One of the manga-kas whose books I have been collecting recently is Tomoko Taniguchi. She’s a master of saccharine shojo stories directed at young girls. I reviewed one of her books, Miss Me?, back in March, and today, I have two more of her works, Let’s Stay Together Forever and Call Me Princess.
Let’s Stay Together Forever
Age Rating: 7+
High school cliques can get very exclusive, and people will seldom cross the lines. Will Leo the metalhead and Ayami the shy girl ever realize that they were made for each other, or will social dogmas keep them apart?
This large-format volume is a collection of Taniguchi’s early short stories, including her debut story and four more. Each story except the last features Leo, a perky metalhead with a vivacious attitude and a hairstyle to match. The first two stories, “Let’s Stay Together Forever” and “An-pan Balance” are placed in the volume in reverse order, so I was rather confused when I read the first story about Leo and Ayami, an introverted girl who becomes enthralled with Leo’s outgoingness, and then went on to the second, realizing as I did that “An-pan Balance” contained the plot build-up to “Let’s Stay Together Forever”! If you happen to purchase this collection, I recommend reading “An-pan Balance” first. Everything will make more sense if you do. Many of the rest of the stories have to with Leo’s social circle, which includes Imamura, a metalhead florist, and Yoshi, the genius of the class.
The art is riddled with screentones and art effects, but you can see it improve as the book goes on and Taniguchi gets a feel for the craft. The characters (especially the girls with similar haircuts) can sometimes be difficult to tell apart, but again, this gets better as the book continues. One of the constant themes is metal, metal, metal!! Many main characters are metalheads, and Taniguchi writes in the sidenotes about bands like Bon Jovi, back when they were relatively unknown in Japan (this was 1989, remember). If you can get over the fact that the story jumps around a bit and that the volume itself is a bit dated, prepare to enjoy!
Call Me Princess
Age Rating: 7+
Mako has dreams of being swept off her feet by a handsome prince. She wants to forget about her high school trials and tribulations…but mostly she just wants someone to love her and call her princess.
This volume is a self-contained story about a girl named Mako who has a very specific profile for her future husband. He must be kind-hearted, compassionate, handsome, and well-mannered; just like her sister’s husband, Shin. When Shin’s troubled brother Ryu moves in with Mako and her family, Mako instantly assumes that he’s just like his princely elder brother. She soon finds out that Ryu has a history of fighting and disorderly conduct, and that a small vestige of Shin’s conduct may be buried by the after-effects of his traumatic childhood. The character development is what really drives the tale, as layers are peeled away from Ryu’s somewhat off-putting personality, and Mako realizes her feelings for her friend, Yo, and Ryu.
The storyline and art work together to create a perfect diversion for a rainy afternoon. Taniguchi improved greatly on her art style from Let’s Stay Together Forever, making it simpler and less screentone-happy. The plot is also well-crafted and goes perfectly with the rest of Taniguchi’s oeuvre. That said, those looking for an intellectual experience on the level of Tezuka should look elsewhere; those looking for a diverting, sugary sweet romp have found the perfect book.