Crossroad Vol. #05 (Mania.com)

By:Julie Rosato
Review Date: Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2007



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Shioko Mizuki
Translated by:Christine Schilling
Adapted by:Mallory Reaves

What They Say
The Toda household is rocked to its foundations as Kajitsu struggles with her affection for her step-brother and her passion for her seductive teacher. Natsu, meanwhile, has more than one girl on his mind when he finds himself caught between the little sister who can't let go and the seductive classmate who would do anything to have him for herself.

Meanwhile, the "adults" of the family, Taro and Rumiko, find themselves so wrapped up in their own problems that they can't even see the trouble Kajitsu and Natsu are heading for...

The Review
Wrecked and disconsolate after her fight with Natsu over Erica, Kajitsu goes to stay with Akai-sensei. Talk about going into a lion's den! Kajitsu, what are you thinking?! Akai doesn't tease too badly, though, and instead lets her work through her feelings. Eventually Kajitsu realizes that life does go on and sooner rather than later she'll have to face Natsu and her own insecurities. Once back at school she's surprised to find she's not as alone as she thinks. Buoyed by the support of her friends, Kajitsu even feels ready to take a few steps toward acting more grown-up. Maybe.

I was very impressed by the turn around in the narrative here. Focus and writing are much tighter, certainly helped by narrowing the viewfinder down to primarily Akai and Kajitsu. There is a lot happening here, but not in the overcrowded sense that plagued parts of the earlier volumes. For his part, Akai-sensei is a tough character to read. I think the manga-ka has a specific image in mind, but lets him come off purposefully ambivalent, as if it should be up to the reader to decide his true nature. His morals as a teacher are definitely in question, but is he taking advantage of Kajitsu, or is he genuinely interested in her? Is it her loneliness and helplessness that attracts him, or is it her strength? Perhaps he just sees the same weaknesses in her that he sees in himself. Or, is he just looking out for Kajitsu the way a parent does a child? Indulging her whims while in the throes of teenage agony might suggest so, and by the end of this volume Kajitsu is already sensing her love for Akai is something more familial. It almost makes me sad knowing how much this quasi love affair will hurt them both in the end.

The real focus, however, is Kajitsu; she's a complete mess but she embodies perfectly the essence of a teenager in turmoil. Caught somewhere between a child and an adult, her struggles with issues of self-worth, trust, and the scars left by her abandonment are terribly inefficient. Having been taught through experience that she can rely on no one, she wants to appear strongly independent on the outside, but inside she's a girl who wants to be useful, perfect and needed so that she'll never be left behind again. This is really heavy stuff, but it's also real. You might be tempted to write this off as melodramatic teenaged angst, but it's not; these are scarily realistic insecurities. Think about it: Surely you remember that suffocating feeling that came with loss when you were younger? When you were convinced your world was ending and you couldn't go on, only to find a couple of days later the world still turning and yourself still breathing? How resilient you felt after the smallest act of kindness by your friends? This series may have faults elsewhere, but it does a fantastic job illustrating the wreckage that is youth.

Go! Comi continues to go the extra text mile with honorifics and cultural notes, but the cleanliness of the text replacement and art reproduction has taken a dip. Given the strong impression Go! Comi's production elements have made until this point, I hope this is just an isolated incident and not symptomatic of a drop in overall production quality.



Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Go! Comi
MSRP: 10.99
Pages: 200
ISBN: 1-933617-10-1
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left