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Review: Tough Guys in Love

Every high school has them, the tough guys whose fearsome looks and mad fighting skills make them the objects of trembling respect. But are they really as tough as they look? What if a romantic heart is beating beneath that muscled chest? CMX offers up two fun new manga series that look at just what happens when tough guys fall in love.

My Darling! Miss Bancho, vol. 1
Mayu Fujikata
Age Rating: T/Teen
CMX, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4012-2055-6
192 pages, $9.99

Souka’s parents have gotten divorced, so she’s decided to save money and focus on her future career by transferring from an expensive private school to a technical school. But when she gets to Tokugawa Tech, she finds out that it’s a place full of delinquents who spent all of their time fighting. And, to make things even worse, she’s the only girl in the whole school! Souka is determined to tough it out, though, and she shows back up to school each day. But when she accidentally defeats the Bancho (gang leader) of the school, Souka is named the new Bancho and that’s where her troubles really begin!

My Darling! Miss Bancho is Fujikata’s first manga series, but that’s only obvious in some weaknesses in her art and even those are only evident in the first chapter. Otherwise her story is cute and silly in just the right way. Shouka is an ordinary girl who has amazing luck when it comes to protecting herself. This is what lands her in the role of Bancho, but it’s also what protects her from the adoration of the boys at her school, a rough-and-tumble bunch whose enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of them. Yuuji, the leader of the freshmen boys, is the love interest, though neither Yuuji nor Souka know that at first. His personality is at odds with his tough-guy role, which Fujikata uses for humorous effect. Fujikata slowly allows us to see the different personalities of the other boys, so we learn about them as Souka does. It’s a nice technique that draws the reader into the story. Though nothing in this first volume is deep, readers will laugh at the antics in this amusing school. A good choice for readers who like their romance a little wacky.

Stolen Hearts, vol. 1
Miku Sakamoto
Age Rating: T/Teen
CMX, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-4012-2051-8
192 pages, $9.99

Koguma is the most feared boy at school. He’s 6’2" and has an intimidating face, so everyone believes the stories about him being a tough guy. So when tiny Shinobu–who is only 4’10"–accidentally spills milk on Koguma’s bag, she expects the worst, especially after finding out that it contains an antique kimono. But all that Koguma asks in return is that she help out at his grandmother’s kimono shop. Soon Shinobu realizes that Koguma is really a softie, but how can she get the other students at school to see what she sees? Or should she try to keep Koguma all to herself?

Sakamoto’s romance is touching and funny at the same time. Koguma is a big teddy bear, literally. (His name means "bear cub.") He gets adorably flustered at the least little thing and his attempts to be friendly are always misconstrued. Shinobu, on the other hand, doesn’t seem daunted by much, despite her small stature. When she realizes her feelings for Koguma, she goes for it, displaying a pluckiness that is appealing and refreshing. Once readers meet Koguma’s grandmother, Fujiko, they’ll see why Koguma falls for Shinobu. Fujiko is amusingly direct and doesn’t allow anything to stand in her way. The three, accompanied by a host of generic side characters, engage readers in their lives and make the story fun.

The art is a perfect fit. Shinobu is as adorable as she should be and Koguma is gently handsome, once people see past his height. Adult readers will appreciate that Fujiko is depicted as being pretty, not drawn as a crone like too many grandmothers are. The real stars of the show, though, are the kimonos. A story set in a kimono shop is naturally going to have many kimonos in the story and this one is candy for the eyes in that respect. Pair this delightful romance with Banri Hidaka’s V.B. Rose (TokyoPop), which is about a girl working in a custom wedding dress shop, and with Dark Horse’s upcoming Okimono Kimono, about Mokona (a member of manga art group CLAMP) and her love of kimono. All three will be enjoyed by romantic readers who also love crafts.

This review is based on complimentary copies supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © CMX.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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