Manga-ka: Yoshiki Nakamura
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: August 2010
Synopsis: “Kyoko is basking in the glow of working a Christmas miracle and getting some birthday booty of her own. But she’s so unused to this kind of joy that she ends up late to the script reading for her new drama. Now her whole day is a mess and Ren is mad at her! Can Kyoko balance revenge, a career and her own happiness?”
I find I enjoy Skip Beat most when the characters are pretending to be other people. That’s not a dig at the main characters. I really like Kyoko and Ren and find them a nice change from usual shojo leads. But,when they’re acting, or at least working on their craft, that’s when it feels like the manga is firing on all cylinders. This volume brings the focus back to show business world, making it one of the better volumes in the series in a long time.
Kyoko has been cast in a new TV drama. She’s been typecast as a bully, but Kyoko has decided to take the role anyway and try her best. She gets off to a bad start with the rest of the cast when she’s an hour late for the first reading of the script. It’s just the beginning of her troubles. Kyoko, who never really had any female friends before coming to Tokyo, doesn’t know how to relate to the other actresses her age. While Kyoko may be playing the bully in the show, it’s the other girls who end up bullying her when the cameras are no longer rolling. And because she can’t understand what it’s like to be a regular teenage girl, she can’t get into her role either.
Most of the action takes place on set of Kyoko’s new TV drama, making this volume pretty lean on subplots. Kyoko and Ren do have lots of scenes together (there’s a really cute part where Ren tells Kyoko a fairytale as part of his birthday gift to her), but even then for the most part all they talk about is Kyoko’s work woes.
Which actually is fine with me. The relationship between the leads in Skip Beat is one of the most interesting aspects of the manga to me, second only to the mediations on acting. In most shojo manga the two leads would either have gotten together by this point, or at least be angsting over the many (probably contrived) reasons they can’t be together. Skip Beat doesn’t go that route. Ren does have romantic feelings for Kyoko, but he pretty much keeps them in check in this volume. As for Kyoko, she reveres Ren and sees him as her mentor, but she doesn’t seem to even consider him as a potential boyfriend. How many shojo series get all the way to volume 21 without the female lead even having a inkling of attraction towards the main love interest? Personally, I think it’s great and a refreshing change from heroines who obsess over boys and nothing else. Kyoko is obessed, but it’s with making it in show business, not getting with bishonen.
While we see a lot of Kyoko and a bit of Ren, much of the regular supporting cast is missing in this volume. Since the main plotline was so strong, I didn’t really notice or even care until afterwards. Also, there’s a new character introduced in this volume that seems promising. Chiori is an actress working on the same show as Kyoko. While she seems sweet and kind, it masks her spiteful, manipulative nature. The scene where the manga-ka reveals Chiori’s darker side is creepy and super-effective.
Nakamura’s art works well enough for the series. It’s not exceptionally beautiful, but it’s solid while still being pretty and consistent. The manga-ka also has a great pen for comedy and pulls off a lot of great visual jokes (the layouts also show that she knows how to set up a punch line). The attention to detail also helps with the more serious aspects of the manga. Fro example, there’s a part where the director points out how formal Kyoko’s posture is compared to other girls her age. When I went back and looked over the manga, it was easy to spot what he was talking about.
I was really disappointed with volume twenty of this series, so much that I worried about whether Skip Beat was no longer the same manga I had loved before. This volume puts the series back on track. Also, it has one of the best parental advisory warnings I’ve ever seen in a manga. It states that the manga is rated 13 and up because “This manga contains a grudge.” It’s nice to see that the series is starting to remember that.