Short Sunzen! Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, April 28, 2008
Release Date: Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Translated by:Kristy Harmon
Adapted by:Zachary Rau
What They Say
It's girl meets boy meets fist - and anything but your typical love story!
Meet Satsuki, a rather rough and tumble girl, who acts more like a gang member than a sweet young lady! She's to busy teaching people lessons to see that her handsome and cool classmate, Aya, secretly pines for her. Unfortunately, she just want to be friends - ouch! But as they spend more time together, their relationship builds and strengthens. Will they ever be more than friends?! Find out in this sweet and sexy romance!
Everything here is pretty much as to be expected. The cover uses the same art as the Japanese release, though the image itself is a little dull. Also, having never been a fan of it, I feel like a broken record when I mention that images and pages shouldn't be zoomed and cut the way they are. In every manga there is always a little bit of the image that is cut off to eliminate border. It's never really a good thing, but some manga are less offensive than others. In this particular volume, the pages are absolutely cramped with images, so when the page even cuts off a little bit, it feels like it cuts off tons of an image. Other than that, there is some great omake through the book as well as a great mini-story that isn't related to the main story at all.
As mentioned above, the art here is incredibly cramped. It's not quite so bad as to call it cluttered or indecipherable, like many other manga, but there is undoubtedly a lot going on in each page, so you will have to pay close attention. As for the actual art style, it is fairly standard shojo: characters are fairly pretty and very lanky. The artwork isn't perfect and there are times when things feel downright clunky, but overall everything is very expressive. The artwork here isn't perfect, but like many other things about this book, you like it because it works, and you love it because it's flawed.
Just as with the art, there is an incredible about of text to be found here. Certain pages, when you step back and look at them, seem like they are some practical joke: there's just so much to look at it's hard to imagine where to start. You will probably end up spending more time that usual reading this book, but it is all fun and funny, so that's not really a problem. However, the most serious issues with this book lie here with the text.
In pretty much every shojo manga ever, there are little side comments that characters make that are written in handwriting outside dialog bubbles. Because it's usually a decent amount being said in a small area, these little bits of conversation as written in a small font. This is well and good, but in this manga, many of them are written so small that they are a chore to read. With a book that is as dialog-heavy as this one, that means that there will be a number of times you will have to strain your eyes in order to read what's being said. Speaking as a person with very good eyesight, I found it frustrating to have to hold the book up to my nose on more than one occasion just to find out what something says. I can not imagine what it must be like to read this for anyone with less-than-perfect vision.
Next, to the translator's notes. For whatever reason, the decision was made to use the same on-page notation for every translator's note throughout the whole book: "See page 194." . This means that no matter what is being pointed out, all you have is, "See page 194" to go by. When you get to page 194, you get a huge list of culture notes next to page numbers. Unfortunately, there are about four page numbers through the whole book, so you had better know specifically which note is being talked about, or do them all sequentially. There are a number of problems concerning this, though. For one, things being noted are not indicated in any way whatsoever. No asterisk next to dialog, or "see note concerning..." written in the margin. This means that if you see a "See page 194" on a page, you know there is something there in the translator's notes, but not what. You are lucky if the notation is next to what is being noted. Very lucky. Moreover, there seem to be on-page notations that refer to translator's notes that don't exist. Perhaps the dialog got changed, eliminating the need for a note, but they forgot to take out the on-page notation? Whatever the reason, that's just sloppy and there is something wrong with that. Also, toward the end, they simply stop putting notes telling you to look at the translator's notes and, I suppose, just hope that if you see something you don't understand, you will flip back there on the gambit that they have something written up about it. And finally, taking all of that into consideration, it really doesn't help that what is being explained in the translator's notes may be a concept or something else that isn't explicitly stated on the page that brought you there. So you may end up turning to the back of the book, unsure exactly as to why, and have to determine what note they are talking about based on process of elimination.
This is both sloppy and unprofessional.
Sendo and Satsuki are the two toughest students at notoriously tough Tama High in Osaka. Sendo is the typical quiet, straightforward, tough guy; Satsuki is the typical brash, slightly na´ve, outspoken, yankee tough girl. They have known each other for years, they have been best friends for years, Sendo has been completely head-over-heels for Satsuki for years, and, of course, Satsuki is completely oblivious to that the whole time. That, in a nutshell, is the setup.
When it comes to the plot, there is very little to speak of here. In general, it's just the stories of a guy an a girl who like to fight and go to school in Osaka. Even though they are both tough, they deal with a lot of things with comedy. Each chapter is fairly stand-alone and has a "day in the life" feel to it. This, I believe, is one of the more endearing qualities of the book. Not simply that it is episodic, but that because it is, the author isn't necessarily bound to make everything work in a linear time line where every element of the characters' lives have to be enjoyable. Sakurai picks and chooses what stories she thinks are best and tells them in the order that she thinks they work best in. I suppose it can be thought that that is silly: that as the author, all of the notable things that she thinks of, she can make fit into a linear narrative. But what's the fun in that? Imagine how the story dynamic would change with the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote if their story were told as a consistently chronological and linear narrative. Things would be more than a little different, and probably a bit depressing. As I've said, it's not quite as episodic and stand-alone as that, but that slightly disjointed, no-baggage quality does give the story an unbridled, fun feeling. You don't really know what's going to happen from one chapter to the next,and that's liberating.
It may be a little disorienting when the book starts with a story of Sendo and Satsuki in their second year, moves on to when they first met, then jumps to their third year, and then finishes with a stand-alone story that involves none of the main characters. Why is it done that way? The best I can figure is that Sakurai wanted readers to meet Satsuki in the middle of a fight, and for them to see Sendo as a tough wingman who's not shy about getting his hands dirty, and would like to keep Satsuki from getting into too much trouble. Then the story just goes where it feels like afterwards. There's something very punk rock about that, and really, it's pretty fun that way. I found myself ending chapters and then thinking, "alright, cool, what's next?"
Aside from their adventures, you really do care for Sendo and Satsuki. They are really cute together and it's fun seeing the dynamic of their relationship. The stand-alone at the end is also very character driven and is also about a unique boy and girl duo that has a cute relationship. None of this stuff is very heavy, at least not yet, so expect lots of light-hearted blushing situations and cute misunderstandings. And punching and fighting. Relationships have to be based on something, you know?
Because of my absolute and unflinching love of Osaka, I am, perhaps, a little biased towards this manga. It really does have that, "yeah, whadda you care?" individualistic, rough-and-tumble texture of Osaka that I find oh-so-appealing. The book itself isn't perfect -a quality that is too vague to define- but its appeal and character far outreaches its simple content. The characters are the main show here, and when you just want to see what kind of stuff they are going to get themselves into, it's cool just to see them do whatever. It's not brilliant, but it's fun and it's cool, so I like it.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: C
Text/Translatin Rating: C-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Short Sunzen