Thursday, November 4, 2010

Arisa by Natsumi Ando

Tsubasa hasn’t seen her twin sister since their parents’ divorce three years ago, but the two had written to each other frequently during their time apart.  Tsubasa is hot tempered and has more guy friends than girl friends, something that bothers her quite a bit.  In the letters that Arisa sends her, Tsubasa is so happy for her sister for being different than her, having lots of female friends and even a boyfriend.  It seems to Tsubasa that Arisa’s life is perfect.  Why, then, does Arisa try to kill herself after the girls are reunited?  And what exactly do her classmates have to do with it?  Tsubasa is determined to figure out what is going on in her sister’s life, and chooses to figure it out the best way she knows how; by going to school pretending that she is her sister.

I couldn’t resist buying this book for two reasons.  First of all it was written by Natsumi Ando, the artist who did Kitchen Princess, and secondly the darker aspects of its story seemed more unusual for a shojou.

Tsubasa: She’s one of those wild girls, the kind who people assume are in a gang because she reacts with violence at the slightest provocation.  As with most heroines though, she’s got a good heart and just wants to be friends with the other girls.  She’s desperately loyal, and doesn’t like to see people treat others badly. 

Arisa: She’s not in the story very long, and it’s obvious that she has secrets that the reader does not yet know.  Right now she seems like the girly girl, the one who everyone wants to be friends with, and who might be just a bit fragile.   She can’t handle whatever it is that she’s keeping secret.

Other characters of note:
Manabe: The mysterious boy who sits next to Arisa in class.  On Tsubasa’s first day that she’s told that Arisa is the only reason that he started coming to class.  He seems moody and distant from everyone else.  Does he have some special connection to the plot at the school?

Midori: Arisa’s boyfriend.  Thus far we know little about him, other than the fact that he is the most popular boy in school.
Takeru: Tsubasa’s best friend.  He’s a bit of a goofball, but he looks out for Tsubasa and is there for her whenever she needs him.

Mariko: Arisa’s best friend.  She seems super friendly, but at times has a dark almost sinister look to her.  You wonder what it is she’s hiding.

I thought this was a great start to a story.  It didn’t drop you into the middle, instead introducing you to the characters and slowly building up to the mystery.  It also didn’t solve too many issues (in fact, nothing was solved in this first volume…which I’m glad of because that would have made the story move too fast and there are at least 6 more volumes to come).  It piqued my interest so that I really wanted to know what was going on in the school, and why it led Arisa to try and kill herself.  I wanted to know who was involved and in what way.   Be forewarned, this volume will end on a cliffhanger.

 That's Mariko in the center there.
Art Work:
This is not Natsumi Ando’s first manga, it’s the most recent one that she has worked on, which means that she has had plenty of time to prefect her artwork, and it shows.  I liked this artwork quite a bit.  It may not be up there with my favorite artist, but it’s still good enough to get 5 out of 5.   

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