Manga-ka: Yoshiki Nakamura
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: March 2010
Synopsis: “It’s the season of giving in Tokyo, but Lory’s granddaughter Maria is in no mood to celebrate. Kyoko, never one to sit out a challenge, finally gets Maria to admit what has her so soured on the holidays. It turns out December 24 is Maria’s birthday–and the anniversary of her mother’s death! Can Kyoko work a Christmas miracle and give this little girl a happy birthday?”
Does it seem to anyone else that Kyoko has lost most of what made her interesting originally? It’s easy not to notice when spread out over twenty progressing volumes, but a volume like this really hits it home when having recently reread the earlier books. Where’s the chaos? The bull-headed-ness? The unadulterated spite? Well, at least we have love, friendship and smiles trying to fill that void – for better or worse.
The bulk of Kyoko’s page time here in volume twenty features the same oozy-sweet smile that becomes eerily redundant. Because of this it regrettably fails to even succeed as a heart-warming screen tone fest. The exact same face on every second page makes the story feel repetitive and the art a tad lazy, even when the events themselves are fairly varied and linear.
In this book Kyoko helps organize and execute a party for Maria’s friends and associates, a thank-you-for-being-our-friends foray to up Maria’s spirits while avoiding Christmas or birthday parties that invoke her guilt. Suffice to say when the granddaughter of the media company President is involved, nothing can be kept small and the party turns into a ballroom extravaganza for all its well-dressed attendees complete with food, flowers, magic and a bit of a mayhem.
As a character, both visually and personally, Maria is adorable and you definitely can’t help but feel for her – carrying the guilt of her Mother’s death is bad enough but to have it fall on Christmas Eve and her birthday is just downright heartbreaking, especially considering the circumstances. While cute, Maria’s also still full of attitude. Though moments demonstrating this are short-lived in this particular volume, they’re still a good call back to the level of self-assuredness that used to make Kyoko so enjoyable.
Though the party is feverishly fancy and the ‘we’re-oh-so-happy’ sentiments are nice, they’re all perhaps a little too long-winded and shouldn’t have lasted an entire volume. Long-time fans of the series may enjoy this break from the media frenzies and romance-centric dramatics, but it feels overdone. This twentieth volume of Skip Beat! has a bit too much sweet with not enough substance; a tolerable volume if confined only to this single dose.