A shy middle school girl's life turns upside down when her new plushie comes to life.
Writer/Artist: Machiko Sakurai
Translated by: Athena and Alethea Nibley
Adapted by: Athena and Alethea Nibley
What They Say
Ame is a quiet and shy high school girl. Without any friends, she spends all her time with her toy collection. But one new toy - Nikori - will change her life. Nikori's not just a cute stuffed animal, she can talk and had a mind of her own. With Nikori as her best friend and confidant, Ame's sure to unlock her potential and become the girl she was meant to be!
The cover design is not particularly noteworthy. The color version of the splash drawing from Chapter 1 serves as the front cover illustration. Against a plain white background are Ame and Nicori. Ame is leaning forward with wide eyes and a wide smile and wearing a purple and pink striped long-sleeved shirt beneath a short-sleeved black top. Just beneath her chin is Nicori. He has a surprised look on his face and dangles, holding strands of Ame's hair in each forepaw. Towards the bottom is the title logo, a curvy, blobby shape containing the title in lowercase letters. The volume number in orange is placed to the top left corner and the mangaka credits are placed to the lower right in orange.
On the back cover, we have the same plain white background. At the very top is a brief story summary in relatively large, plain black font. Just below that is an illustration of Nicori with red, pink, and yellow hearts around him. Interestingly, his fur (?) has a pinkish tint to it, whereas his appearance on the front cover is more tan. Rating and publisher's icons are at the very bottom.
Materials are satisfactory. The print is a little dark in places; one of the sound effects on page 6 is practically swallowed by the black of Midori's T-shirt. Extras include table of contents, an explanation of honorifics, closing remarks from the mangaka, three pages of cultural notes, and ads for other Del Rey releases.
Sakurai uses thin wispy lines for her artwork. Regarding human character designs, both male and female characters have large, round eyes and defined lips. Their bodies are normally proportioned for middle school aged characters. Sakurai for the most part does not use tones for faces and bodies so character drawings tend to have a flat look. However, she does use a nice variety of tones to decorate clothes. As for Nicori and the other plushies, they tend to be very simplistic looking and not very cute. Nicori is supposed to be a meerkat, but Timon he is not. He looks more like a big ugly mouse with his buck teeth, large ears, and thin tail. Nicori's eyes are two large ovals that take up half his face, and when he closes them or closes them part way, Sakurai uses the same ovals and simply draws a line through them.
As for backdrops, Sakurai uses nice screentones for cobbled walkways, skies, bushes, etc. However, hand-drawn buildings and items tend to be kind of plain-looking and include the largest toilet I have ever seen.
Del Rey keeps the original Japanese sound effects with translations placed in smaller font beside the originals, but the lettering used in certain places is very, very small. Vital text on signs is translated with overlays. Japanese honorifics are kept with an explanation of honorifics at the beginning of the book. The story translation is satisfactory, but it would have been nice to have indicators in the actual dialogue to point out which terms and words are explained in depth in the translation notes, which are located at the back of the book. Conversions for prices from Japanese yen to American dollars are provided in footnotes.
Ame Oikawa is an extremely shy middle school girl. She's so withdrawn she spends more time with her collection of toys than socializing. However, during a school field trip to an amusement park, she sees a plushie of an unpopular character get knocked down from a bargain bin. Feeling sorry for the toy, she decides to buy it. However, to her delight and amazement, her new purchase comes to life!
Immediately, the whole amusement park goes into an uproar as the plushie Nicori starts walking and talking before the astonished crowds. Camera crews burst onto the scene to cover the astounding phenomenon. Nicori, who is determined to make himself famous, soaks up his newfound attention with glee, and as Nicori's owner, shy Ame is thrust into the spotlight as well. With Nicori in her life, the shy girl is in for a lot of changes.
In the mangaka's closing note, she admits to being a fan of Toy Story and Pixar, and so she has made her own contribution to the world's collection of stories about toys coming to life. Unlike Toy Story, however, her story is less about the secret lives of toys and more about what happens to a group of ordinary middle schoolers when a plushie decides to break the rules and come to life. There are two brief instances where Nicori interacts with one another plushie and a couple flashbacks of brief conversations in the Nicori plushie sales bin, but the remaining interactions in the story take place between Nicori and humans or just between humans.
The human cast of Minima! is made up of a bunch of stereotypical characters. The main character, Ame, is one of those middle schoolers who is so painfully shy she can't speak up for herself and does not have the courage to talk to her crush. Her crush, Masahiro, is a standard bishounen, who is adored by the entire school. Then there is Midori, the classic neighbor/childhood friend who is always there to encourage and get Ame out of trouble. We also have the combination good friend/tomboy Kei and the gaggle of nasty girls that spend all their time snubbing those outside their clique and swooning over gorgeous Masahiro.
For Ame, the story is all about the awkwardness of adolescence. She’s extremely quiet and spends most of her time and effort on her collection of toys and character merchandise, partly because she loves toys and partly because they're easier to deal with than people. However, once Nicori comes crashing into her world, she's in for a lot of change. She winds up discovering who her real friends are and aren't, speaking up for herself, and actually talking to the object of her crush.
As for Nicori, he's a bit hard to warm up to. As mentioned in the ART section, he's not that cute as far as looks go, and his personality is even more un-cute. He has severe self image issues, which manifest themselves as an obsession with wanting to be famous and adored. He is also extremely ignorant when it comes to the subtle meanings of human interactions. He talks down to Ame and her friends and treats them as if they are the toys and he is the owner. However, he eventually grows out of his selfishness as he starts to discover how much Ame cares for her toys and begins to care for her himself.
So if you are interested in a manga about middle school social awkwardness or toys coming to life, you may want to give Minima! a try. This title is rated "teen” for a kidnapping scene, an anxiety attack, and violence to plushies.