Beauty Pop 3 by Kiyoko Arai: B

From the back cover:
Tsuyoshi Niida, having taken second place to Harumi’s hairstyling once again, is determined to come out on top against the Scissors Project. He issues a challenge, but the Scissors Project needs five people to compete in this beauty battle or they’ll lose by default. Narumi needs Kiri’s help—but is his desire to win stronger than his pride?

I was beginning to lose hope for this series when I started this volume. The cast is peopled with annoying characters and I am so tired of Iori’s way of speaking. Here’s an example:

And since me is really happy right now, me wants to share some of that happiness with you.

I’m not sure what’s going on in the original Japanese. Perhaps he’s using the English “me” where he should be saying “ore” or something? Anyway, it’s irksome.

Matters aren’t helped by the introduction of Niida, another spaz-prone guy who sees himself as Narumi’s rival. He issues a challenge to Narumi that conveniently requires five people, specifying an aromatherapist and two hairdressers, which means that much of the volume is Ochiai trying to convince and/or manipulate Iori and Kiri to participate while Narumi has many tedious violent outbursts about how he doesn’t need their help, et cetera.

Finally, though, finally, we start to see some of Narumi’s good qualities. We see, for example, that he’s really hardworking and is so fixated on his goals that things like girls and love don’t even register with him. He also incurs personal injury to prevent Kiri’s cat from being hurt by a bicyclist. I realize that this last is a silly turn of events, but I was so desperate for any glimmer of redeeming qualities in Narumi that I was grateful to get it. Too, this selfless act is what finally serves to convince Kiri to participate, leading to another fun challenge and a cliffhanger ending with the fate of the competition hanging in the balance.

These characters really are at their best when they are using their skills. I hope Narumi can get over his latent insecurity/megalomania soon because, this being shouo and all, I think I’m supposed to be rooting for him and Kiri to get together. At present, however, they’ve got no chemistry together at all.

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