Nosatsu Junkie Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, June 18, 2007
Release Date: Saturday, December 30, 2006
Translated by:Alethea Nibley
Adapted by:Lorelei Laird
What They Say
Naka is an aspiring young model with a problem: her face tenses up into a terrifying spectacle whenever she gets nervous on photo shoots! Naka's rival is Umi, the hottest model at their agency. But Naka soon discovers Umi's secret " and hilarity ensues off-camera!
A bit clichéd, but entertaining gender swap set in the competitive modeling business holds its charm even after multiple reads.
The cover is very flashy, with enormous red stars on a dotty backdrop, and a starry '70s-inspired logo to match. On both front and back, images of Umi and Naka together have a questionable "dropshadow" effect. Besides a very clever fashion credit page and a funny author chat at the end, no extras are included.
All the characters, even the non-models (although those are few and far between) are tall, lanky, and androgynous creatures with long necks and very pronounced cheekbones. Still, despite that, everyone still looks straight out of a shoujo manga aimed at the under-15 set, so think cartoony and exaggerated. The fashion is very layered, crazily uncoordinated and exploding in patterns, which accurately reflects what's going on in the real world of fashion. Ten years from now, readers may squirm at the dated fashions, but in present day, they look great. You can see how much the author enjoys clothes just by the amount of thought she must put into each ensemble.
Super-deformed/chibi style characters are frequent, and thankfully the author can draw them wonderfully. They're really expressive, wildly out of control and very funny. Just looking at Naka's 'killer' expressions during photo shoots is enough to get a smile out of me. And when it's necessary, she can draw nice dramatic or artsy shots as well.
Tokyopop really went all over the place with this one. Occasionally the sound effects are just not translated at all, sometimes the original Japanese is left intact but with a little note in English, and once in a while they're completely replaced with the English equivalents. It's unpredictable, to say the least. As for the script, there are some questionable references to American pop culture that feel added in for English audiences, such as Hot Pockets and a mention of "Avada Kedavra". On the other hand, they left in such Japanese terms as senpai and the usual array of honorifics (even the childish ones like -pyon). Watering down references to make them relevant for a young American audience " who this series is aimed at " is understandable because not every manga reader is saturated in Japanese culture, and thankfully none of the possible edits alters the plot whatsoever. Unfortunately, I can't say for sure whether these references were in the original Japanese text, but it's doubtful.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Naka Kaburagi is a beautiful girl, one with a perfect body and lovely face. Yet when she confesses her feelings to her crush, he rejects her because he prefers a dainty smile like Umi's, the popular model, rather than Naka's "scary" one. In an attempt to make him regret what he did and to steal the secrets of Umi's enchanting smile, Naka becomes a model too. Photographers and agencies love her, but when she smiles, she loses the audition. Every single one. Fellow models begin taking bets on her auditions, and even nickname her Longshot.
But one day, Naka accidentally bumps into the ultra-girly Umi, who drops a card with some rather... sensitive information on it: she is actually a he. After Naka confronts Umi, he breaks down and pick her as the new model of his agency, Boom. Soon, they have a photo shoot together, which goes disastrously until Umi gives Naka some much-needed advice: relax, and try to be yourself. The criminal smile doesn't go away, but Naka learns that she doesn't need to be like Umi to be successful.
Even though they fight and compete relentlessly, Naka finds herself liking him more and more. Both have endless determination to meet their goals, and tough times in shoots bonds them together. Nonetheless, they're an odd couple on the verge of killing each other at any moment.
With the exception of the way Umi's gender was revealed, nothing made me laugh out loud, but I was always entertained even after two readings and many more flip-throughs. Too few females outside of josei are bitchy and bitter like Naka. Of course, Umi is just as violent and ferocious as she is, which makes for some pretty intense panels. I'm one of those people that enjoys harmony rather than discord, so rest assured, the hostility between the protagonists doesn't disturb the reader from enjoying the comedy. And unlike many titles geared towards young, impressionable readers, there are no morality plays here.
There is the occasional misstep that just make any reader groan, like the tripping-and-falling-into-a-kiss scene that so many romantic comedies have. But for the most part, it stays clear of the same old same old and creates a bizarre hybrid of genres that works well together. Nosatsu Junkie may not be the next Paradise Kiss, but the fashion-model-gender-swap genre doesn't have anything else quite like this.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: C+
Text/Translatin Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Nosatsu Junkie