Me & My Brothers Vol. #01 (

By:Ariadne Roberts
Review Date: Thursday, August 16, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hari Tokeino
Translated by:Haruko Furukawa
Adapted by:Haruko Furukawa

What They Say
One lost girl + four confused brothers = a whole lotta wackiness! When Sakura, a fourteen-year-old orphaned girl, discovers she has four half-brothers, her world is turned upside down as they're all forced to live under one roof... from international manga-ka Hari Tokeino comes a manga series that shows you can't choose your family " even though sometimes you might want to!

The Review
Any man would be scared to pick this up in public. It's baby pink, and the logo looks like someone formed words out of gooey marshmallows. The image of Sakura and her brothers is a faithful reproduction of the original Japanese cover. No color insert is included. Extras include 3 very short comics showing off the devotion (and perhaps the insanity) of her brothers, a short standalone Christmas-themed story, and a long preview of Fruits Basket volume #17.

The style here is like a stepping stone between 'arty' josei and cutesy shoujo, if you can wrap your brain around that. Some of Tokeino's characters were apparently redesigned a few times at the insistence of her editor, and it's hard to imagine why: the final results are quite pleasing and distinctly different from each other (although I wish I could say the same about the characters' names). Sakura actually looks her age " a true manga rarity! Something about the artwork really did it for me, and I found myself flipping back to stare and take in some particularly beautiful (or funny) panels. It's got an innocent, silly, and emotional vibe all at the same time.

The panel layouts are standard, but the easy-to-follow nature of them is appreciated in a comedy. Backgrounds are detailed just enough, and screentones are used tastefully and in some interesting ways, such as a blocky pixelated tone used for a hoodie.

These days, taking one cultural reference and replacing it with another is blissfully uncommon. Sadly, this is one of the few times it actually happens. Masashi, the eldest, tells Sakura that she's "surprisingly independent for someone who looks like Abigail Breslin!" and Sakura replies, "What?! That kid from Little Miss Sunshine?" Given that this book was first published four years before that movie came out, I think it's safe to say it wasn't in the original dialogue. Such things leave a bad taste in my mouth, even if the target audience " 13 and younger " probably don't want to see a reference to some foreign actress they don't know. Then again, a few pages later there is a reference left intact to Japanese actor Joe Odagiri. What's up with that?

My other beef with the translation is the use of the word 'spa'. A trip to the onsen is a very common plot in manga/anime, and in my experience the word is always translated as 'hot springs'; however, here it's a 'spa'. If going by the dictionary definition, it is a reasonable choice, but the modern concept attached to the word gives off more of a 'beauty treatment' vibe, not a 'family on holiday' vibe like what happens in the story. It's a nitpick, but it is important to get the right meaning across.

The name included in the contact address for fan letters to Hari Tokeino is Hyun Joo Kim, which is definitely not Hari Tokeino's name, unless she's hiding something. A peculiar (and easily avoided) mistake.

The sound effects are left entirely untranslated, and in the case of the short story's title, the original logo is untranslated but a small English translation is below it. Not the prettiest method, and it definitely took me a few seconds to notice it underneath the rather distracting and huge Japanese text.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fourteen year old pipsqueak Sakura Miyashita has been left to fend for herself, now that her parents and grandma have passed on. She came home from school expecting a dark, silent house, but she found four guys instead! They are her half-brothers through her mother's marriage to a widow, and now they have come to take care of little orphaned Sakura. There's garden-loving Takeshi, teacher Takashi, grumpy part-timer Tsuyoshi, and ultra-feminine romance novelist Masashi. It's all a bit much for the poor girl to take in at once, but she soon grows fond of them even if they overdo their part of the mothering.

Even after Sakura discovers the true nature of her relation to her brothers " she was the result of her mom's relationship with her ex-boyfriend, not the boys' father " she tries to overcome it and accept them as her brothers. The false pressure to not be a burden to these people who chose to take care of her out of the kindness of their own hearts takes a toll on Sakura, and she actually ends up fainting from exhaustion, which just worries the boys more.

Much to Sakura's consternation, her newfound brothers are very, very clingy. Masashi dotes on her like a devoted mother, and dresses the part: pulled back long hair, frilly aprons, the occasional dress or a lady's nurse uniform, and even a flowery yukata! He wants to be the best mommy to her, and to make up for all the time they have lost. Little baby Sakura considered him her favorite, and a family holiday to the hot springs dredged up an embarrassing memory...

A sensitive subject " a torn-apart family trying to start anew " is well represented in comedy form. Even if it isn't strictly realistic in every moment, many situations are very real and easy to relate to if you are from such a family.

I didn't expect to enjoy this manga so much. It looked like just another standard "woe is me for I am an orphan, oh wait not anymore" story, but the minute Masashi started with his happy homemaker personality, I was sold. Femme men who act like dramatic mommies to their fiercely clawing 'daughters' are getting popular, and I'm afraid I think the type is absolutely hilarious too. Masashi's obsessive mothering (or is that smothering?) is a lot of fun to watch.

Inexperienced mangaka often have a short story they wrote tacked onto the end of a volume, and frankly most of them just aren't very good. I'm relieved to say that Tokeino's Christmas-themed story about a butch girl's peek into a parallel universe where the boy she loves is actually a girl, and she is a popular boy is wonderful. The ending isn't entirely satisfactory, but it's a funny story that is definitely worth reading nonetheless. I just loved Tokeino's idea of Santa Claus as a tiny middle-aged smoker with a definitely-not-white mustache.

Although the Me and My Brothers portion of the volume seems to fly by fast, it's definitely worth a look. The endearing, funny-yet-melancholy story stands out in the shelves of vapid, cookie cutter shoujo, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 9.95
Pages: 216
ISBN: 978-1427800718
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Me & My Brothers