Never Give Up! (aka: NeBaGiBa!) Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 208
  • ISBN: 1-59816-165-2
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Never Give Up! (aka: NeBaGiBa!) Vol. #01

By Robert Harris     April 22, 2006
Release Date: March 07, 2006

Never Give Up! (aka: NeBaGiBa!) Vol.#01

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hiromu Mutou
Translated by:Mike Kiefl
Adapted by:

What They Say
Kiri's fashion-model dad passed on his stunningly attractive masculine looks to his only child...unfortunately, Kiri is a girl!

Tohya is the love of Kiri's life-in order to protect him as he enters the world of male modeling, Kiri becomes a male model herself. But things get a bit complicated on the catwalk when others start to fall for Kiri's male alter ego!

The Review
I wasn't originally that impressed with the packaging of this manga, but after really looking at it for this review I must say I have changed my mind. The front cover has a nice shot of Kiri in Tatsuki mode in front of a blue background. Accompanying the blue background are several flowers of pure white with red blossoms in the middle of them. This is just a really nice effect and matches the red suit Kiri is wearing on the cover, while also standing out against the blue of the background. The title is at the top of the cover, written in blue against a large block of black to make it stand out. There's also a slight border along the bottom of both the front and back cover that gets larger as it approaches the spine, and a very small black border is also on the top of the back cover. On the back there is the series logo (in the same font and style as the front, but in black and on an angle) above a summary of the volume, with more colorful flowers. The spine is black as well, which makes it seem like the black along the top and bottom of the front and back covers is flowing out of the spine. This is a really neat effect and it makes the title stand out a lot more than it would relying solely on the cover shot of Kiri alone. Along the spine is, as always, the Tokyopop mascot listening to his headphones, the title of the manga, a small image of Kiri's face from the cover, the author's name, and the volume number, all written in white which really stands out against the black of the spine.

I must confess that I'm a little torn here. In many situations the artwork is completely fine and quite attractive. This is especially true of comedic facial reactions and when the characters are at a bit of a distance. However, when character faces are drawn up close, there's just something a little off. Everyone's chin is too large, and all the characters look as if they're wearing makeup, such as lipstick and eye shadow. Now if this were only the case when the characters were modeling I would certainly understand, but this is true all the time; from page one Tohya looks like if he started crying his mascara would run like an inky waterfall. Other than that the artwork is fine, the character designs are varied and distinct, and the proportions aren't as far askew as they usually are in shoujo manga (no spider monkey arms, hands the size of baseball gloves, and legs that make the characters seem like clowns on stilts). I recommend flipping through the book at the store just to make sure this isn't going to be one of those little things that drives you crazy. On a more positive note, the layout the very nice, with panels that are just the right size for this kind of story.

I have no complaints about the text or translation, but there's nothing to really set it apart either. The fonts are suitable and easily readable, and match the mood of the characters nicely. The translation is spot on, and the dialog flows well. Sound effects are not translated, but since this is title is focused heavily on dialog this omission is hardly noticed.

Gender-bending is a popular subject for manga and has been for quite some time. One male/female must dress up for some reason as one female/male and with mishap after misunderstanding there is comedy and good times for all. Or that's general idea, anyway.

Never Give Up (which is abbreviated as NeBaGiBa, and I think now is an excellent time to state my hatred of Japanese abbreviations) follows this basic premise. Kiri Minase is a high school girl with a bit of a complex. All her life she's had to live with the features she inherited from her father, a successful model, which include wide shoulders, short hair, long legs and virtually no chest to speak of. This in stark contrast to her neighbor and childhood love Tohya Enishi, whose curly blonde hair, large eyes, and small stature makes him look like girl. Kiri desperately wants to be a princess to Tohya's prince, but due to the disparity in their looks, it would seem their roles should be reversed.

Things are progressing...well, fine would perhaps be the wrong word, as Kiri is still tall and handsome, and Tohya is still short and cute. Still, they're both as happy as teenagers can be, and it is clear that Tohya cares about Kiri just as much as she cares about him, although he doesn't often show it. Kiri also has a good friend at school, Natsu, who often helps resolve misunderstandings between the other two.

The three of them spend their days normally until Kiri discovers that Tohya is going to begin modeling through her mom's modeling agency. She begs her mom to let her model with him, since she's afraid of Tohya being around so many beautiful women and gay men, but the only way she'll agree is if Kiri will dress up as a man. Kiri initially refuses, since she's been striving so hard for all these years to be more feminine, but due to her mom's coercion (it's really more manipulation than anything) she reluctantly agrees.

From this point on the book goes into Kiri and Tohya's first modeling experience, which is, as expected, a collection of gaffes, misunderstandings, and new rivalries, all while they attempt to keep Kiri's true identity a secret. The only other model that comes into the picture this volume is Akira, the son of the fashion designer they're modeling for, and almost instantly he and Tohya strike sparks. It doesn't help that the only one he seems to like more than Tatsuki, Kiri's male model alter ego, is Kiri herself. After running into Tohya and Kiri on the street, he remarks how similar she looks to Tatsuki, and throughout the rest of the volume he continues to make similar comments to both Tatsuki and Kiri. He clearly knows what the deal is, but since this is a manga, Kiri doesn't pick up on that and believes she's managed to fool him. Speaking of Akira and Kiri, Tohya is increasingly wary of their relationship, and after overhearing some girls from their school remark that even Kiri looks like a girl next to the taller Akira, he becomes jealous.

Nothing is ever as simple as "one shoot", though, so of course the pictures from the shoot are wildly popular. After talking it over with Tohya, who tells her how much he hates her modeling as a man, Kiri realizes that she doesn't need to worry about losing Tohya to someone else, and decides to quit modeling and continue focusing on becoming more feminine. However, while walking down the street with Natsu, Kiri notices a large billboard for a fashion show featuring "Tatsuki." Angry and confused, she confronts her mother about what's going on and tells her that she has decided to quit modeling.

Her mom rallies back with a "negatory good buddy." She gives several reasons, ranging from because she says so to Kiri's decision leading to family poverty. Her mom's just a real big mean jerk, so she does not hesitate to use whatever she can to force Kiri to continue modeling. She also places a new restriction on Kiri: she can no longer be around Tohya outside of modeling shoots, lest someone make the connection between that girl that's always with Tohya and that model that's always with Tohya.

Kiri decides to boldly face this unexpected and disheartening turn of events by crying buckets of tears. She's certainly not happy, and Tohya's certainly not happy, and Natsu...well we're never really told how she feels about it, though I suppose it doesn't really matter since she's not directly involved. The point is everyone's fairly unhappy, when Kiri notices a gaggle of girls waiting outside the school gates ready to swarm over Tohya like little fat kids over a fallen piñata. She rushes to meet him and attempts to bring him out the back gate, when Akira has to show up at what must be, scientifically, the worst time possible. He's all over Kiri, when Tohya steps in and gets to defend her for once, which Kiri thinks is "totally cool." Admittedly, it is fun to see Tohya in the role of protector for once. Unfortunately this doesn't faze Akira, and he asks Kiri if she'll go out with him and be his princess. Before she can refuse, the girl throng notices what appears to be all three models chatting by the back gate of the school and surges forward. Akira tells Kiri he'll occupy them while she gets away, and she begins to think that maybe he's not such a bad guy.

While running away with Tohya, he comments on how she looked like a princess before. She takes it as a compliment, not instantly getting his meaning, and he asks if it really makes her so happy to be Akira's princess. While she stands there trying to speak (but not actually speaking, because it's the end of the manga and there are no more pages left for talk) Tohya walks away.

I came into this series with some understandable trepidation. The "Mr Doubtfire" storyline is nothing new, and to be totally honest I thought I'd find the whole modeling business bland and uninteresting. It also skirts a bit closer to the yaoi line than I generally care for, not so much in content but in visuals (pretty guys with handsome girls).

If you're like I was and have any of these worries, you can rest easy. Because, after all, this is shoujo manga, and good shoujo manga is all about the characters. You can put great characters in a bland and uninteresting setting, and they'll still shine. Meanwhile you could throw boring characters into a magical time-traveling tornado and no one would care (except maybe fans of magical time-traveling tornados). That's not to say the setting for Never Give Up is bad, because it's not. The characters do go to high school, but the action is split pretty well between school and the modeling jobs. What I thought would be a yawnstravaganza, the modeling, is actually a great way to introduce rivals, stress and tension between the characters in original and interesting ways without resorting to the usual clichés of high school shoujo series. The characters themselves are fun and interesting to read about. Kiri's strong in some ways but has a great dramatic streak, which is used to full comedic effect. Tohya is likeable but aloof, and you can't even help liking that bastard Akira.

So if you're on the fence with this one, even if you're on the other side of the fence telling the people on the fence to get off your fence, I urge you to give Never Give Up a try. This is a great start to what seems like a very promising series, and I can't wait for volume two!


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