Pastel Vol. #02 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Del Rey
  • MSRP: 10.99
  • Pages: 199
  • ISBN: 0-345-48628-5
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Pastel Vol. #02

By Josephine Fortune     April 28, 2006
Release Date: March 28, 2006


Pastel Vol.#02
© Del Rey


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Toshihiko Kobayashi
Translated by:David Ury
Adapted by:

What They Say
When Mugi meets the gorgeous Yuu, it's love at first sight. Imagine Mugi's surprise, then, when he learns that they'll be sharing close quarters, along with Yuu's cute and curious little sister. Just when Mugi is finally starting to get used to the idea of living with his dream girl, a third wheel rolls in. Manami-chan is Mugi's old friend from school, but boy has she grown up fast. It turns out that Manami-chan has always had a thing for Mugi, but the innocent young Mugi is completely oblivious. Only Yuu knows Manami's secret. Now Mugi finds himself caught in the middle of a teenage lofe tug-of-war!

The Review
Festival scene: check. Shower/Bath scene: check and check. Fanservice: check.

Packaging:
This is another fine job from Del Rey. The cover illustration is the same as the Japanese edition, an illustration of Yuu holding a towel to cover herself in front of an ornamental window. There's a blue inverted circular shape on the left hand side of the image, the series logo at the top, and the name of the mangaka at the bottom. I still really like the logo for the series, which is in a sort of strange ornamental font with balloon letters and flower cutouts in the negative spaces of the "P" and "a." The logo is yellow, with a bright pink glow around it. The number two, indicating the volume sequence, is reversed out of a circle and placed below the logo on the right hand side. The back features the blue inverted circle shape on the right hand side along with a small illustration of Yuu in pigtails in a sort of crouched sitting position. The summary takes up most of the back. The font is similar to (but not quite the same as) the logo font, but it doesn't read well at a smaller size since some of the letterforms are shaped strangely. It's also hard to tell whether or not the punctuation is a period or a comma. I also don't like this type treatment, used on all Del Rey books, where the type is leaded out to take up more room, as it's not as tight-looking as it should be. But it does it's job of being a back cover with a summary, so that's the important thing.

Inside are all the familiar types of Del Rey extras. No color pages this time, which is a shame, but everything else is here. There's a title page with the logo and name of the mangaka, translator, and letterer, followed by the publishing information, then the table of contents follows on the next page, followed on the next by a note from the author and two pages dealing with Honorifics. After that we get another title page featuring an illustration of Yuu followed by a second table of contents that's slightly less detailed than the first. After that, there's an illustration on each chapter title page, with some chapters getting an additional sketch after the title page. After the comic, there's a double page spread omake from the author, an about the author page, three pages of cultural notes (only six notes from the story and two from the author omake), and a three page preview of the next volume in Japanese to finish out the volume. My only complaint really is that the pages aren't numbered, which nullifies the table of contents as well as making using the cultural notes impossible unless you constantly refer to them while you read. But that's not really too big a problem, and I do love the cultural notes.

Text/Translation:
The translation is good, there were no spelling or grammar errors, and everything reads really well in English. The sound effects are left in their original Japanese, with an English translation available nearby.

Artwork:
There's no doubt when one reads this that it ran in Shounen Magazine, which is home to some of the biggest breasts, most outrageous fanservice, and cutest girls in manga. I really like Kobayashi's character designs. They're not terribly original or even that notable when out of context, but all the characters are extremely adorable without being overly cute (both Yuu and Mugi have big puppy dog eyes), and he differentiates between the characters with changes in facial features as opposed to different hair styles, most notably between Yuu and Kazuki's date at the beginning of the manga, but there are other instances of it. His facial expressions are also extremely communicative, especially on Yuu, and I really enjoy their subtlety as well. There is also a great deal of fan service, as I mentioned, and there are very few scenes with Yuu where we don't get a good look at more skin than we ought to. It's not quite as humorous as when Mazakazu Katsura does it, but it's definitely comparable to a character like HEVN in GetBackers, another Shounen Magazine series. Otherwise it's fairly plan and standard shounen artwork, with simplified backgrounds, fashions that tend to blend in, and only as much detail as necessary.

Content:
At the end of last volume, Kazuki showed up unexpectedly at Mugi's house while Yuu was taking a bath. The first story arc here deals with Mugi trying to hide the fact Yuu lives with him from Kazuki, and with various ways of trying to conceal and stash Yuu various places. Kazuki actually winds up being helpful to their situation, and he makes their lives and situation much easier when he goes around telling people Yuu and Mugi are related. Later, Tsukasa blackmails Mugi with a porno tape she finds behind the bookcase (that apparently belongs to Kazuki), so Mugi has to do everything Tsukasa says. Mugi has a hard time telling if Tsukasa is serious when she asks him to be her boyfriend, though, and the two of them go out on a rather uncomfortable date. Next, Mugi runs into an old friend of his named Manami at the water park. After a couple awkward situations where Yuu and Tsukasa show up and assume the worst about Mugi, it is ironed out that the two have been friends since childhood. It turns out though that Manami has had a crush on Mugi all this time and simply not told him, and she relates this information to Yuu. The heat gets turned up as Manami begins coming into contact with Yuu more regularly and gets into several more awkward situations that Yuu misinterprets. Is Yuu becoming jealous of Manami? And how is Mugi reacting as Manami becomes more and more forward with him each time they meet up?

Going into this volume, I was really hoping for some character development and for the plot to deepen after the initial stories from last volume tended to be of the stereotypical shounen romance variety... a lot of walk-ins, misunderstandings, and other things that are sort of expected of this kind of series. Unfortunately, the series hasn't quite gotten past this sort of thing yet. As welcome as some of the fanservice is, after so many times where the girls are dismayed at Mugi getting an eyeful, I sort of began to dislike the women of this series since it really wasn't Mugi's fault that he saw them naked all the time, but he was always the one getting slapped and yelled at and blamed for it. We still get a lot of sweet moments between Mugi and Yuu, but I'm glad the series is already mixing it up a bit after not having sat on that for too long. Right away, we get the possibility that Yuu's sister may be in love with Mugi, plus there's the new romantic interest introduced in the latter half of the volume, Manami. There are a lot of good things going on, to be sure, and it seems to be shaping up, but unfortunately the plot is still really shallow, and the characters don't have enough depth and haven't broken out of their stereotypes quite enough yet to support the series on their own. The series of events that lead to the character interaction are still painfully cliché events. There are two separate bath scenes that lead to uncomfortable nude exposure for Mugi, and there's also a Festival. While nothing really fanservice-y happens at the festival, the fact that a festival has taken place this early in the series makes me despair a bit at the author's ability to come up with original things for the characters to do, even though it does lead to one of the cutest scenes in the volume. Aside from those two standbys, the chapters are riddled with more moments of fanservice than I can count. The girls are incredibly cute and I'm sure there are plenty of people who don't mind a good panty peek every now and again, but when every opportunity for it is exploited, and every time such a thing happens it's pointed out and made somehow into Mugi's fault, it really wears down the quality of the series. I love fanservice, but I like it in more subtle ways and not pointed out every few pages. But despite all that, and despite the fact that the stereotypes still need to be defeated, I still really like the series because of its relative purity and the fact that nothing really ever is Mugi's fault. He is never really peeking with intent at panties, nor is he ever actually "cheating" on anybody. He's an incredibly honest person, and Yuu's so straightforward in the same way, that it's hard to not finish the volume with a good feeling. Well, in this one it is since the purity is threatened, but we'll see how that works out in the end.

The strength for this title at this point really does lie in the character relationships, as the characters themselves have yet to overcome stereotypes or individualize themselves, as I've mentioned earlier. I began to dislike Yuu a little and Tsukasa a lot when they continually blamed things on Mugi, who was literally blameless almost all the time. Tsukasa was especially an annoying character, because not only did she try to pin things on Mugi again and again, she also sort of used him and let him take a fall for her at one point. She's also really outspoken and obnoxious, and although Yuu attempts to justify her attitude by saying she seeks attention after their father's death, there's never really any other side of this coin, really. Well, that's another good point of the series... that everything is almost always extremely optimistic, and I'm sort of glad that she's never depressed and there's not some dark backstory attached to her... but yes, I do wish Tsukasa was less annoying. Kazuki is sort of annoying in the same way in that he's pretty obnoxiously outspoken and often tries to get Mugi to commit small sins, but he also is inherently a kind person, and he commits those small sins right alongside Mugi, so I think he's a pretty good friend for him. I could imagine him being matched with a rather ostentatious girl down the line, and I sort of hope things work out for him. The new character this time around is Manami, and as I said, I really like her. She possesses all the qualities that I admire in Yuu, but she's a bit more open about her feelings, she clearly likes Mugi, and she isn't nearly as brutal and unforgiving towards him as Yuu is. She's so soft spoken, much like Yuu and Mugi, and none of them have a lot of personality yet and they sort of fulfill their roles as you would expect them to, but Manami's winning points with me so far for being a great deal kinder than Yuu. I still like Yuu a lot though, even though she was extremely harsh towards Mugi. I can imagine liking her a lot more when she opens up. Her feelings towards Mugi remain rather ambiguous, but she betrays herself ever so slightly a couple times in this volume, and I sort of like the lapses in her otherwise rather vanilla facade. And I still love Mugi, he remains more or less the perfect nice guy. He doesn't even fall into the perfect nice guy trap of being a bit whiny. He still needs some depth, though. The characters, though still pretty much rather one-dimensional, are progressing slowly, and I think some of the future fun of this series might be watching them eventually open up to the reader and also to one another.

Comments
Overall I was a bit disappointed that the characters stayed sort of one-dimensional and that the plot still relied so much on fanservice stereotype, but there are still a few good things to be had here. The character relationships are pretty interesting, and I could see that the slow development taking place could be extremely rewarding a couple volumes from now. What this volume has going for it mostly at this point are two really shy good-looking girls that are frequently exploited for fanservice, so if you're into that sort of thing there's definitely plenty here. Though I was disappointed in the end, I'm looking forward to future volumes because I can see this going some pretty interesting places.

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