Family Complex Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 12.95
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 1-56970-771-5
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Family Complex

Family Complex Vol. #01

By Briana Lawrence     February 29, 2008
Release Date: January 30, 2008

Family Complex Vol.#01
© Digital Manga Publishing

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Mikiyo Tsuda
Translated by:Duane Johnson
Adapted by:N/A

What They Say
Meet the Sakamotos… a typical upper-middle class family of six with one particular quality--namely, they’re all uncannily good-looking! Everywhere the Sakamotos go, heads turn and people stumble all over themselves in reaction to their beauty. That is, except for one member of the clan--14 year old Akira. At the awkward stage where teenagers feel out-of-place in general, Akira believes he’s average in his looks department, which simply doesn’t measure up. How can he be around his family when he feels like he’s being judged against them all the time? Will Akira’s complex about being “different” cause him to turn away from the people who love him the most?

Mikiyo Tsuda, creator of Princess Princess and The Day of Revolution, paints a humorous, touching picture of adolescent angst and insecurity as she delves into the distinct personalities that make up this rather odd (but adorable) family!

The Review
It’s not easy being an average looking cute boy in a shoujo manga these days.

If you’ve read and/or watched “Princess Princess” then you’ll recognize all of the characters on the front cover. For some reason, the front cover reminds me of an album cover for some 80s band; the brink wall, the angsty looking main character wearing baggy clothes, and the four pictures above him of his brother, two sisters, and his parents--each one of them very good looking. The title appears at the bottom of the cover, the kanji for it written underneath “Family.” The back cover shows chibi versions of all of the characters.

If you’ve read anything by Mikiyo Tsuda then you’ll recognize her art style right away. She tends to focus on her characters more than anything else in her stories, and this one is no exception. There is a tremendous focus on the appearance of the Sakamoto family, especially since they‘re supposed to be so breathtakingly beautiful. Any other characters look plain compared to them, except for characters who are important to each of their individual stories, and everyone else fades in the background and are usually rambling about how beautiful the Sakamotos are. Any real backgrounds are pretty much nonexistent and are usually reduced to sparkles or dots or gray space.

As usual with a DMP title, any kanji is translated into English, including any sound effects. Be prepared to read a lot of inner monologue from each of the characters. Each chapter focuses on a different member of the family and his (or her) struggles as they try to discover themselves and what’ll make them happy. At times, the inner monologue of each Sakamoto will take up an entire page and there won’t be any spoken dialogue at all. Even when there is a conversation going on, the manga always goes into the thoughts of the main character of each chapter, making readers focus on them more.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The main story deals with Akira feeling out-of-place in his family since everyone around him goes on and on about how beautiful his family is, but he himself is said to be ordinary looking. After this first chapter we start to delve into the lives of Akira’s family, discovering that their lives aren’t as easy as Akira (and the rest of the world) may think they are. Akira might have the common looks, but at least he has people willing to come up and talk to him.

Harumi (older brother) has to deal with people worshipping him from a distance, which completely isolates him from everyone at his school since no one will try to be his friend. Natsuru (older sister) has to deal with girls fawning over her, which wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t always fighting over her. In a childhood flashback, we learn how hard it was for her to try and fit in. She wasn’t supposed to be in the boys’ group since she isn‘t a boy, but she liked doing the things the boys did and she didn’t fit in with the girls’ group. Fuyuki (younger sister) never seems to know what to say to anyone and tends to overanalyze every situation she’s put in, which leads to her classmates thinking that she’s completely anti-social and unapproachable. The final story about the parents is rather short and deals with them as teenagers. Hidetoshi (dad) has to deal with not being manly enough because of his good looks, while Nanami (mom) has to deal with not being womanly enough because of her overly cute, girlish looks.

If you’ve read anything by Mikiyo Tsuda you know that her stories often have inserts about her daily life… in teddy bear form. This time we get to see a teddy bear deal with having a detached retina, so if you’ve ever been curious about how adorable stuffed animals deal with having problems with their eyes then this side story is the one for you. As funny as some manga-ka inserts can be (especially since I love teddy bears so much), this time it’s a bit annoying since it’s in the middle of the story, interrupting the flow of things, instead of right at the end where you can ignore it if you want to.

The perfect family isn’t as perfect as they appear. Each of them have their own set of problems to face, which gives them a feeling of normality as everyone else puts them on a ridiculously high pedestal. This manga has a lot of different messages; from the importance of family to what it means to fit in with your peers. There’s humor, there’s sadness, and there’s plenty of touching moments between the Sakamoto family and the people who manage to get close to them.

With that said, there’s only one real problem that I see with this manga. I feel that if readers don’t already know who the Sakamotos are from “Princess Princess” then they might not care about them as much, if they care at all. Sure, seeing the imperfections in a perfectly painted image is interesting, but the ideas presented in this manga have been done many times before. In all honesty, it‘s like reading through a more humorous and better looking after school special (because the characters in the manga are absolutely gorgeous), especially with all of the inner monologue and the self-loathing.

Now, if you have read “Princess Princess,” then this story can be rather enjoyable. It takes a more serious look at that unrealistically perfect family that Akira introduced us to, and it takes a look at Akira before “Princess Princess,” where he‘s completely insecure and almost hates his family for being perfect when he‘s not. I enjoyed reading about the characters, especially Harumi (who I only knew as “Sakamoto-sama” because of “Princess Princess), who turned out to be rather bitter before his appearance in “Princess Princess.” But, I only really enjoyed it because I had prior knowledge of the Sakamoto family. Had I not known the Sakamotos beforehand, I wouldn’t have even been interested in this manga.


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