I.O.N by Arina Tanemura: B-

From the back cover:
Ion Tsuburagi chants the letters of her first name as a charm to bring good luck when she needs it. Then she meets Mikado Hourai, the president of the Psychic Powers Research Society at school, and touches a mysterious substance he’s been developing. Now chanting ‘I-O-N’ gives her telekinetic powers!

I don’t normally comment on covers, but I.O.N has one of the prettiest I’ve seen. It’s all shades of green, blue, and purple, making Ion’s ginormous Ribon-issue brown eyes stand out. Her hair is blue on the cover, which prompts me to consider that I haven’t really encountered too many manga characters with oddly-colored hair (by which I mean impossible for a human and not merely improbable for a Japanese person). Maybe that’s more of an anime thing. In this case, I’m not sure whether Ion’s hair is truly supposed to be blue or if Tanemura is just having fun with the cover art. Either way, it’s purty.

Alas, it turns out the cover is really the best thing about this one-shot. Some of its problems are due to its length. Exposition gets crammed into dialogue where it doesn’t really belong, resulting in awkward sentences like, “I was wondering who that was, but what do you know, it’s Mikado Hourai, the President of the Psychic Power Research Society.” Emotional developments are also rushed, like when Ion declares that she might be falling for Hourai a mere 7 pages after meeting him.

The rest of the problems are due to the story itself, which just isn’t very cohesive. The nature of the plot is episodic, with Ion using her new-found powers to perform astonishing feats such as extinguishing fires, saving drowning kids from being struck by malicious logs, and protecting her romantic rival from a falling tree. Tanemura’s sidebars mention that her editors kept her in suspense regarding the ultimate length of the series, and it shows. She doesn’t really try to do anything substantive until the end, but even so, that mostly consists of Hourai being uncertain whether he likes Ion for herself or because she’s got psychic powers.

The artwork is typical of Tanemura’s style—lots of screentone, lots of flowers and stars—but as this is her first published manga volume, the result is a little less polished than in her later works. When seen from straight on, noses are just vertical lines and after I conceived of the notion that they looked like coin slots, I kept seeing them in the fashion. Pages do get a little overcrowded at times, but I didn’t have any problems following the story visually. I particularly like the character design for Tagosaku, who’s drawn in a different style from everyone else. The loyal henchman of the President of the Student Council, he’s essentially just a weird little dude who is used for comic relief throughout. I like him.

I.O.N is a decent read. It’s largely lacking in substance and purpose, but if one goes into it just expecting a magical girl fantasy, it’s not that bad. It might be better to procure it from a library, though, if one can.

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  1. I WILL read manga with art I do not particularly like for the story, and as the story grows on me, so do the art, because it does it’s job in getting the story across well, and for most art style that I don’t like (usually stranger-looking art) I begin to realize the story fits the art. And sometimes I grow to adore the style so much I miss it and its originality whenever I read some other manga. Case-in-point: Nana, Honey and Clover, Sugar Sugar Rune (and to be fair, after you get away from the initial shock, it becomes very very pretty and skillful and very STYLISH).

    But for cases like Arina Tanemura, I can NOT seem to get over her art. It’s not ugly. But it’s rather typical. It’s so busy. Not to the point of SSR and readable, but without it’s FLAIR. And I can’t get over it’s overtoning (once again, unlike SSR, but that has FLAIR, and it’s almost satirical). And it’s huge eyes scare me. Even now, after I’ve read Full Moon, ION…ect. I still can’t get over her art. Maybe it’s just her stories never really stick…Maybe I’m just biased against typical shojo art and HAVE to like the plot before the art. I don’t know…

  2. I haven’t read Sugar Sugar Rune yet, but I definitely admire the original styles evident in NANA and Honey and Clover. The one case that art has really kept me from buying a series is Tramps Like Us. I’ve seen over and over where it’s supposedly an awesome story, and I want to read more josei in general, but the art has turned me off each time I’ve considered getting it.

    Regarding Tanemura’s stories, the only one that’s stuck for me thus far is Full Moon. I haven’t read Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne yet, but I did like the anime fairly well. The shorter series have left little impact so far.

  3. Truth be told, I haven’t read Tramps Like Us yet either for the same reason, so I guess we’re the same. I’m so picky about art ( and very hesitant to try something new it’s kept me from what probably are great series. That’s what keeping me from Antique Bakery as well….

    But whenever I get around to reading a manga which I’ve been avoiding due to art style, I usually end up falling in love with it AND the art that turned me off in the first place…Like Nana, Sugar Sugar Rune and Honey and Clover. And yet I can’t seem to learn. I’m sure I’ll get around to these two though…Someday…

    Tanemura do give a better impression when she does longer works. Full Moon was enjoyable until it took on too much than it can handle, but still quite ok. Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne had a nice concept but execution is not there. I think it might just be even though Tanemura does a lot of angst, her art somehow lacks the emotion and depth needed to pull it off well…Maybe the timing and paneling is off. I don’t know. I see a lot of potential in her but…She still doesn’t stick.

    Oneshots and shorter stories I think are very iffy because it gives little time for the reader to “get” the character and plot. Stunning and packing a punch in a short time if done by a master but I think most new mangakas fail at it. But then again, new mangakas usually only get shorter stories and oneshots. I don’t think it’s the best way for them to learn…ION fell partly because of this.

    By the way, do pick up Sugar Sugar Rune. I think it’s the most mainstream work by the mangaka…not negatively. But that it and the art appeals to a broader audience than her usual stuff. It’s full of shoujo-goodness and heart delivered with a fun smile and a wink for us who are more experienced with manga and especially shoujo. And it’s one of the rare books out there that IS All Age.

  4. Sorry for ranting a bit. XD

  5. Not a problem, I like having comments to read!

    I do think you’ll end up liking Antique Bakery. The art kind of reminds me of Honey and Clover, in that it’s kind of wispy and sparse, but still manages to be emotional.

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