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Pastel Vol. 7- 8 (Del Rey)

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pastel-header.jpgClean art and a new super-cute love interest don't quite save this exploration of the inner, perverted workings of a teenage man's mind.

 

 

217 pgs. ea. B&W; $10.95 ea.

(W / A: Toshihiko Kobayashi)

 

The cover to Pastel Vol. 7. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Pastel follows the adventures of Mugi Tadano, allegedly an orphaned 16 year old boy. (I say "allegedly," because he looks 13 at the most.) Mugi is hopelessly in love with Yuu Tsukisaki, a cheerful, spacy girl prone to random panty shots. Thanks to absentee parents, Mugi and Yuu live together, essentially "playing house." Mugi is the breadwinner and cook, using the knowledge he's gained by working at nearby restaurants to provide for Yuu. Yuu basically sits around the house.

 

Like Strawberry 100%, a similarly "harem"-themed manga, Pastel does an excellent job of revealing the inner, perverted workings of a teenage man's mind. Mugi is prone to sudden sexual fantasies about Yuu, and the breezes in this manga always seem aimed directly underneath girls' skirts. (Some may see this as a plus, I suppose.)

 

And of course, while Mugi declares that he "only has eyes for Yuu," for some unknown reason a host of young, attractive females just can't stay away from him. There's Sayuri, the tomboyish alcoholic model who thinks it's perfectly acceptable to parade around Yuu and Mugi's house half-nude. But she's not the real problem: in these volumes, Mugi's love for Yuu is challenged by the arrival of Hana Hanayama, a "super-cute" high schooler who won't take no for an answer—and looks just like Mugi's ex-girlfriend.

 

Did someone say upskirt shot? The cover to Pastel Vol. 8. Click for a larger image.While Toshihiko Kobayashi's art is a joy to look at, full of clean lines and highly detailed backgrounds, Pastel's plot quickly gets repetitive. It goes like this: well-meaning Mugi makes plans to spend time with Yuu, but his friends/coworkers/cadre of female stalkers foil those plans. If Yuu wasn't so completely clueless about Mugi's love for her, one gets the feeling she'd be really annoyed by now.

 

And when it comes to Yuu herself, there's not much for the reader to love. Sure, she's breezy and bubbly, but she doesn't possess an ounce of autonomy, or the ability to speak her mind. She's basically there as a lust object for Mugi, not a fully realized character in her own right. Near as I can tell, she just sits at home waiting for Mugi to make dinner. And the storyline, obviously designed to keep the two protagonists in a holding pattern (minus the holding), doesn't do her any favors—Mugi's continually frustrated attempts to be with Yuu feel increasingly drawn out and contrived. Think Hana Yori Dango, without the personality, humor, or depth. | J. Bowers

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