Manga-ka: Ryo Saenagi
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: July 2006
Synopsis: “Shima is a jack-of-all-trades who can solve any problem that’s presented to him. When he’s approached by Kaori, a super-hot teenage model who’s being followed by a mysterious figure known as “The Snowman”, the two team up to catch the stone-cold stalker in the act. One thing’s for sure: When you hire this hot duo, your satisfaction is guaranteed!”
Meet Shima Yoshitsune, a young man (though not nearly as young as he looks), who single-handedly runs Anything Agency, claiming that he can do and solve anything. When his newest client ends up being the famous supermodel, Kyo, the two become friends and team up to solve the problems of others. It’s one mystery after another in this episodic series of events.
As is a pretty common formula in Ryo Saenagi’s stories, Shima is the energetic, somewhat temperamental, lead, possessing a sharp mind but a small, somewhat effeminate, appearance. His parents were killed in an arson fire, leaving him with depression over their deaths and a phobia of fire. In contrast to him is Kyo, or should I say Kaori? To deal with the stresses of being a popular model, Kaori subconsciously created Kyo, an alter ego who’s less patient and more aggressive than Kaori, and who takes over when modelling.
While I did enjoy this first volume as a whole, it had some nagging issues that really took away from it overall. Mostly it would be the slap-in-the-face manner that Ryo Saenagi hits readers with information. Shima’s parents being killed in a fire: it’s dramatic and it’s sad but Shima talks about it with as little provoking as someone showing off pictures of their kids. Any excuse is found in every story to remind readers that Shima is afraid of fire. There’s also Kyo/Kaori, who’s split personality is an interesting quirk but is presented so nonchalantly, and with no questions asked, that it makes the whole thing feel flat and unrealistic.
Satisfaction Guaranteed is also another story that teeters on the line between boys’ love and not. The characters are ambiguous in their relationship with each other and throw around the dramatic lines, mushy ‘can’t live without you’ outbursts and live-threatening rescues with little pause. Having only just met each other, and been very accepting of each other’s flaws and complexes without question when they did, the pacing of character relationship development feels more like that of a boys’ love story. Toss in the ease of which the male characters start crying, and you have a story that feels a little confused genre-wise. Not to say a guy can’t cry, it’s just at the drop of a hat seems off for anybody; at least with shoujos it’s an accepted cliché with some emotional basis.
The stories themselves are episodic in nature, their only connection being the obvious overlap of Shima and Kyo’s presence (and later on another new character). They range from stalkers to attempted murder to some guy who cuts people’s hair. The stories are diverse and pretty entertaining, with more focus on the solving of the mystery than the whos and whys of the matter when all is said and done.
Ryo Saenagi’s artwork is nice but leaves a bit to be desired with some inconsistent attributes in character’s design and a few uneven anatomy issues. The art does progress a bit as the series goes on and in future volumes I stop being so annoyed at certain things, like a large lopsided nose that’s suddenly replaced a delicate one on a character’s face for one unattractive shot, as an example. Some of the action scenes are a little hard to follow but overall the art does bring a good sense of pacing and energy to the story.
Tokyopop had some bumps in this one with scattered spelling errors and grammatical issues inside. I do really like their cover designs though, with a combination of art, puzzle pieces and notepad paper to give a sense of what the series is about. The fingerprint used for the logo does make the book seem a little more classic-mystery than it actually is, but it’s a small qualm and does work well together with the aforementioned attributes.
All together, Satisfaction Guaranteed’s flaws are evident but it’s still a surprisingly fun read. Despite all the kept standing out to me, in the end I found I enjoyed reading it and looked forward to volume two. So though the cons are louder, in general they don’t seem to outweigh the pros. The character interactions are funny and the characters themselves interesting enough to warrant some further exploration. A series recommended to fans of Ryo Saenagi.