Monday, November 19, 2012

Manga Review: Concerto

Concerto is an all-yuri series of one-shots that Hattori Mitsuru (better known to anime fans as the creator of Sankarea... which I haven't seen or read) published in Young Animal magazine from 2005 to 2011. The quality of Concerto's stories is highly variable, but overall, I like it.

Ino plays the guitar and Hitomi plays the piano. They've been best friends since they took music lessons at the same place as small children. They've kissed, but their relationship is still in the gray area between friends and lovers. In "Concerto", Ino and Hitomi's school asks them to perform together at the end of their graduation ceremony. A crisis crops up when Hitomi and Ino question the nature of their relationship (or put less sentimentally, Ino: "After we graduate, we'll always be friends!" Hitomi: "I don't just want to be friends. IF YOU CATCH MY DRIFT. *bow chicka wow wow*" Ino: "Wait, what? *runs away*" Hitomi: ";_; ..."), causing Hitomi to stop showing up at school. After Ino tells Hitomi that she returns her feelings (shouting from outside Hitomi's house while strumming a guitar, which I thought was cute in a dopey romantic comedy movie kind of way), Hitomi makes it to the ceremony and she and Ino make up by performing, capping it off with a kiss in front of the entire school. Despite the ham-handedness of its confession scene, this is a cute story- helped by that especially nice ending. :-)

"Longing" wins the Story That Feels Like It Should Be a Skit in the Vagina Monologues award. At Ino and Hitomi's school, a few years after their graduaton, Kyouko is in love with Touko, her cool, stoic sempai in the kyuudo club. Kyouko learns that Touko hates her body for being "manly." Touko has always felt that way, but has been beating herself up more over it and slumping in kyuudo since her boyfriend dumped her for the same reason. Kyouko tells Touko that she has always thought Touko was beautiful and doesn't understand her self-loathing. They get together. Touko pulls out of her slump and publicly dedicates her next competitive kyuudo win "to my beloved Kyouko!" As you can imagine, I liked that ending also. :-) Kyouko and Touko's connection isn't as developed as those between the other couples in this book (excluding the characters in "Spice"), but it's still a cute story.

"Spice" is a dumb, PWP-ish story about a glasses-wearing plain Jane named Kotori, and Rui, the hot young teacher who everyone wants.

"Innocent"'s couple is my favorite. Fumiko, a high school first-year, is in the art club. One day after painting in the art room, she looks at a painting discarded by a third-year she hadn't seen there before. The painting is a realistic rendering of a naked woman.

A friend of Fumiko's tells her that the third-year, Ritsu, has been a school pariah since she unwittingly outed herself in her third year of middle school. Despite Fumiko's friend's warning to stay away from Ritsu and Ritsu's obvious distrust of her schoolmates, Fumiko befriends Ritsu, bonding over their love of painting.

Fumiko falls in love with Ritsu and, remembering her friend's warning about how folks reacted to Ritsu's outing, agrees to pose nude for Ritsu's graduation project. As Ritsu paints Fumiko, the tension between them, as expected, becomes thick enough to cut with a knife. Fumiko finally tells Ritsu she is "of the same mind", and they kiss. As much as I like the public coming outs in "Concerto" and "Longing", this private one made me squee the most.

Fast forward two years, and we see Fumiko looking at Ritsu's graduation painting in the art room. Smiling, Fumiko plans to do a painting of her "beloved" for her graduation project. This book's bonus art confirms that Ritsu is the subject of Fumiko's graduation painting.  ^_^

In "Rendezvous," Chizu's girlfriend Yayoi is temporarily living with Chizu and her family. When Chizu's mom catches Chizu and Yayoi kissing, Chizu and Yayoi run away. They return home after running out of money, expecting to be separated but ready to show their parents they're serious about each other. But. When Chizu's mom sees them, she goes all blushy and nostalgic and tells them that she'll keep their relationship a secret from Chizu's dad since she gets how they feel, because she dated some girls when she was young. That works. lol I agree with Erica that this plot point has a potentially problematic reading, but I'm choosing not to read it that way and just taking it as a lucky break for Chizu and Yayoi. So anyway- now that Chizu and Yayoi have returned, there are rumors about them at school, but they don't care and are confident that the god of marriage will always watch over them. :-)

So like I said, this collection is a mixed bag, although really, it's only the third story that I wouldn't miss. For its problems (including some obvious male gazeyness; see the magazine it ran in), I still enjoyed it overall.

Story: I'll give "Innocent" a B+, "Concerto" and "Rendezvous" a B, "Longing" a B-, and a plain old "blah" to "Spice."
Art: It's fine. Starts out pretty sketchy, gets much more polished by the fifth story. C+
Overall: B


Ashlynn Grimm said...

I loved each story, and although Spice certainly wasn't as good as the others, I have this thing for role reversals.

My absolute favorite was probably Longing though. It was the one that I can remember the most after reading this a year ago after all. I guess because I was routing for Kyoko.

One thing that really sold me though was how they go public in a very public way at the end of the first two chapters >.< Oh, but Rendezvous had a cute end with the mother too!

Oh well, Concerto was different from a lot of other series I've read. The love is physical, but not in any type of "I just wrote this in the hopes that some horny guys will buy it and make me money" kind of way. It's physical, emotional, cute, sweet and I loved each couple quite dearly. ~ Spice maybe being the only real exception.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Ashlynn- The love is physical, but not in any type of "I just wrote this in the hopes that some horny guys will buy it and make me money" kind of way.
I agree- esp given the magazine it ran in, this series could have easily been superficial service-bait, but its author put effort into writing actual characters with believable relationships. (Well, aside from Spice, haha)