Manga-ka: Duo Brand
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: December 2008
Synopsis: “Akito and Neon set out with the mysterious skipper Haran in search of medicine to save Yaya’s life. Their search leads them straight to Neon’s home town, where Neon has been branded a criminal. Can Akira help eon restore his people’s faith in him before it’s too late? And will Haran’s demand that Akito play for him in dangeros circumstances lead to their capture at the hands of the deadly warlocks?”
I keep being surprised while I’m reading Cross x Break that’s it a Duo Brand book. I’ve read several of their boys’ love series, and though this series does have its teasing moments, it still has a dramatically different tone. There’s a lot more focus on humour and a sense of pacing that’s both exciting but erratic. Is it a shonen-like shoujo or a shoujo-like shonen? I can’t say for sure, but it’s neat reading a series by a team who are, to my knowledge, best known for one genre but whom are still capable of doing a notable job on another.
That said, I found myself enjoying this second volume of Cross x Break considerably more than I did the first. It still has some pacing problems, with characters tossed in too casually and the world is so bizarre yet it never feels like the story slows down enough to really explore it. From fire cats to shoe-plants, this book never really takes the time to stop and smell the proverbial roses (though in the case of shoe-plants, maybe that’s a good thing?). The characters are evolving though and I find them more endearing than my initial takes on them at the story’s beginning.
Neon’s origins are briefly touched upon when the group must return to his home of Song where everybody sings, as both a hommage to their home and a right of passage. It’s another interesting world, one that’s (as usual) drastically different from those before it, though Neon’s weird personality doesn’t seem anymore explained by this seemingly strict society. But not everything needs justification of course and I find Neon’s wish-wash personality to be pretty cute and entertaining, even with his angsty past looming behind his occassional emo-eyes. The group’s skipper, Haran, also seems to be flourishing as a different kind of character than I first took him for, filling the role of occassional comic-relief and adding to the series’ roster for brother issues and boys’ love teasing.
For the stories’ leads, Akito is a generally likeable main character. In fact, I think he’s actually my favourite (doesn’t hurt I find his character design completely adorable). He continues to do his best to adjust to this strange world, though always quick to turn his thoughts back to his brother, Shinkai, who was the one initially responsible for sending him here. Personally, I want to know what the deal is with his brother and this whole other-world, so that alone will likely keep me reading this fantasy-adventure for volumes to come. Akito’s best friend, Yaya, continues to be a flaky female tag-along and I think this second volume has me officially labelling her as prop. Fortunately the eccentric interactions of those around her easily overshadow her near-useless presence.
Amidst the story’s erratic pacing, there’re lots of dramatic scenes including Neon’s trial-of-sorts and a battle for another town that the Warlocks, the series’ continuing protagonists, attack. The action scenes are decently handled though admittedly I had to stop and backtrack a panel or two to doublecheck what happened. Refreshing to see a lead character who can’t toss himself willy-nilly into battle and somehow be spectactular at it too. We have fighters for fighting and others who’re atleast willing to do what they can. I like how Akito’s ability to play the piano is a consistantly handy talent, even if it does play the role of convenient plot device (but one that seems to have some foreshadowing).
By my general rule of ‘two-volumes to prove yourself’, Cross x Break looks like its passed the test. I find the characters entertaining, the story interesting enough to warrant further investigation and Duo Brand’s artwork appeals to me here more than it ever has in their boys’ love work. Let the boat-riding, bug-eating, piano-playing, world-surfing continue! The pacing may still be bumpy, but I’m willing to ride it out thanks to the fun I had doing it this time around.
Review written December 25, 2008 by Lissa Pattillo.
Book purchased from independant hobby store, The Batter’s Box