Cherry Juice Vol. 1 (Tokyopop)

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cherryjuice-header.jpgThe creator of Instant Teen: Just Add Nuts! takes "brotherly love" to a whole other level with this tale of step-siblings in love.

 

 

182 pgs. B&W; $9.99

(W / A: Haruka Fukushima)

 

There's loving your brother, and then there's loving your brother. And Cherry Juice, a new shojo series by Haruka Fukushima, definitely explores the more disturbing side of sibling affection. Not for the faint at heart (or the under thirteen), Cherry Juice follows the budding romance of junior high-schoolers and stepsiblings Minami and Otome as they struggle to reconcile their mutual attraction with the obvious obstacle that stands in their way. Of course, things would be less complicated if they weren't forced to share a bedroom, as well as parents, friends, and grandparents. According to Fukushima's notes at the beginning of the volume, Cherry Juice was born out of "her fantasies about how nice it would be to have a hot younger brother." Like I said, disturbing.

 

As expected, Cherry Juice is chock-full of awkward situations involving open bathroom doors, nudity, and innocent bickering that somehow evolves into lustful embraces. These are common themes in any shojo manga, but the addition of incest gives every contrived shojo situation that special "should I be reading this?" touch of taboo. Not to mention the fact that the series' principal characters seem to be getting naked, sweaty, or wet on nearly every other page. You'll find yourself constantly wondering how old these people are supposed to be. What's more, Amane, Minami's best friend, has developed a crush on Otome, and Minami feels a brotherly duty to protect his step-sister from Amane's advances. Still, more than a few moments in the book seem to imply that Amane also has a crush on Minami. There's a wonderfully self-aware yaoi (boys' love) moment just a few short pages into the manga, when Minami kisses Amane, and nearby characters comment "So this is that kind of manga, now?"

 

That said, the step-siblings-in-love storyline has been put to better, less ridiculous use in titles like Hot Gimmick and Marmalade Boy. There aren't any obvious obstacles keeping Minami and Otome apart, so the concept of their taboo love is mostly used for comedy, and about one-eighth of the book is devoted to pointless pinups of the two star-crossed sibling lovers clinched in romantic embraces.

 

Fukushima's drawing style is cutesy, but not overly so. Her layouts often rely on huge splash panels to showcase key scenes, and her margins are frequently peppered with stars, flowers, and random snippets of badly translated English. There's little to no plot here, and the plot that we do receive is contrived, predictable, and stale. Cherry Juice is probably a little—okay, a lot—more mature than its age rating suggests. It's bizarre enough to warrant a quick flip-through at your local bookstore, and nothing more. This juice is definitely from concentrate. | J. Bowers

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