Ultimate Venus Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Go! Comi
  • MSRP: 10.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 978-1-933617-88-6
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Ultimate Venus

Ultimate Venus Vol. #01

By Sakura Eries     August 22, 2008
Release Date: July 31, 2008


ULTIMATE VENUS Vol. 1 by Takako Shigematsu(2008).
© Go! Comi

After the death of her mother, Yuzu, an ordinary teenager, is reunited with her long lost grandmother -- one of the richest and most powerful people in the world.

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist: Takako Shigematsu
Translated by: Christine Schilling
Adapted by: Brynne Chandler

What They Say
Yuzu was afraid she'd be completely on her own after her mother died, but when she finds out she's not she doesn't know whether to be relieved or annoyed! A sudden meeting with a her long-lost grandmother reveals her status as heiress to a wealthy estate, but Yuzu isn't at all sure she wants anything to do with it!

The Review
Packaging:
Colorized versions of splash art are used to decorate the cover.  The splash art for Episode 4, featuring Yuzu, Hassaku, and Iyo, is used for the front.  Yuzu sits in the foreground in a frilly, beige, off the shoulder dress that goes down to her knees.  She smiles, facing forward with calla lilies just behind her.  In the background are Hassaku and Iyo, standing back to back and wearing enigmatic expressions and light blue suits with pink shirts.  Hassaku also holds a purple handkerchief out of which drops playing cards of the heart suit. The title logo, which is in very puffy-looking lower case lavender lettering, is centered towards the bottom with the volume number and author's name just below.

The back cover features the splash art from Episode 1, which is a drawing of Yuzu and Hassaku in a somewhat compromising position.  Hassaku, sans glasses, wears tuxedo pants and an unbuttoned tuxedo shirt while Yuzu wears a rose-colored strapless gown decorated with roses. Yuzu practically sits on Hassaku's lap with his undone bow tie in her hand while he holds one of her shoes in his hand. In the background behind them are Yuzu's grandmother's castle and pale pink roses.  Above the illustration is the title logo and content description in black font. It should be noted that the story synopsis actually doesn't match the manga plot that well. The title logo is placed at the top, and at the bottom are age and publisher icons and the ISBN code.

Extras include author's notes and mini character profiles that are interspersed throughout the body of the manga and translator's notes. The materials are satisfactory, but the quality of the printing is somewhat dark and muddy.  The pages originally done in color are especially muddy. 

Artwork:
Shigematsu has a clean drawing style. There aren't a lot of female characters as the cast is comprised of Yuzu, her grandmother, and a lot of bishounen. Yuzu is an ordinary girl, and she’s drawn with a cute face, realistically proportioned body, and modest dress.  Her glamorous grandmother is drawn as a very fit, handsome woman with only a few crow lines around her eyes to indicate her age. As for the men (and there are a lot of men running around in this manga), Shigematsu does a fairly good job at making them distinct from one another. While they are drawn with handsome faces, they are definitely masculine, and the only character who might be considered androgynous is Yuzu's classmate Nakayama. Many scenes are meant to be humorous, and Shigematsu exaggerates expressions and uses chibi drawings for those. 

The panel layout, which varies quite a bit, flows and communicates emotion well. There are some flowers popping up in the background, but they are on the light side compared to your average shojo.  Setting backgrounds are not very impressive or detailed.  Buildings especially have a flat, boring look to them.

Text/Translation:
Go! Comi keeps the original Japanese sound effects with translations placed beside them.  They've done a thorough job translating the sound effects; the lettering styles are easy to read and match that of the originals.  The text in general does not get overly small or cramped.  Labels, signs, and papers are translated with overlays. The kanji embroidered on Yuzu's beloved sweatshirt is replaced with an overlay in Roman letters, but there are a couple of panels where the Japanese was not replaced.

The translation mostly uses Japanese honorifics, but there are a few places where Hassaku refers to Yuzu as "Miss Yuzu" instead of "Yuzu-sama." There is no guide to Japanese honorifics provided in the book however. I caught a typo and some misplaced commas, but otherwise the translation is satisfactory.

Content:
After the death of her beloved mother, 15-year-old Yuzu Yamashita is left destitute.  Evicted from her tiny apartment, she's reduced to camping at a playground when a handsome stranger shows up.  He identifies himself as Hassaku Kagami, an employee of Yuzu's grandmother, and abruptly whisks Yuzu to a castle!

As it turns out, her grandmother is Mitsuko Shirayuki, the fabulously wealthy head of the Shirayuki group. Yuzu learns that her grandmother and mother had a falling out years ago over her mother's marriage, which is why Yuzu never even heard of her grandmother before. Mitsuko still bears hard feelings against her daughter for her disobedience, and when Mitsuko speaks ill of her, Yuzu nearly storms out of her grandmother's house. However, Mitsuko compels Yuzu to stay. Mitsuko is in need of an heir, and Yuzu is Mitsuko's closest living blood relation.

And so, Yuzu finds herself suddenly named the number one candidate for the Shirayuki heir.

However, Yuzu's grandmother's world is completely different than the ordinary one that Yuzu is used to, and Hassaku is placed in charge of Yuzu's education and protection.  Not only does Yuzu have to pick up all the refined ways of the wealthy, but she has also acquired all manner of rivals and enemies after the Shirayuki fortune.  Yuzu, who isn’t particularly thrilled with her new situation, finds herself constantly butting heads with Hassaku, who executes Mitsuko's commands without any regard for Yuzu’s feelings. He even goes so far as to dispose of Yuzu's personal belongings because Mitsuko orders him to. Yuzu eventually finds herself stifled by the extreme precautions Hassaku takes to ensure her safety -- not the least of which is his enrollment as a fellow student at her school!

Comments:
A common recurring theme in shojo manga is the ordinary girl suddenly thrust into the world of the wealthy, and Shigematsu gives her own variation on that particular story with Ultimate Venus.  At the Anime Expo Go! Comi panel, the representatives likened this manga to Pygmalion, and the story summary on the cover would lead you to believe that as well.  However, this story is less about to a man transforming a crude girl into a refined lady and more about a regular teen forced into the opulent but dangerous, cutthroat world of the rich.  In that sense, the story falls more along the lines of Boys over Flowers, where characters are used, betrayed, and kidnapped in accordance with the machinations of the wealthy. And although bishounen abound in Grandma Mitsuko's castle, it's not a reverse harem story either; Shigematsu keeps the interaction centered tightly on main characters Hassaku and Yuzu.

Yuzu is a likable heroine.  Unlike Tsukushi of Boys over Flowers or Haruhi of Ouran High School, Yuzu isn't an overly tough girl, a cross-dresser, or have a transvestite father; she really is just an ordinary girl who happens to have lost both her parents.  Her main quirk is that she likes to quote the many rules of her "Mother's Love and Teachings."  She doesn't seem to have many secrets to hide, which is fine because she has her hands full trying to unravel the secrets of the people around her, not the least of whom is Hassaku.

Hassaku is a mysterious character.  He's only 21 but has somehow attained position as right-hand man for Yuzu's powerful grandmother.  Their bond goes beyond that of a normal employer-employee relationship, and Hassaku's loyalty to Mitsuko is absolute.  At one point, Yuzu even suspects him of being her grandmother's lover.  Yuzu is of two minds regarding Hassaku.  Most of the time, she's irritated by his cold, contemptuous attitude.  However, there is a part of Yuzu that is attracted to him, especially when he goes above and beyond the call of duty to bail her out of trouble.  As for how Hassaku truly feels about Yuzu that remains to be seen.  The story hints, however, that Hassaku has some previous connection to Yuzu that isn't casual and that he doesn't just think of Yuzu as his employer's granddaughter. 

Between Hassaku's mysterious connection to Yuzu and trying to figure out which characters are truly Yuzu' enemies, the story is quite engaging, and I am interested to see how things play out in the next volume.

Rated older teen for violence.

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