Ciao Ciao Bambino by Momoko Tenzen: B

ciaociaobambinoI think I must be a Momoko Tenzen fan, because this is the second time I’ve been impressed by her ability to create compelling characters in a short story format (the first being Unsophisticated and Rude). Not only that, she’s able to write stories about romance between middle schoolers and teachers that aren’t completely icky (only mildly icky).

There are five stories in this volume, though the first four focus on the same set of characters: Kaname, a lecturer at a cram school; Yuuta, Kaname’s student, seven years his junior; and Kei and Mako, friends of Yuuta’s who have feelings for each other. What I liked about these stories is that Kaname and Yuuta take several years to get to a point where love is openly discussed, and although Yuuta is still too young (in my opinion) when they finally sleep together, his character is developed enough that it’s clear he’s not being taken advantage of by an adult in position of authority.

The fifth story, “Brand New Wednesday,” is about a tall kid named Kana—and seriously, both he and Yuuta must attend one of the junior highs from Prince of Tennis, because they’re far bigger than any ninth graders I’ve known—who is in love with his home tutor. I found the tutor’s perspective especially poignant here, as he realizes how fragile a love like this can be when the younger person has so much changing left to do in their life.

I admit to feeling a little guilty that I liked these stories as much as I did, given their subject matter, but Tenzen’s approach is not salacious whatsoever. If you can get past the squick factor, these stories do offer some truly touching moments.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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