V.B. Rose ("Velvet Blue Rose") is as girly as a manga gets. It's about fashion, romance and sisterly love, and two pretty boys take the lead aside the female main character. V.B. Rose is also cheek-pinchingly cute. I can't dress myself in the morning, but I just wanted to eat this manga up. I haven't yet decided if I'm disgusted with myself, but I can't deny the fact that I really enjoyed Hidaka's story despite its cliches.
Ageha is a young fashion prodigy who's dismayed when she hears the news that her pregnant older sister is marrying her dull boyfriend. Ageha dreams of weddings, but in her mind, her sister's happy event is a tragedy. Her attitude slowly changes when she learns about V.B. Rose, the bridal shoppe that's been commissioned to put together the wedding dress. Fate soon offers Ageha the chance to work on her sister's dress, but V.B. Rose is headed by Yukari, a man who's seemingly impossible to please. What's more, Ageha has slowly drifted away from her sister in recent years, and her personal emotions stand to get in the way of her work.
Most of the themes running through V.B. Rose are realistic enough to make you feel sympathetic towards its characters. Ageha, who took up fashion and design because her sister loved the bags she made, understandably feels betrayed when a boyfriend "steals" her sister away. Ageha is petty, but the first volume of V.B. Rose deals with her maturation and redemption, which she expresses in the way she knows best: Fashion assembly.
On the other hand, the budding romance between Ageha and Yukari is predictable and unnecessary. They both share a love for what they do, which is more than enough for forming a bond between them. Sometimes the relationship between them is portrayed interestingly (Yukari throws Ageha out of V.B. Rose after she rants and whines at her sister), but more often their fondness for one another is expressed through spats. Admittedly, Yukari's final "test" for Ageha is pretty intense, if not just a little mean.
The relationship between Ageha and her sister is far more interesting, with the latter being much more laid back than her fiery younger sibling. Ageha's attempts to patch things up between them draws the reader to her, even if she is something of a brat at times. If you're looking for shojo manga beyond schoolgirls and superpowers, V.B. Rose is pleasing and sensible like an old-fashioned wedding gown. Volume one retails for $9.99.