Lovefool 08.11.13 | Fall In Love With a Comic!

Rena has a secret career as a manga artist but she has a tough time accepting her good fortune, both in art and in love, in Chitose Yagami’s Fall in Love Like a Comic!



Earlier this week, I sent Mr. BFF an email that just said “Dude, it is totally reassuring that David Byrne has no idea what the hell is going on, either. As Exhibit A, I present ‘Once in a Lifetime’.” That was it, the entire email, no context given. And, because he must’ve been having a particularly flawless day, Mr. BFF gave me the absolute correct response, which is that “anyone, myself included, who ever claims to have a firm grasp on the milieu of being alive is frontin’.”
I frequently have to remind myself of that on Sunday mornings after I’ve been hanging out with my successful, attractive friends who stayed sober enough to successfully eat falafel. (I mean, in my defense, eating falafel sober is tricky. It’s so crumbly, like, the second it starts to cool down enough to eat.) There’s something particularly soul-sucking about Sundays after excellent Saturdays that I just can’t explain but eventually boils down to me feeling awful about myself for reasons beyond my ken. I’m not awful. I’m pretty okay, you know? So why do I wake up so blue after amazing days? Is it that I’m having fun and some part of me thinks I shouldn’t be? Am I secretly all weirded out that people who are awesome think I’m worth spending time with and genuinely like me? I mean, I have redeeming qualities. I’m nice. I’m intelligent and fairly well-read. I own my questionable fashion choices. I’m fun at parties. I have an epic deadpan but will also tipsily sing along with Queen.
Human beings have trouble accepting good fortune, though. Chitose Yagami’s Rena Sakura, the heroine of VIZ Media’s Fall in Love Like a Comic!, certainly can’t believe hers. She’s secretly a prolific and popular manga artist who balances that with being a high school student and doesn’t drop the ball in either area. Her career is a secret because her manga is what she and her readers identify as slightly risqué, meaning there’s smooching, and you know how high schoolers would act about that. Well, high schoolers in a different time and place, maybe. Ugh, high school, though. She’s eventually discovered when she has a chance encounter with Tomoya Okita, the prettiest and most elusive boy in school, that results in her leaving her drafts behind when she runs off, flustered. After talking to her editor about how her work would benefit from her getting some real-life experience in love, she asks Tomoya out and he, to her shock, says yes. All of this is beautifully rendered in traditional and delightful shojo style, all wide eyes and painfully pretty hair. Interestingly, the book also slips in some inside information on how manga is created since our heroine is employed in the field. It’s pretty cool, actually.
Fall in Love Like a Comic! sounds fluffy, and is, but is also really, really mature in places. For example, Tomoya gets all kinds of irritated when Rena insists in trying to neatly frame him as a manga hero. He’s a person, he insists, not a character. He stands his ground when Rena, in research mode, wants to move the relationship along a little faster than maybe necessary for them. For her part, Rena is amazingly focused on her career and the book shows her working to find a work-life balance, which is pretty incredible for a high school student. On the other hand, there’s a fake wedding that made me cringe a little, despite the fact that it was beautifully drawn, and Rena has some jealousy issues but…well, she’s a teenage girl. I’ll give her a pass because I’m going to have a moment of uncomfortable self-awareness and admit that I’ve had my own issues with that. To be fair, I’m probably not alone, making that kind of a universal experience that makes it a good fit for this story. What teenage girl, what person, doesn’t need to see someone being a little freaked out but also working it out and eventually being okay?
Because, again, despite the fact that she’s doing a balancing act I should like to manage now, she’s a teenage girl and her boyfriend is starting an acting career beside a teen idol in a drama based on her work. I can hardly blame her for being a little emotionally unbalanced by that and probably would’ve acted far worse about the whole thing. Overall, I would have to say that Rena and Tomoya have a generally healthy relationship, once I remember what it’s actually like to be a teenage human being, and everything resolves itself incredibly satisfactory in the second book, though, making this a quick, fun, happy-making read.
I picked up my car from a transit lot this morning and one of my current favorite songs came on, randomly, as part of a local station’s wayback weekend. The chances of that particular song coming on in the five minutes I was in the car were pretty low but there it was. And I commented on twitter that the radio gods must think I’m living right. That I dipped into VIZ’s digital archives and came up with Fall in Love Like a Comic! made me think that maybe, just maybe, it’s not just the radio gods but the universe in general smiling on me. | Erin Jameson

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