Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Favorite Manga: Love Roma

God, am I a sucker for stories like this. Slice-of-life romance, particularly of the Seinen and Josei kind (not that I have anything against Shoujo, and if a Shonen slice-of-lifer that isn't by Mitsuru Adachi exists, please tell me now) is possibly the very best kind of manga, and this book was my first brush with these. I also happen to be partial to horror and psycho-thriller. The grouping together of these two genres may seem random at first, but take a look at what was popular in american comics (besides super hero) before the Comics Code stunk up the room: ROMANCE AND HORROR. As most manga fans would like to think of manga as the road not taken in American comics, it makes perfect sense that such once omnipresent genres would find a strong place in our Japan-centric communities. But that is not what I am here to discuss. I am here to tell you about my favorite manga, Love Roma, by Minoru Toyoda.

Hoshino, an overly honest teenage boy, is in love with Negishi, a cute girl in class 2. The manga opens with Hoshino bluntly admiting his feelings to Negishi, in a very funny scene that sets the mood for the rest of the five-volume series. After some time (by some, I mean less than a chapter), Negishi and Hoshino are going out, exploring the ups, downs, and inbetweens of being young and in love. Every chapter shows the two making a new discovery about life and sharing it with another, in witty, charming everyday adventures.

As you can imagine, this book really made me swoon. I was dragged along in the character's romance heart skipping along the way. Accompanied by this blushing and swooning is first-rate humor. The combination of believable characters and unlikely-yet-familiar scenarios creates a light, fun mood certain to give any reader a little chuckle. And speaking of believable characters, Toyoda has a very interesting way of setting up his cast. They each have only one trait, but their personalities are fleshed out in a remarkably human way to reflect said traits. Accenting all this is quirky, indie-style artwork that just keeps getting better with each chapter.

However, the series is not perfect. A common shortcoming of slice-of-life storytelling, the plot can get really repetitive. The stories have a very specific structure, and there's not exactly much room for dramatic tension. But Toyoda knew when to stop, and at only 5 volumes, Love Roma is a perfect length.

Recently Del Rey Manga, the company who published Love Roma in english, have (essentially) folded/rebranded itself Kodansha USA, meaning that this title may soon be out of print. Whoever is reading this, go snatch up a copy of this beautiful title while you still can. Everyone should read this.

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