A manga review this time :)
Author: Wataru Yoshizumi
Title: Marmalade Boy
Release period: 2002-2003
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: around 200 pages in each volume
Availability: Long out of print, might be available in libraries
Talk about dysfunctional! Miki is horrified to learn that her parents have swapped with another couple, and that all four now plan to live under one roof. But when her new stepbrother, Yuu, shows up, he appears to be just the one to ease her mental anguish... that is, until she sees the bitterness beneath his cool exterior. The strange romance that follows would make any love triangle seem ordinary by comparison.
Now this series is a true shoujo classic and one of the first, popular and well-liked girls manga translated into English. The books were also made into an 76-episode anime series in the 90s. I can clearly see why it’s so popular and loved.
The manga is a delightful light romantic comedy/drama/slice-of-life series. It borders on overdramatic and tangled-relationships-mayhem, like most such genre mangas tend to fall into which span more than 5 volumes, but it never crosses it, thus I couldn’t really find anything or anyone overly annoying. This is already a huge advantage to the series. You might feel that now she/he is almost over the line, but then it’s settled and smart choices have been made. This made the characters likable and easy to root for.
The overall plot is kind of soap-opera-like yet nothing is over exaggerated or overdramatized and issues and controversial topic are introduced in such a light and positive way that I gladly take everything in that the story gives me without any complaint or weirdness. And amongst the delicate topics is the spine of the manga: Two sets of married couples falling in love with the other’s husbands and wives, the children of these couples falling in love, student-teacher relationship, etc. They are the building blocks that keep the story exciting. There were also several love rivals for the main couple, but the former knew when to give up so it didn’t get out hand or ridiculous. There were no love triangles that fully realized, which was wonderful.
Miki and Yuu were adorable together, there was no excessive jealousy, controlling behavior, huge insecurities, giant obstacles to overcome (ok, there was one in the final volume, but I like to pretend that doesn’t exist), misunderstandings or anything that came across overly frustrating or irrational – their relationship was simply sweet, straightforward and ordinary (despite their parents being married and them being one step apart from being step-siblings).
The final volume, however, was pointless, really silly and simply a way to squeeze out another volume without actually anything worthwhile happening there. The whole issue on the forefront in that volume was illogical and easily solved, they could have just talked to their parents and things would have been solved in volume 7 in a snap, but it had to be dragged and this also made it seem out-of-place with the overall atmosphere of the manga. The air turned really angsty, childish and theatrical.
The art has for someone like me, who has read manga for over 10 years, a nostalgic, oldie style. It’s all clean, the panels are quite airy, there isn’t a cluttered amount of text or drawings, so it’s also easy and fast to get through. The art needs also to be complimented in the sense that teenagers actually look their age, adults are clearly adults and I don’t feel that I’ve been stuck in a world of gorgeous supermodel manga characters.
From the characters, Miki was definitely my favorite, since she is all-around lovable, quirky and cute. Yuu was slightly mysterious, smart, handsome and somewhat mischievous. I also liked Ginta, Miki’s first love – he was such an awkward boyish nice-guy. Even the serene, introverted and beautiful Meiko, Miki’s best friend, was sympathetic and likable.
This is actually one of the ideal first shoujo manga I would recommend to try out when you haven’t read manga before and want to, without much hassle, slowly dive into Japanese comics and, specifically, the girl’s manga genre. It’s doesn’t have that many volumes, the topics aren’t too drastic, Japanese culture and daily life isn’t too overwhelmingly contrasty in it, the characters are very likable – it’s simply an excellent introduction to the shoujo genre.
Other covers from the series: