Short-Tempered Melancholic and Other Stories (VIZ Media/Shojo Beat)

stm-header.gifAn "interesting" collection of short stories from Arina Tanemura (Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne, Full Moon wo Sagashite).




181 pgs. B&W; $8.99 (paperback)

(W / A: Arina Tanemura)


Short-Tempered Melancholic and Other Stories presents four short stories (or five, depending on how you count) by Arina Tanemura, well-known among fans of shojo manga and anime for Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne and Full Moon wo Sagashite. The volume includes her earliest manga, "The Style of the Second Love" (published in Ribon all the way back in 1996!), the two related stories "Short-Tempered Melancholic" and "Short-Tempered Melancholic: Without You," "This Love is Nonfiction," and "Rainy Afternoons are for Romantic Heroes."

The cover to Short-Tempered Melancholic by Arina Tanemura. Click for a larger image.It’s always interesting to read short-fiction manga: the challenge of creating a world populated with interesting characters within 30-50 pages, and introducing and resolving a conflict in that length of time, is entirely different from that of sustaining interest over a multi-volume series. It’s also interesting to compare works from different phases in an author’s career.

And the fact that I used "interesting" twice in the previous paragraph should clue you in to the fact that I’m stalling while I try to find something positive to say without discrediting my initial reaction, which is that this is a fairly mediocre collection of manga by an author who has done much better work.

The main problem may be one of market:  Short-Tempered Melancholic is rated T for Teen, but it really seems more suitable for tweens (the target market for Ribon, which publishes much of Tanemura’s work, is girls 9-13 years old). These stories tend to the formulaic and the artwork, while skillful, is sweet enough to cause tooth decay: the same surfeit of flowers, hearts, and really soulful hairstyles which might totally charm a 9-year-old is likely to prompt quite a different response from any moderately sophisticated American teenager.

Now that we’ve solved the question of age appropriateness, the collection starts to look better. All the stories are set in schools and deal with the travails of young love. The title story is the best: it deals with a teenage kunoichi (female ninja) who has been warned to conceal her powers but keeps revealing them by saving the lives of small children and such. I guess you just can’t trust a girl to keep a secret. Then she falls for a guy who can only be described by that marvelous sixties designation Male Chauvinist Pig: he uses emotional blackmail to try to get her to betray herself, wouldn’t you know he has an ulterior motive as well. "This Love is Nonfiction" is a tale of pen pals and mistaken identities, "Rainy Afternoons are for Romantic Heroines" is about a girl who prays for rain and deliberately forgets her umbrella so her chosen dreamboat will have to share his to walk her home, and "The Style of the Second Love" is another variation on why the one you think you want may not be the one who is right for you.

The art is shojo to the extreme, featuring some of the biggest eyes, frilliest dresses, and most emotive hair ever seen on the page. There’s good variety in the layout and the action flows well, although some of the larger frames are lacking in detail, as if they were simply enlarged versions of smaller drawings. The cover image seems to have been drawn partially in crayon: maybe this is some new stylistic trend I have missed up to now, but it really looks odd. The drawings aren’t terribly detailed, but there are some nice touches. I love Minori’s necklace of crying teruteru bozu in "Rainy Afternoons are for Romantic Heroines:" they’re dolls hung outdoors to bring good weather, while of course what she wants is rain. Detailed author’s notes are included, in very small type: the content is interesting but may have you reaching for your bifocals. Although, come to think of it, that won’t be a consideration for the age group most likely to be reading these stories. | Sarah Boslaugh

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