Manga-ka: Yoshiki Nakamura
Publisher: viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: April 2011
Synopsis: “Chiori’s rage threatens the whole production when she lashes out and hurts Kyoko. Kyoko is used to overcoming obstacles, and she uses her injury as an excuse to push Chiori into exploring her acting. But Chiori has a traumatic past. Will focusing on the dark side of her character bring it all rushing back?!”
My favourite parts of Skip Beat are when the characters talk about acting and examine their craft. Unfortunately, this volume takes that aspect too far. There’s long stretches of the book where the characters just go on and on, explaining their machinations and motivations. At certain points it seems more like a volume of Death Note than Skip Beat.
Kyoko has finally figured out how to play her new role, but now she has to get everyone else on board with her vision. In this volume we see Kyoko’s ability not only to act, but to direct others as well. Using her acting skills she’s able to manipulate her co-stars into giving performances they wouldn’t be capable of otherwise. It’s a new and interesting aspect to Kyoko and really gives layers to the scenes where Kyoko and the others are shooting scenes for their TV show.
While Kyoko’s manoeuvres are exciting to watch, hearing her explain her actions saps a lot of fun out of it. There are one too many heart-to-heart talks in this volume, and they drag on. Yet despite the rambling monologues, this volume manages to give a satisfying end to the rivalry between Kyoko and Chiori.
This volume also introduces a lot of plot threads for future arcs, such as Reino, the lead singer of the band Vie Ghoul showing up in Kyoko’s life again. I hope that it’s just a cameo, as I really don’t like that character. Not because he’s a bad guy, but because he’s boring. Skip Beat has some great, complicated antagonists, such as Chiori or Sho, but Reino doesn’t measure up. He’s just a cardboard baddie who seems to enjoy being evil for evil’s sake. Not that that can’t be fun, but in a series that usually goes a little deeper than that with its characters, Reino’s flatness stands out. But the manga-ka has surprised me before: maybe in the next story arc she’ll flesh out Reino’s character some more.
Nakamura is getting better with her character designs. Earlier on in the series all her teenage girls looked alike, but now they’re starting to look more like individuals. She’s started using different facial features and body types for their designs, and giving them distinct body language that reflects their personalities. This is especially important since Kyoko’s show is set in a high school and the cast is full of teenage girls.
There are times when the layouts seem a little cluttered, but that fits with the manic charm of the series. Nakamura uses just enough backgrounds to establish the settings, but they’re clear and clean.
Skip Beat volume twenty-three is a little self-indulgent, but I still found it interesting. The set-up for the next story-arc looks a little bit conventional (Kyoko’s forgotten about Ren’s birthday! Oh-no!) but I trust the manga-ka to take it somewhere interesting.