Manga-ka: Keiko Kinoshita
Rating: Young Adults (16+)
Released: July 2007
Synopsis: “A shy and clumsy university student; a salary man trapped in an arranged marriage; a not-so-skilled novice magician; two high school boys who have been fighting it out since they were kids; and a humanoid dog… what could they possibly have in common? Well, they’re about to find love in the most unexpected of places. Oh, and there’s another thing about them as well – they all seem to cry over the simplest of things.”
Little Crybaby is the second Keiko Kinoshita release by DMP. It’s a collection of short stories all brought together under a simple similarity, someone always cries. Though the description on the back of the book, “…they all seem to cry over the simplest of things”, does prove to be a bit of an exaggeration, it acts alongside the title to make the act of crying in these stories stand out to the reader, bringing the book together as a notably theme-oriented collection. The book contains six chapters, two of which are connected as one story. In total there are five different stories.
The first story stars the two characters featured on the cover, Yoshino and Fujimoto. It is the longest, single-chapter story in the book. It has a solid stereotypical yaoi situation where small, cute and easy-to-cry Yoshino, is friends with tall, dark and levelheaded Fujimoto. Mounting attraction between the two eventually leads to the obvious. Conflict in this story comes from a presumably jealous, and also interested in Fujimoto, girl named Satomura who dislikes the rift she believes has grown between Fujimoto and his other friends due to Yoshino. While these short encounters act as catalysts for drama, they are never fully addressed or resolved. With the page count so low in this story, there isn’t enough room to go into depth with any of the issues and readers may feel they story cut off too quickly.
The next story does a better job of remaining what it is, a short self-contained story. It stars two businessmen who reveal to each other their hidden feelings. The story starts, revelations occur, love consummation and it’s over. Small details are given about the characters to add some level of interest about them and their problems but essentially, these exact moments with them are all you’re supposed to be focusing on.
The third chapter, bringing you now to a little over one third of the way through the book, stands out as the oddest of the collection. Taking place sometime in the future, it stars a businessman, Tsukishiro, and a humanoid dog, a canine apparently turned into a human by Tsukishiro’s father. The dog is given to Tsukishiro and the story follows him accepting the dog into his life. The story never truly becomes about any romance between the two and instead focuses lightly on Tsukishiro’s feelings towards his father and himself. Despite the many plot aspects that seem to cry out as ways to extend this story, it seemed to fit comfortably in its length and the ending will probably leave readers with little remorse.
The next two stories are connected, one being an almost direct continuation of the last. In this tale we follow childhood friends Hi-chan and Tsukasa. Now students together in high school, Tsukasa quickly makes his feelings clear while Hi-chan isn’t nearly as open or accepting. It’s a bumpy ride from there. The entertainment value in this story comes from Hi-chan’s, sometimes overly, dramatic responses in contract to Tsukasa’s calm demeanor. With both chapters combined, this story is approximately the size of the first story.
The final chapter is another short one, showcasing the brief encounters between an aspiring magician and an initially down on his luck park visitor. The magician wishes to use his tricks to make people happy and is inspired when the person he meets in the park claims he has done just that for him. This is another character story, not focused on any romance between the two featured.
The art remains consistent throughout the book, the artist already having a solid and unique style. While the art isn’t bad, it also isn’t terribly eye-catching. The lines are drawn very thin and unfortunately sometimes to the point where the art seems faded or dull. The sketchy style of the line art seems far more complimented in colour, such as the simple but attractive pieces on the front and back covers. In regards to the design however, the characters in each individual story are easy to distinguish from their fellow main character and even more impressively, from one another. An often-occurring problem with short story compilations is the difficultly in catching right away that you’ve begun another story. However, ages, hairstyles and names are all quick giveaways to the characters and readers know right away that they’ve moved onto something else. Panels were well handled and simple to follow, though a seemingly misplaced line on the twelfth page of the first story stands out a bit.
DMP has again done a fine job with the translations and writing. The speech suits each individual character and is easy to understand. Sound effects are a combination of original Japanese kanji and English words. The cover was well treated, using the original image and placing the title where it didn’t take away focus from the characters. They also kept in the small pink flowers that were present around the title on the original Japanese release. A note worthy complaint however would be the type of paper used for the cover slip, one used for several of their releases now. It’s less glossy than classic cover slips and though it does have a nice, high quality look and feel to it, things such as fingerprints and scratches show up very easily, tarnishing the just-bought look quickly. A small observation also made that though the publisher titles the book as Little Crybaby, it is written on the front as Little Cry Baby. Though it doesn’t work well written in regular font, it does work more aesthetically on the cover.
Overall, Little Crybaby is a short but sweet collection of stories. They won’t amaze but they will entertain. This book makes for a wonderful treat for people who want a break from long running series and seemingly needless sequels, giving you everything it has in a neat little package.