Manga-ka: Sakurako Hanafubuki
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: May 2009
Synopsis: “After a bittersweet separation from the showbiz industry and experiencing an accident, Ayukawa has lost his memory of the two years he spent working as a pop idol. The only clue he has is a feeling that he must meet the most popular actor in Japan—Koji Mizuhara—no matter what! But, a crazy fate seems to be haunting Ayukawa. A videotape is circulating throughout the showbiz industry. It’s entitled “Crazy Star” and stars Ayukawa himself—being forced upon. The people who care about Ayukawa are trying desperately to round up all the tapes. But just who is hiding the final copy? And what does the video have to do with Ayukawa’s accident?”
Crazy Star is the third volume in Sakurako Hanafubuki’s series following actors Kyo Ayukawa and Koji Mizuhara, but like the volumes before it can be read as a stand-alone. This is both the series’ greatest strength and weakness. While it does mean you can pick up any book and read it, it also means there’s not a lot of momentum book to book. Because each volume tries to be new-reader friendly, the story and characters don’t really get a chance to grow or become any more complex.
I wasn’t big on this series until volume two, which ended with Kyo deciding to leave both Koji and the entertainment industry in order to protect Koji. I didn’t see that ending coming, and was really eager to see where Hanafubuki would go from there. I was rather disappointed when I started reading Crazy Star and found that instead of dealing with the fall-out of Kyo’s actions, the manga-ka goes for the oldest plot-twist in the book: give a main character amnesia. This works well for new readers: they can find out about Kyo’s past at the same time he does. But for people who have read the first two volumes, it means a lot of re-hashing of past events and not a lot of forward movement in the plot.
It’s been two and a half years ago since Kyo was in an accident and lost his memory. Since then some of it has returned, but there’s still a two-year gap in his mind of the time he spent working as a pop-idol (the only reason Kyo even knows he worked in showbiz is that one of his newfound friends recognizes him). Luckily for Kyo, he was found by some nice guys who looked after him as he recovered. Eventually the four of them- Kyo, Narita, Pomeh, and group leader Kurosu- form a hip-hop group.
Something seems to be holding the group back from achieving mass popularity though. For some reason, Kurosu is wary of Kyo doing publicity for the group. That’s because, unbeknownst to Kyo, there’s a sex tape from his celebrity days floating around and Kurosu is desperately trying to track down the remaining copy. However, Kurosu isn’t the only one on the hunt, and one-day mega-star Koji Mizuhara just shows up at Kyo’s apartment…
A major problem I have with this volume is how passive Kyo is. While the summary on the back of the book implies that Kyo is chasing after Koji, really it’s the other way around. While the other characters race around trying to track down the tape, Kyo pretty much sits back and let’s Koji seduce him again. He wasn’t the most exciting character before losing his memory, but at least he acted and made his own choices. Here he seemed to have lost his personality along with his memories.
At least the minor cast is slightly more interesting. Kyo’s band mates are interesting characters and have unique designs – well, Pomeh and Narita do at least. Kurosu looks a little too much like Koji. While I liked the new characters, I also missed the minor cast from the first two volumes from back when Kyo was still a pop-idol. They do make a small appearance however, and hopefully will be back in full force in the next volume.
The art is serviceable but kind of bland. There aren’t a lot of backgrounds, and even worse the characters don’t really interact with the environment around them. For example, people should stand differently when they’re with someone in a tiny elevator than when they’re talking with them outside. Here it doesn’t matter where characters are, they act the same way. For a series featuring models, actor and pop stars the clothing and hairstyles are pretty dull. But like I said, the art is clear and nowhere near bad, it’s just not very eye-catching.
Crazy Star does end with a minor twist that’s interesting. It’s a good cliffhanger, but I would have rather the manga-ka reveal it earlier. That way, rather than dragging out Kyo’s amnesia storyline, there would have been a plot twist that actually spurred Kyo into acting. On the plus side, that means the next volume should be interesting… unless Koji gets amnesia and joins a break-dancing group. With this series, it could go either way.