Menkui! Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Blu
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 190
  • ISBN: 1598163582
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Menkui! Vol. #01

By Julie Rosato     June 07, 2006
Release Date: May 31, 2006


Menkui! Vol.#01
© Blu


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Suzuki Tanaka
Translated by:N/A
Adapted by:

What They Say
Kotori is an average high school boy burdened with an exceptional older sibling. Being brought up under the same roof as his legendary drop-dead-gorgeous brother, Kujaku (a name that literally means "peacock"!), has given Kotori a bit of an inferiority complex. This all changes when a schoolmate, Akaiwa, takes a shining to him and the two begin a rocky relationship. Kotori is often called "menkui" (superficial) by his peers because he tends to be easily entranced by good looks. This can be a problem because Akaiwa gets jealous very easily, especially when someone attractive catches Kotori's eyes. Can their relationship overcome their shortcomings?

The Review
Great for beginners and fans of sweet high school romances, Menkui! will make you go "Aww!"

Packaging:
The front cover features the illustration of Kotori and Akaiwa from the second chapter. (The original version used the image from the first color plate, which is reproduced in black and white inside.) This is not a particularly interesting picture for the cover, nor does it give any real indication of the content found inside. The coloring job looks amateurish and the background very generic although it makes the logo fitting. The back cover has a few shots from the manga placed vertically alongside the summary blurb. The author's postscript is included at the end, but there are no color plates and like other books from this line, no English translation credits have been given.

Artwork:
There isn't much flair or detail here but I found that the artwork grew on me over time. Despite a general simplicity in style, the characters still manage to be cute and also have a deceptive expressiveness. There is very little background art (mostly tones when present) but there is a lot of contrast with the white space and solid blacks of the boys' uniforms. The panel layout is very straightforward but the composition of their contents brings incredible life and emotion to the pages, something I wouldn't have guessed just by flipping through the book. BLU's reproduction is a bit dark as usual, which may be great for those solid black spaces, but in this case there is also considerable ink bleed from them onto the facing pages.

SFX/Text:
The script reads really well, with good flow to the dialogue and no major errors. Honorifics are included, and there are a couple of editor's notes in the margins on the subject of the names. Occasionally SFX are translated using the subtitle method, for which I am grateful, although BLU is rather attached to this one blocky font that I'm not too fond of. (It's cumbersome and often feels out of place in a title with spare artwork such as this one.) Overall though, this is a very nice job.

Contents:(please note the following may contain spoilers)
Kotori is your average clueless high school kid, but he's got a fantastically gorgeous older brother. So naturally, he's got some issues -- an inferiority complex that wars with brother worship for one and an affinity for pretty faces for another. It's even a school joke how Kotori surrounds himself with beautiful people. But not everyone is blinded by his brother's light; there's someone who sees how cute Kotori is, too.

His name is Akaiwa and he's a schoolmate who's always drawn Kotori's attention. It's a bit of a challenge for Akaiwa to make Kotori realize his feelings are for him and not his idol-like brother, but once he does things move pretty quickly. Theirs is like any other high school relationship -- eager and curious, but also fraught with insecurities. (It doesn't help that Kotori's surrounded by hot guys and Akaiwa's the jealous type, either!)

The challenges that they face are as one might expect -- keeping their relationship a secret, jealousy, rumors around school, family etc -- and this story has a very natural rhythm. These are teenaged boys; they don't endlessly wallow or bottle up their frustrations, they get angry, argue and make up. Their first kiss is one of the sweetest scenes of its kind I've ever seen. It's perfect in its palpable awkwardness and is absolutely adorable.

There's also a bonus chapter that focuses primarily on Kujaku and takes place when Kotori is in eighth grade. Given Kotori's situation and adoration, it could've been really interesting, but instead it rolls out some of the biggest BL -- nay, manga -- cliches in existence. And if this one isn't enough for the fans with a brother complex, there is an additional two-part story that might excite, though that one is mostly just an excuse for silliness.

Comments
My first thought when I finished this was "nothing happened in this book!" But then I realized that isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it may even be better that way. Watching a young, uncertain romance develop needn't involve a whole lot of angtsy, drippy drama, and at the pace this one moved, there's no room for it anyway. (Plus, there are only three proper chapters here.) Sweet can be good and it's the simple moments that really shine in this book. Looking back, I think just enough happened.

Kotori and Akaiwa are pretty adorable together. I mean, you really can't hate them. I tend to get tired of characters like Kotori pretty quick -- they're meant to be innocent but instead come off as clueless, and their constant naivete just makes me want to shake them -- but when he's with Akaiwa, the chemistry between them just sort of melts that away. Though very tame as far as that subject goes, the interactions between them feel very real; they're shy, awkward and emotional, sometimes even a little painful to watch, and when they argue it's because they're insecure and afraid. These things make the characters very relatable despite the simplicity of the story and quick pace.

There's humor here in just the right places, but also many typical BL conventions and I really wish the story had been longer. The unrelated shorts at the end weren't especially developed or interesting, but the one about the brothers was at least entertaining. Those who have outgrown sweet high school romances will probably want to steer clear, but the youthful feel to this title makes it good for beginners or teens interested in the Boys-Love genre.

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