Pretty Face Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Translated by:Anita Sengupta
What They Say
When his school bus crashes, teenage karate star Rando is sent into a coma. A year later he wakes up to find that his disfigured face has been reconstructed in the image of the girl he has a crush on! Not knowing what Rando originally looked like, the mad plastic surgeon Dr. Manabe used a photo in Rando's pocket as the model for his reconstructive surgery. Abandoned by his friends and parents, the all-new Rando is mistaken for his would-be girlfriend's long-lost twin sister and adopted into her family. Can he put aside his feelings and be a good "big sister" to Rina...when he's still a teenage boy from the waist down?
Simple is the name of the game, and for the most part it works. The front cover has a shot of Rando, in full schoolgirl garb, twirling around on the cover, with a little devil original Rando and a similarly-sized angel Rando with his new face flying around him. On the right border is a dull checkerboard pattern; I guess it's supposed to be a skirt pattern or something similar but all I know is that it's ugly. On the other side is a smaller, all-pink depiction of Rando in his new guise alongside the volume summary. Since this is a Viz book, that means all the associated Viz additions are on the back, including website, the Shonen Advanced marks, and so on. All together it's not a presentation that will jump off shelves, which is a real shame.
The inside of the book is what you'd expect from a Viz production. That means no major complaints, and with Pretty Face we even get some extras after the story!
Yasuhiro Kano has a very attractive, yet not terribly distinctive, visual style. There are tons of fairly detailed backgrounds, which I love, and the character designs tend towards slender, taller figures, without venturing into "stick-figure" territory. Both men and women have unique looks and you won't find yourself confusing the characters or forgetting who's who. All of these positive pieces, however, add up to a whole that's somewhat derivative of a lot of what's produced today. Frequently throughout the volume I was reminded of Kazurou Inoue (the creator of Midori Days), although I couldn't quite place my finger on why. It's certainly not a negative in my book, but it does deserve to be mentioned.
A Viz manga means translated sound effects, no Japanese characters. Which, as I've always stated, is a good deal better than no translation whatsoever, and only slightly more disappointing than full translations with the original characters intact. No, if there's one point of contention I have with the translation this go around is that, while covering somewhat coarser characters, there's obviously a lot of slang used in both the Japanese and English versions, and sometimes the English translation doesn't quite click. Chalk it up to cultural differences I suppose, but there's certainly something slightly off. I swear the first time I saw 'hobag' I did a double-take.
Masashi Rando is in a horrible accident which leaves his face burned beyond recognition. While in a coma, the doctor caring for him (Dr. Manabe) reconstructs his face from a picture he had on him. Unfortunately, that picture is of the girl he has a crush on, Rina Kurumi. Even more unfortunate, Rina has a twin sister that ran away from home a few years before and now the Kurumi family thinks Rando is that sister, Yuna. Pinning his lack of memories on amnesia, he now must live with them while passing as Yuna to the outside world.
An implausible scenario, to be certain. But after erecting this fantastical framework, Kano sets to work on what is actually a very amusing and interesting high school romantic comedy. The inherent oddity of this starting scenario lets him portray normal events and deliver them with twists that work with the story rather than against it.
From the very first chapter, where Rando is forced to convincingly fill the vacancy left by Yuna, Pretty Face proves it's not going to pull its punches when it comes to putting Rando in tough situations. Throughout the book he'll face a cadre of bullies, a school physical, midterms, stolen trip money, and the continued attempts of the doctor to render him completely female, and all from the vantage point of a punch first, ask later hooligan disguised as a teenage girl.
Here's another entry into the gender-bending romantic comedy genre. Now before you go rolling your eyes and head off to find something more original, perhaps a manga about guys killing "bad dudes", you should really take a closer look, because Pretty Face is more than the sum of its " admittedly derivative " parts. Imagine, if you will, a Kashimashi that doesn't conjure images of flower arrangements and lacy pastries. In other words, it's a man's wo/man comedy, a Mrs. Doubtfire for the masculine masses. That means lots of slapstick and outrageously unlikely situations, which depending on your tolerance for such things could be either a good or bad thing.
It must be said that as a leading man, ex-thugs always make interesting characters and Rando is a lot of fun to watch, primarily due to his superhuman strength and willingness to use excessive force. Rina is the typical quiet, demure love interest, but remains an important foil to the rest of the cast. Doctor Manabe is fantastic, and his constant efforts to complete Rando's transformation into a woman never fail to elicit a smirk, if not a full-fledged chuckle. In fact, the only characters that aren't interesting at all are Rina's friends; the very definition of 'vanilla' (not in a delicious way), they could just as easily be the throwaway classmates in a dozen similar series. Hopefully they will be more fleshed out in time.
While Pretty Face could generously be described as a one-tricky pony, it's a very pretty pony with lots of bells and a lustrous coat. It doesn't lob anything new your way, but if you're interested in this genre chances are you wouldn't expect it to. It manages to be far funnier than almost anything released so far this year, so if you're in the mood for a good laugh I can't suggest this one enough.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: C+
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Pretty Face