Solfege Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 12.95
  • Pages: 178
  • ISBN: 1-56970-841-X
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Solfege

Solfege Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     October 03, 2007
Release Date: March 28, 2007

Solfege Vol.#01
© Digital Manga Publishing

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Yoshinaga Fumi
Translated by:Sachiko Sato
Adapted by:Sachiko Sato

What They Say
Kugayama is a gifted music teacher, but a man with little ambition. Despite being born to a wealthy and prominent family, he passes his days in apathy - content to simply go through the motions of life. Then one day, ex-student Azuma Tanaka comes to him for help in studying for a prestigious music school's entrance exam. Kaguyama finds himself drawn to Tanaka's budding youth and enthusiasm, invoking a desire he's never known before. Will these feelings interfere with Tanaka's ambitions? What will Kugayama's peers think if they find out about the relationship? Can the two write their passion into a wonderful composition of love... or are they doomed to sing solo forever?

The Review
As is the case with the majority of Yoshinaga's titles, Solfege has a very simple minimalist feel to it. This cover features the two lead characters sharing an intimate moment. It is difficult to discern whether the two are a couple or related when looking at the two like this. Given Yoshinaga's history of writing stories where men share all sorts of relationships, I wouldn't want to guess on whim what these two are to each other but they are definitely close. This image does a great job of highlighting Yoshinaga's characters. You can see her line work really well here. Moreover, the emotions are quite powerful as well. Like all of DMP's books, this series is printed in a tall A5 size GN with dust jacket.

Inside the printing is very clean. Lines look crisp and what little tone there is looks sharp. There are no real extras but the dust jacket and oversize print almost make it worth the $12.99 price tag.

Yoshinaga's art is simple with tinges of realism. Typical of most mangaka, Yoshinaga draws her main characters with the least detail with the main difference being height and hair. Most of her cast is on long side. Long faces, long bodies and long appendages are nothing new to shojo manga. However, Yoshinaga has used this to give some of her cast a sensual look, specifically to make some of them as irresistible as the cakes they eat.

The rest of the art is lacking. The background art is almost non-existent. The layout is good, even though panel placement and size are simple as can be. What Yoshinaga does well here is perspective. Getting reactions from the characters as they interact is really where she excels. She can almost make any setting seem small as she focuses so much on facial expressions and the subtle mannerisms that people have when they get emotional.

The translation for Solfege reads very well. What sets this apart for me is how it transitions between levels of intimacy when the characters address each other. When appropriate the cast use honorifics like "-san" and "-kun". When these characters tear down those walls of formality they drop the honorifics and use names casually. This translation does not avoid that. Instead, it sticks with the script allowing readers to see the nuances of the language and just how those details are vital to properly develop a romance in a literary format.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Middle school student Tanaka Azuma is going down the wrong path. His dyed hair and new piercings are just the first indicators that he is no longer on the straight and narrow. His grades are slipping and he is well aware that he only has a few choices left for high school. So if he is going to set himself straight it is going to be with something he enjoys ? music. And for now, Tanaka's hopes are riding on the tutelage of a young music teacher named Kugayama.

Sensei does not go about things conventionally either. This is a man content with living his life as it comes. He never shows ambition and never exudes much effort. It is almost as if he seems to attempt to be as plain as mayonnaise in spite of his upper-crust upbringing. This is a unique and rare challenge he is taking on, partially to test his limits and to also test the will of this young man that specifically came to him (an elementary school) teacher for guidance. He may never have another chance to bring give such intimate meaning to his life, so why not jump at the chance.

Even with Tanaka's limited skills, and all the adversity the young man had to go through together, they were literally able to make beautiful music. Unfortunately, their relationship would develop into something that few would come to applaud. Some would even come to tear it apart.

Solfege is one of those shorts that just makes me want to write an editor demanding more. As a one-shot, this is a solid BL property with character development and the makings of a plot. The characters in particular stood out so well, I was attracted to them almost as soon as I opened the book. However, because this story is so short and because Yoshinaga has to use some frustrating plot devices to keep the story to a few chapters, I felt the conclusion was a little contrived.

Kugayama's attitude after Tanaka left was not explained very well. He was never set up to be that weak or insecure with his relationships. He was a spoiled rich boy with a heart that was better than that. I also had a difficult time getting a sense of time. To see Tanaka come back, and so conveniently, was confusing.

All nit-picking aside, Solfege is a rare well-structured boyfs love read that has the potential for mass appeal. Yoshinaga's art and character designs are abstract enough to appeal to alternative manga readers. The romance element is not so heavy too scare away experienced seinen readers who have gone through Maison Ikkoku, Ai yori Aoshi and Oh My Goddess. It reads almost like a screenplay and depending on the reader that might turn off some that want to see more from the two leads but in the world of BL one-shots this is about as good as it gets.


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