet and Ouran Host Club got mushed together into an idol manga.
If I simply read a synopsis of the story, I probably would have dismissed it as an overly done rehash of existing plotlines. But the funny thing is that I really enjoyed Volume 1. Yes, you have to suspend quite a bit of belief in the first chapter, but if you can accept the situation that Tsukuba has put poor Yukari into, the story gets to be fun. I find that a large part of that is due to Yukari's sweet and unpretentious personality. She's caught up in the drama of the "make it or break it" world of entertainment, but she's not working to promote herself but her friend. And she's also really darling when she takes big thugs out with her aikido. As for Ryo, his aspiration to make it to the top of the entertainment world is an interesting mix of pure enthusiasm tempered with realism. He's protective (in his own way) of his diminutive manager, and the two make an interesting team. Perhaps some might find their loyalty to each other overly saccharine, but I find it cute.
CMX has rated Penguin Revolution a comedy, and it has pretty much stuck to that for Volume 1. However, it is a shoujo, and with Yukari living with Ryo and sharing so many secrets, I can't imagine Tsukuba not introducing some sort of romantic element between the two of them eventually.
CMX has rated this title "Teen for suggestive themes and mild profanity," which is pretty much accurate. There's some skin in bathroom and dressing room scenes, but all the vital parts are covered up.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: CMX
Orientation: Right to Left