Skip Beat! 15-18 by Yoshiki Nakamura: B+

skipbeat15I had no idea it’d been an entire year since I’d read any Skip Beat!. At least my procrastination produced an appealing side effect: a nice little stack of volumes to catch up on!

Volume fifteen finds Kyoko shooting on location for the TV drama in which she and Ren are cast. Sho happens to be staying in the same hotel, since there’s also a ritzy recording studio nearby, and is being challenged by a band called Vie Ghoul (awesomely referred to by Kyoko throughout as “Beagle”) who has already stolen one of his songs. Reino, the psychic vocalist of Vie Ghoul, decides that it’s not enough to mess with Sho’s career; he’ll also mess with Kyoko, aiming to usurp Sho’s place as the object of her fixation.

skipbeat16This plotline has repercussions through volume seventeen. Though I don’t like Reino at all, he’s an incredibly good catalyst. The fallout from his actions includes:
– Sho protecting Kyoko from Reino. I love that her reaction is anything but docile gratitude.
– Kyoko helping Sho recover from the song theft by informing him that he can’t lose to anyone but her.
– Ren getting angry that Kyoko kept the Reino drama from him, and an awesomely awkward reconciliation ensues.
– Delicious scenes between Sho and Ren in which they push each other’s buttons in extremely entertaining ways. This includes Ren interrupting when Sho is about to confess his feelings to Kyoko (who is still insisting that no thanks for his actions is required; his saving her now only makes them even).
– Glimpses into Ren’s violent past.
– Some small and sweet progress between Ren and Kyoko, including his wonderfully adorable reaction when she tells him that his presence gives her courage and confidence. (This, in turn, leads to amusing teasing from his manager, Yashiro.)

skipbeat17 Pretty impressive, no? I could expound upon each of these points at great length but would no doubt still fail to capture just how terrific they are, especially the interactions between Sho and Ren. I have no idea how I came to enjoy Sho so much, but he’s really grown on me. Also worth praising is Kyoko’s defiance of shoujo convention: instead of being weepy and contrite when Sho rescues her, she’s furious and humiliated to have been protected by her nemesis; and instead of accepting Ren’s offer of protection, she says that his presence gives her the strength to fight back herself. Focused on her goals and seeing neither man as a romantic prospect, Kyoko is a breath of fresh air.

By volume eighteen, she’s back in Tokyo. The Dark Moon drama has begun airing and offers for more roles are coming in, but the problem is that they’re all for characters like the one Kyoko plays in Dark Moon. Moko advises her to turn them all down because accepting them won’t get her anywhere while Sho, boosted by Kyoko’s efforts, is currently setting records and dominating the charts. The famous actor Kyoko’s waiting on as a Love-Me Section assignment, however, advises her to take them all and challenge herself to play each one differently. In order to work on her ability to create characters, he challenges her to recreate the role of his son, Kuon. Readers realize that Kuon (aka Corn) is actually Ren, but Kyoko, as in most things, is oblivious. Volume eighteen’s good, and I like that the actor isn’t the jerk he seemed to be at the start, but I’m more interested in where these events will take the story, rather than in the events themselves.

skipbeat18Skip Beat! has many qualities that I love in manga, particularly its warmth, humor, and fiercely independent heroine. There are, though, a couple of things about it that bug me. The first is how the narration of a character’s inner thoughts often spans multiple pages while they’re actually engaged in doing something else. I often find myself reading ahead just to complete a thought and then going back and reading the rest, which gets annoying. Secondly, I’ve always believed that any kind of physical effect from Kyoko’s “grudge demons” was purely a comedic gag, but in one of these sidebars, Nakamura states that Kyoko’s actually capable of causing paranormal phenomena, and later, Reino’s psychic abilities come to the fore when he can detect Ren’s past ownership of Kyoko’s beloved lucky stone and also sees flashes of his past. I’m not sure I like the introduction of these elements into the story, but thankfully they don’t seem poised to occupy too much attention.

I’m torn between declaring that I’ll never let so much time lapse between volumes of <Skip Beat! again and advising others to stockpile volumes to read as I have done, since the accumulation of awesome is greater the longer one is privileged to inhabit this special world. In either case, this series is highly recommended.

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  1. Danielle Leigh says

    These are some of my favorite volumes — I don’t like him, but Sho tends to stir shit up (well, he often stirs Ren up) and I kind of enjoy the aftermath of him making waves. In the end, he might be the catalyst that will get Ren to act on his feelings…one of these days. (I don’t even care that the primary romance moves like a glacier, that is how much I love this book).

    I really liked the Kuon arc and look forward to reading vol 19 and see where the story might go now….

    • I completely am with you on not minding the slow pace of the romance. It baffles me that I’d be perfectly okay if this series proceeded on just as it is for another twenty volumes!

      • I’m with you both too! I don’t think I’d take it in any other series, but with Skip Beat! it seems like the slow-paced romance isn’t a result of the author procrastinating, so much as that there is all this other (worthwhile, important, interesting) stuff going on in Kyoko’s world that needs to be written/read about first. It doesn’t read like the usual shoujo-manga trick of tossing in unexpected obstacles just for the sake of prolonging the series, and maybe that’s why I’m willing to be patient.

        Stockpiling seems like an attractive choice for the series, but with the releases slowing down to match the Japanese releases, I’m not sure I can hold out very long when I know there is a new volume available.

        • Well put! That’s it exactly. I don’t mind waiting if the characters need to grow (or accomplish something else first) to get to a place where they’re ready for romance.

          My stockpiling wasn’t intentional, but it was definitely fun to read a bunch in a row. Volume 19 also happily ends in a nice place so the wait (until March, I think) for 20 shouldn’t be too excruciating. Still, now that I’ve managed to catch back up I doubt I’ll be able to hold out, either. 🙂

  2. Ah, this is such a great series. I have recently converted a friend to it; he read the first few volumes and then immediately ploughed his way through all of the rest of them, not to mention buying the anime and hunting down scanlations. That was my good deed for the year! 🙂
    And I agree with the discussions above; the slow-growing romance is adorable, but there’s just so much else going on that’s at least as important, it really doesn’t feel like there’s any hurry at all.

  3. I re-read the first 18 volumes recently, and I’m happy to report that it (unlike many shoujo series) holds up very, very well on re-reading. I enjoyed the anime a lot, too; I think it caught the feeling of the manga pretty well. And Katsuyuki Konishi did the voice of Ren, so it scores many points with me on that score 😉 (I tend to switch into this automatic lust-filled mode at the sound of his voice, you see 🙂


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