Manga-ka: Takako Shigematsu
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: October 2005
Synopsis: “In the play of life, all Hikaru wanted was to be part of the scenery, but fate had other ideas. When the 15-year-old introvert transfers to an all-girls academy, her new roommate turns out to be the super-popular TV idol Izumi Kido! As if living with a celebrity wasn’t bad enough, Hikaru discovers that there’s more to Izumi —she’s a he! Now Hikaru’s the unwilling star player in a tale of deception, abduction, humiliation and blackmail… you know—the usual romantic stuff.”
After a short modelling job, Hikaru Takabayashi found her childhood plagued by bullies and insults. Because of this, she’s done her best to avoid the spotlight throughout her life and just be an average girl and to avoid having to move to France, she agrees to her Mother’s plan to enrol her in a prestigious all-girls school. Unfortunately for her background-lurking ways, Hikaru finds herself rooming with a famous TV idol. Not only that, but it seems that the lovely Izumi Kido has more than just some weird habits to hide from the fan girls and paparazzi.
I didn’t have the highest hopes for trying out a random shoujo series this time round, but I’ve gained a certain faith in GoComi’s licensing choices so I picked up volume one anyway. The girl is actually a guy in disguise plot-device isn’t the most unique twist ever, but I had no doubt the moment it was revealed that many amusing hi-jinks were in store for me as a reader. Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed in that regard for sure.
This book has a little of everything: entertaining lead character, secondary characters with enough hinted back story to warrant an interest in them, a touch of drama, a sprinkle of blackmail, some potential romance thrown in for good measure, and a small, fat little dog that has yet to serve much purpose past being a small, fat little dog.
Character-wise, I really liked Hikaru as this story’s lead character, especially when she futilely tries to maintain bystander-status amidst everything. She’s a tough one, but a person who deals with things in her own way, and not always the ways you’d expect either. Good thing too now that she has so many new problems to deal with, be it nasty classmates or trying to find a bit of peace and solace in her ever changing-life.
I don’t have much of an opinion formed about Izumi yet but at least the interaction between Hikaru and the self-minded idol are never short of entertaining. He’s stubborn, that’s for sure, which at least gives me faith that his less-than-completely-friendly-but-ultimately-growing relationship with Hikaru will last a while longer in this head butting stage. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, but absence hardly seems a problem for these two (round the clock surveillance!), so teeth-gritting-acceptance will have to do in the meantime.
As for the art, Takako Shigematsu’s style is pleasant and has the thinner lines and screen tone usage that’re often an expected element of present-day shoujo manga stories. I liked how the characters looked in both design and expression, though I did have a little quip with how often I found Hikaru looked like a man over a pretty girl. While there’s nothing I’d note as that exceptional, it’s none-the-less a pretty and functional style and the story and art compliment each other nicely throughout the book.
Overall and thus far, Tenshi Ja Nai!! has proven itself to be a quirky and refreshing shoujo series. With all the addictive qualities shoujos manage to hold over their readers, some great humour and an interesting plot, its got a lot of great things going for it and I’d certainly recommend this first volume to curious collectors. Thumbs up! Hope the second volume is as fun.
Review written September 7, 2008 by Lissa Pattillo.
Book purchased from vendor at Fan Expo 2008