Manga-ka: Masakazu Katsura
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: March 2005
Synopsis: “Shy Ichitaka has a crush on his high school classmate Iori, but ever since she posed for semi-provocative swimsuit photos in a magazine, she’s had a lot of sleazy guys hitting on her. Ichitaka’s afraid to make his feelings known for fear Iori will think he’s just another creep.”
High school’s never easy and certainly not bound to get any easier when you’re bikini-clad self becomes the talk of the class after a magazine spread. But the real focus of I”s are the trials of Ichitaka, perhaps those not different from any other young man his age but still ones no less frustrating.
The majority of the volume is Ichitaka constantly putting his foot in his mouth when it comes to trying to share how he truly feels with Iori. Unfortunately he’s made it a habit to always keep what he really thinks bottled up which leaves him saying often the opposite of what he intends. When he’s not kicking himself in the proverbial butt for saying something harsh in place of something supportive, he’s battling his own hormones that are constantly waging war against his attention span. Still, through some struggling and adrenaline, he does his best to express himself even if it is running at Iori’s conspirators and peeping toms with veins pulsing and bat in hand.
Iori on the other hand is a character who I think had a tad too much effort put in to make her a damsel. It’s hard from my perspective to feel too much sympathy for her being surprised at the attention her modelling garnered. You pose in a bikini for a magazine shoot and then question the nature of it after the fact? Sorry girl, you’re reaping what you sow. Still, I did have some pity as she felt the eyes of a dozen sex-starved boys ogling her whenever they got the chance and, bikini poser or not, finding out people are photoshopping your head onto nude models can’t be anything but unnerving. Though I didn’t mind her as a character overall, I often find myself more entertained by Ichitaka’s imaginings of how he predicted she may react to certain scenarios, often a darker representation of her than what actually exists to the public eye.
A momentarily confusing aspect of this first volume is the attention given by Viz, via the full synopsis on the book’s back, to a character who is literally introduced on the very last page. “Ichitaka’s life gets more complicated when his childhood friend Itsuki moves back from America and ends up living in house!” … for all of the two seconds it takes to look at the page! I suppose at the very least it sets up the direction the series is going to take, throwing in a bit more plot-related conflict than the situation-based issues dealt with here in volume one. After all, we don’t want the young men that this series is inherently aimed at, as a Shonen Jump title, to get bored with the high school drama and emotional ping-pong.
Masakazu Katsura’s art style is one always instantly recognizable: rounded features and pouty-lipped girls viewed through the eyes of more simply designed, but overzealously more expressive, young men. I’ve always been a sucker for the way he draws young woman, blatantly focused on sexualization as it is. His girls are just so darn cute. From meticulously detailed folds on underwear to the little creases of skin formed around healthy amounts of body weight, almost every couple of pages greets you with fan-service but at least it’s always worth a gander. My only complaint would be the overuse of the same perspectives and views. I’m not saying I expect panty-shots from 37 degree angles or anything, but it does get to the point of ‘you’ve seen one Katsura panty-shot, you’ve seen ‘em all’.
Overall, the artist doesn’t really tread any new ground in both art and story here in I”s though that isn’t to say it isn’t still worth a read for fans of his work. It’s essentially a shoujo story told from the boys’ perspective so expect hormones to be running wild but with a cheeky sense of sincerity littered across it as well. For what it is, I enjoyed this first volume of I”s and for another peek at Iori’s pouting scowl or Ichitaka’s accidentally bombastic outbursts, I’ll gladly seek out of a copy of volume two.