Little Crybaby Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, June 22, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Translated by:Andrew Marshall
What They Say
A shy and clumsy university student; a salaryman trapped in an arranged marriage; a not-so-skilled novice magician; two high school boys who have been fighting it out since they were kids; and a humanoid dog...what could they possibly have in common? Well, they're about to find love in the most unexpected of places.
This volume shows no deviation from the standards we have come to know from DMP - their particular A5 trim, comfortable readable font, crisply printed artwork on quality paper. Both covers depict of Fujimoto and Yoshino. There is a two page author afterword and eight pages of DMP adverts.
When I first read this volume, I didn't really read it, I was too caught up in Kinoshita's drawings. Her whispy, linear style, very well-suited to the fragile emotional tenor of these stories, can produce unusual effects. What caught me up was a quality, not quite evanescence, that many of the panels have. It's almost as if one's sees emotion just as it is occurring, not as a fixed reaction on paper. Part of this I think can be attributed to the spare drawing style that forces the viewer to "fill in the rest", making for an immediate and intimate interaction. It's unfortunate that a change in medium doesn't carry with it the same effect. While the cover drawings are attractive enough, the sparkle isn't there.
Kinoshita uses screen tome sparingly and only to highlight her spare figures in the well-placed panels. Environments are not detailed, just enough to place the characters.
Given the nature and content of this title, sfx are few and small and translated via replacement. Conversations read naturally and are distinct.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
"Little Crybaby" is the story from which the volume gets its title, and Kinoshita sensei tells us that she wrote this story particularly for this book. The story is pleasant enough, though a bit unmotivated, and those readers who prefer a softer, more low key BL should like this. In "Little Crybaby", Yoshino, a sensitive, fragile student falls in love with popular fellow student, Fujimoto. Yoshino cries for everything, whether he is afraid of losing Fujimoto by offending him with his feelings, or frightened by those feelings for Fujimoto. It all gets resolved with some honest talk, but not without more tears.
"Top Secret" and the connected pair of stories - "You are Mine and", "...And I am Yours" - share a similar theme - that of repressed or unacknowledged longing that is confessed only after a pivotal event. While both stories are competently told, "Top Secret" stands out a bit more. The salaryman's false exuberance over his chairman's upcoming marriage is well realized. The efforts of the mangaka (and the translator) shine here, it's hard not to feel the salaryman's heartbreak as his false smile and forced congratulations try to fight back the tears. This fifteen page story has a happyconclusion that is a bit more graphic than the other BL oriented stories, but there is nothing here that would challenge the 16+ rating.
The two stories that complete the volume involve BL tangentially or not at all. My favorite of the two, and of the entire volume, is "Raika". At some time in the future (it's only stated and never shown), Tsukishiro receives the bequest of his late scientist father (who had run off with another man when Tsukishiro was five - that's the end of the BL) and part of his bequest is one of his father's creations, his "precious invention", humanoid dog, Raika. (R(L)aika, like the Russian space dog?) Raika is anthropomorphism cranked up to 11, a dog with the appearance of a human child, who is capable of understanding and using human speech, and able to perform limited physical activities outside of usual canine ones. (Raika uses crayons as a very young child does, he doesn't draw - he "crayons".) Tsukishiro finds Raika abhorrent and does not want him, cursing his hated father for creating such a thing. But take Reika with him he does, and in doing so, discovers the reason Reika was created. The story is manipulative, which I normally resent, but didn't in this case, and it gains its power and emotional impact on both Tsukishiro and the reader by having Raika's "construct" as it is. To change Raika into something more comfortable or rational would lessen the effect and likely divert the point of the story.
The last story in the volume, "Flower Boys", an apprentice magician learns that intent and effort many bring more satisfaction than expertise and that an appreciative audience may not be in a theater seat. A sweet and satisfying read in fifteen pages.
"Little Crybaby" is a volume of short stories all of which involve sadness and loss, emotional stories in which happiness is found, but not without tears. Those who prefer their BL sweet, teary and not graphic will find these stories to their liking.
I like short stories. A well-written short story establishes its premise, introduces the points of conflict, and brings a satisfactory resolution, all in a few pages. After reading so many graphic novels that should have been kept to one volume (or less!), but are allowed to continue beyond sensibility, the nicely crafted short is most welcome.
While I admit to being to initially being put off by the title and the cover art, I found the stories inside to be an engaging read. My favorites happen to be the shorter stories ("Raika", "Top Secret", "Flower Boys"), but most of the stories are a satisfying read, and can be a nice change of pace for those with sequel fatigue.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
Orientation: Right to Left