Pastel Vol. 4-5 (Del Rey)

pastelWhere Teenage Drama Meets Skinemax Fantasy





B/W; 208 pages; $10.95; pastel4
(W/I: Toshihiko Kobayashi)

Secret loves and sexual tensions divide the characters in Toshihiko Kobayashi's latest installments of Pastel, a tale of struggling love and teenage hormones. The story focuses on Mugi Tadano, a young boy living under the same roof as Yuu Tsukisaki, the girl he loves, and from there, the conflicts fan out into a series of obstacles that threaten Mugi's chances to tell Yuu how he feels.

Unfortunately for readers, wading through Kobayashi's contrived storyline calls for more effort than most are probably willing to make. Excepting the occasional strange appearance of characters like the wandering artist, the books seem more like a glorification of budding sexualities than an actual story. Conflicts are simple and often resolved in some predictably cute fashion, as when readers discover Mikan, the recently-adopted kitty, is the culprit responsible for tampering with the scale that makes all the girls in Mugi's household think they've gained weight. Also, locations, when they do change, seem only to do so in order to give Kobayashi another way to showcase the female characters.

Whether it's kittens crawling around beneath a girl's shirt, posed T&A shots, bath scenes, girl-on-girl wrestling, shirtless pictures, crotch angles, or fondling moments, Koboyashi delivers a variety of skeaze for readers. The only thing readers won't see is an all-out boot-knockin' session (at least not until the books' rating raises).

Still, there are some shining moments along the way, which come in the form of Kobayashi's artwork. Generally, not a whole lot stands out in volume four, no grossly misshapen or misrendered scenes, though now and again several of the girls begin to resemble aliens. Volume five has some particularly strong illustrations, especially in the depictions of landscapes and late-night train track walks.

Overall, these two volumes are rather unremarkable with nuggets of inspiration buried in a bed of poor romance and high school dramatics that do little to distract readers from the story's triteness. One wonders how long Kobayashi can keep up the string of relationship near misses and whether there will be any reason to read after Mugi resolves his conflict—assuming readers will even want follow Kobayashi to that point. | James Nokes

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