Manga-ka: Shouko Akira
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: June 2008
Synopsis: “Haruna and Macharu head off to the amusement park for their official first date! But how romantic is the date going to turn out with scary roller coasters, guys hitting on Haruna, and even rowdy classmates popping up?”
Eager to experience a second volume as charming as the first, I wasn’t disappointed when I finished reading volume two of Monkey High. Macharu and Aizawa are continuing on as the unexpected couple and remain one of the most endearing pair I’ve ever had the joy of reading about.
What helps to make the two so darn loveable is the contrast between them, but the differences feel natural, not overdone for sake of quirkiness.
Aizawa remains a strong lead character. She isn’t bubbly or overzealous like many shoujo high school girls in her position. Instead she’s intelligent, stubborn and a little introverted. She might be a bit harsh at times, but it only serves to make me like her more. From her reluctant personality to her simple but elegantly modern appearance, Aizawa really feels like a girl who could literally step off the pages. This volume sees the return of her Father, a situation that could easily could spell trouble, and though it emotionally sees Aizawa distressed, it’s handled well and not over milked for dramatics-sake.
Macharu remains as amusingly adorable as he was introduced, though I’m constantly impressed by the believability of his personality. Happy-go-lucky and a little naïve, but still a level-headed, caring young man who wants to provide for his girlfriend in anyway he can, even if it just emotionally. The two have a date at an amusement park in this story, and for those who think it might be a little out of character for Macharu to enjoy herself as much as Aizawa, you’d be right. But out of mutual interest just being with each other, both her and Macharu have a good time and their embarrassed bouts of loving-confession never cease to bring a smile to my face.
Their group of fellow students is also a fantastic addition to the story. The fact that I’m reading a shoujo story with a group of happy, smiling, supportive friends feels so refreshing after the many bouts of horrendous high school bullying that other stories like the rely on. As a team of six, everyone signs up for a quiz show in order to win the money needed to replace their principal’s broken vase after a stray soccer ball saw to its destruction. Sure you want them to win, and they definitely want to see themselves win, but it’s the fun they had going through the game show’s tests and trials with bright-eyed laughs that was infectious in its fun.
Ultimately it’s the true-to-life nature of the characters that serves Monkey High so well and the balance of lifes’ up and downs in this second volume were a great step forward. It’s a fantastic feel-good series and I’d highly recommend it to shoujo fans looking for something down to earth and high on normal amounts of happy with a couple so sweet you can’t help but love ‘em.