Manga-ka: Arina Tanemura
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: August 2008
Synopsis: “Kajiko Yamano is a female ninja whose job is to protect her family’s legendary weapon. But when a boy she has a crush on tells her she should be more ladylike, she vows to give up all ninja deeds. Yuri sends her pen pal Ryo a picture of herself – but it’s really of her best friend Karin, who is prettier than she is. Now Ryo wants to meet her, so she has no coice but to send Karin instead! Minori falls in love with Takato, a boy who shared his umbrella with her one rainy afternoon. Now she ‘forgets’ her umbrella every time it rains in hopes of becoming closer to him. Mana secretly likes her friend’s boyfriend, but Nakamura, a younger boy, is determined to win Mana’s heart.”
Arina Tanemura’s series are a hit and miss bunch. Full Moon o Sagashite is one of my favourite magical shoujo stories, while Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne bored me to no end. Unfortunately Short-Tempered Melancholic, a collection of short stories, falls towards the second end, an easily forgettable batch of tales with characters as shallow and underdeveloped as the stories are short. To the artist’s defense, this is an assortment of her earliest work but regardless it stands to reason after finishing this that some past works are best left in the shadows of their predecessors.
Kajika is a peppy, kind, modest, spirited, outspoken high school with a big crush on a boy she hardly knows – plus she’s a ninja. With her everyday is her best friend from childhood who naturally has a crush on her, Yuga, who is defined simply by having nothing wrong with him in light of having little to nothing to know about him at all. The climax of their story comes with the reveal that the subject of Kajika’s affection is actually the leader of their rival clan and he’s after the other clans secret weapon. Surprising? Not really.
The first page of the story is convincing enough to make you believe you’re in for a story about Kajika needing to struggle with hiding her ninja heritage and abilities from the everyday world. Surely that’s dramatic, right? Nope. Turns out she’s actually a celebrity of sorts for using her ninja-skills and the secret keeping aspect is clearly completely irrelevant. It’s just another love story offering next to nothing to make us actually care how it turns out. There’s some silly plots to weaken Kajika, a brief ninja fight scene to emphasis her near-inexplicable skill and then for some reason or another Yuga fights for her hand against the rival leader.
‘This Love is Non-Fiction’ was the one I liked most, though was disappointed that the two characters most interesting (and supposedly the leads) were quickly shifted to the background. The story begins with a girl asking her friend for a favour, to pretend to be her when meeting up with a pen-pal she’s had. When her friend meets with him, the two hit it off from the get-go which is obviously going to complicate things for the girl’s friend. The ending is predictable from the get-go but I liked following the story long enough for it to be revealed as the ‘everyone’s-happy!’ resolve that’s expected.
Following this story are two others. The first of the final two is about a very pushy young women with a crush on a boy who one day walked her home when she forgot her umbrella. Since then she’s intentionally forgotten her umbrella everyday and insists the boy walks her home. In short, she’s obnoxious. When its eventually revealed, to little surprise, who the boy actually is in relation to her, it doesn’t feel like half as pretty a picture as the author would like to paint. The final story in the book is another one-sided affair to start, with the male character unconditionally loving the girl of the story. Over the course of this chapter, he wears her down until finally at the end she comes to ‘realize’ that she actually likes him in return. Though the romance feels as unconvincing as the stories before it, I did at least like the male character who in his overly-energetic nature proves more interesting than others in his position in the book.
One-shot collections are books I always like to pick up because they’re generally low-risk purchases with the likelihood you’ll like at least something you read in it. Unfortunately Short-Tempered Melancholic is a solid miss – a dull, stereotypical mish-mash of stories with characters so peppy about their archetypical roles that I found myself actively cheering against their happily ever afters. While some stories stood out stronger than others, even they were only decent by comparison.