Short Program by Mitsuru Adachi: A-

From the back cover:
The comic-book short story is one of the most difficult areas of storytelling, but Adachi handles the challenge with deceptive ease. His low-key approach belies the power of the emotions his characters portray. The resolution of Adachi’s stories are logical, dramatic, true-to-life, and completely unpredictable.

Span the range of human relationships in eight acts!
* Who’s the little guy who’s always getting into scraps?
* Is there a reason the track star is setting the bar higher?
* Is the nice guy across the way as nice as he seems?
* Will the detective track down his dream girl?
* She passes him every day on the street. Can he meet her?
* It’s the school reunion—are the old flames dead?
* How does the repairman compare to the heartthrob?
* Is the solution to gang rivalries worse than the problem?

This was my first time reading any Mitsuru Adachi, and I enjoyed the experience. I liked every story in the collection, though some more than others. Most had to do with romance in some fashion, some in a straightforward way where a couple got together at the end, and others in ways that subverted the reader’s expectations. I tended to prefer the latter variety.

My favorite story was one that seemed like it was involving romance—a boy and girl were out on a date at an amusement park and were having a conversation while on various rides. Their apartments faced each other across the street, and she thanked him for a few occasions where he was able to help her due to looking out of his window at just the right time. It totally did not end how I expected it to, and was quite awesome.

Another favorite was a story about a track star who kept setting her high jump goal higher to correspond with the height of the guy she liked. Instead of the story being told from her perspective, it featured said guy and his friend sitting in an apartment watching her in a televised event and figuring out how she felt about him.

About the only thing I didn’t like was the tendency of the stories to break the fourth wall. Adachi appeared in a couple of stories to make random comments, his name was mentioned by a character once, and a couple of other characters referenced the fact that they were in a manga. I really don’t find that kind of thing cute or funny.

Through the majesty of interlibrary loans, I have managed to acquire a copy of the elusive Short Program 2, which I’ll be reviewing in the next couple of days. Though a third compilation was released in Japan, it has, alas, never been licensed for North American distribution.

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