Cat Street 1 (Japanese) by Yoko Kamio: B+

Book description:
Keito Aoyama was a child star until the age of nine, when she froze up on stage in front of a live audience. The incident ended her career, and she’s spent the past seven years a recluse, spending most of the time in her room and socializing with no one. An encounter with an eccentric principal leads her to El Liston, a school for kids who haven’t fit in at other high schools. Could this be what Keito needs to begin truly living again?

This series is interesting, but since this volume was mostly set up, probably much of the good stuff is yet to come.

Keito is very socially awkward to start with, and ends up insulting a couple of people and running away from them, just like she’s essentially been running away from life for seven years. She’s a sympathetic character, kind of complex and difficult, but her search for direction is compelling. She encounters a former grade school classmate and the fact that he’s still striving for his childhood dream makes her question what it is that she really wants to do. Though she’s initially reluctant to attend such a “weird facility,” she eventually decides to give El Liston a try.

The El Liston setting is pretty neat. Most of the kids there are doing independent study of some kind, though there are teachers on hand to help when needed. The students are free to pursue their interests, be they computer programming or fashion design. The students that Keito meets are already shaping up to be unique and interesting characters and I look forward to seeing Keito flourish in that environment. Of particular note is Kouichi, a manga character who actually looks Asian!

Too, I like that the focus is on Keito’s search for a purpose in life and not on romance. To be sure, there are a few prospects in that regard, but her thoughts are running more toward self-improvement than smooching. Cat Street definitely has the potential to be something great, and I’ll be continuing with it.

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