Manga-ka: Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: August 2010
Synopsis: “For a brief moment, Chiaki fears that another girl is giving Yosuke a massage on the sly. As graduation day approaches, she must untangle her feelings for Yosuke and tell him how she really feels. Love, romance and massage…the exciting conclusion to The Magic Touch!”
Having heard both good and bad things about this series, I decided to undertake a review of the final volume for team Kuriousity. Catching up on the series with a previous volume beforehand, reading this last instalment left me pleasantly surprised. Magic Touch takes a fairly odd concept and delivers an entertaining, offbeat shojo series.
The volume starts off by touching upon the standard exams and Christmas stories you see in so many romantic comedy manga. While seemingly formulaic, these are shared moments of everyday life all of Magic Touch’s readership can relate to, and Tsubaki deserves credit for ensuring what could be seen as a repetitive becomes important moments in the cast’s emotional life. Seeing Chiaki make the difficult choice of helping her best friend out over going on a traditional Christmas date was refreshing, as was Yosuke’s reactions to this turn of events. Tsubaki’s use of a study date to spend more time developing Yosuke and Chiaki’s relationship, depicting more casual moments as they’ve grown more comfortable with each other, also made for a fun sequence that set-up the emotional base for the closing chapters.
Chiaki and Yosuke make for a charming odd couple, as Chiaki’s strange obsession with massage initially raises a brow out of it’s quirkiness, but grounds itself well despite the strange visualization of back pain as adorable creatures Chiaki calls Tsuboz. Chiaki manages to slowly endear herself on the reader, as her fairly honest, well-meaning personality help the reader root for her. Meanwhile, Yosuke might be your typical school prince with a tragic past, but Tsubaki managed to make these elements believable thanks to a detailed back story, and a generally flustered characterization as Chiaki misses Yosuke’s cues in the relationship, and Yosuke makes missteps of his own. The relationship is less a one-sided in this form, and allows the reader to sympathize with both characters.
While the massage-element makes for oddball window dressing initially, Tsubaki chooses to fold it into the conclusion as Chiaki begins questioning her massage-based reasons for being in a relationship with Yosuke. Misunderstandings build-up, and Yosuke also begins to be confused as to Chiaki’s feelings towards him. As Tsubaki sorts out the reasons the couple connected with each other outside the series strange concept, we’re presented with a natural, endearing chain of events that even manages to incorporate the Tsuboz, and complete the main character arc.
I also appreciated that Tsubaki opted to both go with her preferred ending, and the ending suggested by her editor, which worked alongside each other to provide a fairly satisfying finale. Depicting their schoolmates graduation and relationships provided an overall sense of closure, ensuring the reader that everyone is moving forward in to a bright future, yet still remain friends. Although my exposure to the cast was limited, Tsubaki seems to have balanced a fairly large range of characters well, something difficult to maintain in a long running shojo series, where supporting characters often get shoved to the sidelines.
Tsubaki’s artwork is a little more angular then some shojo manga, reminding me a little of Korean shojo manwha with her thicker inks and sharp angles. Her designs are slightly rounded off to make them a bit softer, giving her a look that wouldn’t look out of place in a shonen manga anthology. Also, the outright bizarre visual of the Tsuboz makes for a strangely cute anthropomorphic depiction of back pain. One might be initially confuddled by the bulbous, perpetually relaxed creatures, but will eventually succumb to their charming manipulation of their hosts.
Tsubaki closes the volume with a collection of 4-Koma, and a selection of fanart from assistants in their personal style, a nice way to send off the series from the entire team. Amid the often tumultuous world of shojo manga, it’s nice to have a series end on such a positive, outward looking note, reflected in the warm send-off of the assistants post-script. I’d recommend this series to most shojo manga fans, though some might be a bit put off by Chiaki’s odd fixation on massage. VIZ has announced her subsequent series Ore-Sama Teacher for an English release, so if you enjoyed Magic Touch, be sure to check that out as well.