Star Project Chiro Vol. #01 -

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Mania Grade: C-

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  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Udon Entertainment
  • MSRP: 11.95
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 0-9781-3861-9
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Left to Right
  • Series: Star Project Chiro

Star Project Chiro Vol. #01

By Ben Leary     May 15, 2008
Release Date: November 27, 2007

Star Project Chiro Vol.#01
© Udon Entertainment

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Baek Hye-Kyoung
Translated by:Ji-Eun Park
Adapted by:Jamie Rich

What They Say
They say beauty is only skin deep, and here's a book that proves it. But not necessarily the in the way it was trying to.

The Review
As you might expect from an Udon title, your extra two dollars buy you an excellent presentation. The book itself is in the larger size, which I nearly always like, and graced with a beautiful portrait on the front cover. Both inside covers are printed in colour, and there's even an 8 X 10 full colour fold-out poster inside. Paper and print quality are both very fine and show off the excellent art to good effect. Even the ex-colour pages look nice. Nothing but praise in this category.

I'm not very well up on my manhwa, so the character designs looked a little odd to me at first, but I came to like them by the end of the book. The faces are in the round, cute style, while the figures tend towards the long and lanky. This ends up being much more elegant looking than it sounds on virtual paper, and works quite well with the setting. The story taking place in the world of fashion makes for a lot of "costume changes" so we're lucky the clothes look as good as they do. The backgrounds are superb and show far more detail than usual - even scenes with chibi characters (or even stick figures in a few instances) have full background art. The two negative points are that the eyes don't always look as shiny and sparkly as they're supposed to - sometimes they look like parts of the pupils have simply been erased - and that a couple of places use reproduced photographs, which jars a bit with the usual style. But overall this looks great.

Sound effects are translated with "subtitles," as per usual with Udon, as are the footnote-like comments on the action that crop up pretty frequently. Genuine footnotes have been added at certain places to explain cultural references. With all of this text in addition to the regular dialogue the folks at Udon had their work cut out for them. But they were well up to the challenge and simply knocked everything out of the park. I couldn't find any typos, badly centered or mis-sized text anywhere. Dialogue sounds natural and appropriate to the characters. The plot doesn't always make a lot of sense but I can't see anything that makes me think the translation is to blame for that. Sterling work.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Star Project Chiro. A title such as this is not one that stands up and shouts to me, "This is you, baby!" - but since I was impressed by Udon's treatment of Street Fighter II I decided to give this a look. I figured that at worst I'd like the package, even if I didn't like what was inside. And that's exactly what happened. I have already had my fun praising the book's presentation, both in artistic design and packaging; now I must pay for it by trying to write about the content. It won't be easy, either. I'll have to describe something that, for the most part, isn't even there. But here goes.

The setting of Star Project Chiro is, I admit, not one that immedeately appeals to me. It's a world of fashion, sophistication, fame, money and glitz. All of these bore me except fashion, which is too ugly and weird to be boring. So if Star Project Chiro was going to appeal to me, it would have to be through story and characterization. And story and characterization are the two things it hasn't got. Let's start with the characters. Our lead (I couldn't possible call her a heroine) is the daughter in a family of fashion designers and has been modelling "practically since birth." I've been sitting here for several minutes trying to think of something else to say about her, but really that's all there is to her. She's a spoiled rich kid who can't relate to people beyond manipulating them, and has barely any personality beyond the clothes she's wearing. The other characters, even the prominent ones, never become anything more than mere names and faces. It's impossible to imagine them having lives of their own outside the scenes they appear in.

And yet a good story could make up for all of this. Unfortuately the plot is as dull and helpless as the people in it. Apart from a few gags - and these almost entirely visual - the only places the book could generate any sort of interest were the ones that strained my credibility. For instance, events in the story often have no further consequences later on. The spoiled rich and powerful boy who has it in for the spoiled rich protagonist (and who can blame him?) says, after losing his house: "You've set fire to the last pieces of my life." Yet in his very next scene he sits in his gigantic office building, wielding power and wealth just as he's always done.

Most of the time the characters do things without even the most superficial reasons. And I can't belive a rich man would keep his millions loose under his bed without putting them in a safe or even a box - and then leave his front door unlocked, what's more. That requires my disbelief to be not only suspended but struck repeatedly like a pinata. The one grace this volume has is in its good gags, but these aren't good enough, or frequent enough, to be a saving grace. In fact, the funniest gag isn't in the story itself but on the inside cover.

I was expecting this book to be a girl-makes-good story, but it turned out to be something much less interesting. I understand that achieving stardom is going to be a large part of the series later on, but in this volume the story (what there is of it) doesn't seem to be going in that direction at all. Whenever the lead does start to walk the path of fame, the series may develop enough of a plot to keep it going; and, if so, may turn into a servicable version of the kind of thing I was expecting it to be. It would even have the novel twist of having a protagonist who's born and bred to the task, rather than the usual small town girl hitting the big time. But if it's going to do that, the lead has to turn into the kind of person we can root for. Honestly, when she says "'Be strict to others, but generous to me.' That's how I live my life.'" - and not in a moment of introspection, either, but as a kind of credo - it's tough to want her to succeed at anything. This first volume of Star Project Chiro doesn't have quite enough to it to be actively bad, it's just kind of absent. At best this one's a slow starter. The question is whether later volumes will get started at all. But dashed if it doesn't look good.


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