Sunday, September 8, 2013

Skip Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura

Title: Skip Beat! (Sukippu Bito!)
Author: Yoshiki Nakamura
Volumes: 32 (ongoing)
Volumes (English): 31 (ongoing)

Kyoko Mogami followed her true love Sho to Tokyo to support him while he made it big as an idol. But he's casting her out now that he's famous! Kyoko won't suffer in silence--she's going to get her sweet revenge by beating Sho in show biz!

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Holy fuck that's a long post! Skip to the bottom for the cliff notes version.
When my local Librarian first suggested this series to me I rolled my eyes and checked out a string of disappointing reads instead. After about a month of this I finally checked out the first ten volumes of the series. I read those in about two days and then made another trip to the library, enduring a good natured “I told you so” from my friendly Librarian, and checked out the rest. I basically read 29 volumes in about a week. I couldn’t put it down!

This Japanese shoujo manga series has one of the most ridiculous premises that I’ve encountered (Ouran High School Host Club aside) and yet it’s one of the best manga series I’ve ever read. Not only is this series hysterical (expect inelegant snorting and hyena-like laughing) it’s also strangely bittersweet and poignant. There’s a hopeful sadness that flows beneath the surface of the series that adds dimension to the characters and overall plot.

The main character, Kyoko, is naive and kind of deranged (in the best possible way). Her quest to become a famous Japanese superstar in order to spite her pseudo ex-boyfriend is both silly and hilarious. One of the best scenes in the first volume is when Sho Fuwa, the up-and-coming famous pop idol, dumps Kyoko. It’s both heartbreaking and hilarious. You can’t help but feel for Kyoko as something in her just breaks. The author keeps this from getting maudlin by incorporating a great deal of humor in this scene. Kyoko goes from heartbroken to enraged in about two seconds flat and her pandora box of mini demon-like Kyokos attack him.

She literally attacks him with rage! It’s fantastically funny, especially as she then tries to break into the entertainment industry for the sole purpose of destroying Sho and his career. The best part is that from this insane idea she actually discovers her passion (although she still can’t quite give up her grudge), gains a best friend in Moko Kotonami (in spite of Moko’s initial desire to avoid all things Kyoko), and possibly even love (although she is still in complete denial of this).

The entertainment angle really isn’t the point of the series. The series actually revolves around Kyoko learning how to love again. This is explored both seriously and humorously throughout the series. One of the more humorous aspects is that she is assigned by her eccentric boss, Lory Takarada, to the Love Me Section of L.M.E (Lory’s Majestic Entertainment). The name of his agency should give you an idea of the kind of person Lory is. He’s extravagant, flamboyant and over the top and yet he sees people the clearest. Things always get interesting when he enters a scene.

Is that a snake or are you just happy to see me?
As a Love Me member, Kyoko is scored by the person she is performing the task for on how much love she puts into whatever task she is given. This is supposed to help her rediscover her ability to love. As a Love Me member she is given all sorts of tasks, from the menial job of scraping gum from the floor to being a substitute manager. No task is too small or big for the Love Me members.

Kyoko has two main love interests, Sho Fuwa and Ren Tsuruga. Ren and Sho have a pretty straightforward relationship with each other...they each despise the other. Sho is incredibly jealous of Ren, at first because Ren is more popular than him and later when it becomes obvious that Kyoko has feelings for Ren his jealousy turns pretty ugly. For Ren, Sho didn’t even exist on his radar early in the series. It wasn’t until Sho started re-inserting himself into Kyoko’s life that Ren started to take an interest in him.

Sho Fuwa: Sho is Kyoko’s first love and also her first heartbreak. She loved him so much, wrongly assuming that he felt the same way, that she pulls a Felicity and follows him to Tokyo where she then supports him as he tries to make it in the music industry. Once he starts to make it big he, typically, dumps Kyoko after she catches him practically making out with his agent. To add insult to injury he then mocks her while she’s being escorted out of the building by security and issues the challenge that the only way she could hurt him is if she became a bigger star than him.

I honestly don’t get why people ship Sho and Kyoko. Sure he’s hot, but that’s about all he has going for him. There are times when he acts almost human and puts Kyoko’s needs before his own, but it doesn’t happen very often and usually he’s spurred on by jealousy because another guy is showing interest in her. He has the typical dog in the manger attitude of “I don’t want her, but I don’t want anyone else to have her either.”

Ren Tsuruga: Ren essentially becomes Kyoko’s mentor in the entertainment industry. He’s the number one actor in Japan and everyone wants to be him or know him. When he first meets Kyoko he gives her a hard time because he feels her reasons for joining the entertainment industry taint the profession. He begins to thaw towards her when he realizes that she not only has talent, but passion for the profession and eventually he becomes her confidant and mentor.

One of the more beautiful things about this series is watching Ren’s emotions towards Kyoko evolve. Like Kyoko he tries to protect his heart by not allowing himself to be vulnerable to love. However, as he gets to know Kyoko you can see him falling for her and she falling for him. At this point in the series he’s finally admitted to himself that he’s completely gone for her while she’s still desperately ignoring her feelings.

Skip Beat! has some amazing supporting characters. Many of them have a back story that is revealed throughout the series and this adds a certain amount of depth to the characters that you don’t always find in manga and I find myself just as interested in them as I am in Kyoko, Ren and Sho.

Kanae "Moko" Kotonami: Kyoko’s best friend Moko (a nickname Kyoko gives her early on in the series without her permission) is one of my favorite characters. She’s a great actress, but like Kyoko has issues with love. She’s the second member of the Love Me Section. She hated Kyoko when they first met, but time and Kyoko’s kindness and friendliness has worn down Moko’s reserve and I’d say they are officially best friends. Like Ren, she’s a character who needs Kyoko in her life. Throughout the series, especially at the beginning of the series, we watch her struggle to find a balance between her reserve and need for friendship. I can completely relate to Moko as she opens herself up to Kyoko and allows herself to care about someone. I like her best because I can relate to her reserve, her need to be in control and her vulnerability.

Yukihito Yashiro: I also really like Ren’s manager, Yashiro. He’s one of the only characters who really feels at ease teasing Ren. Through Yashiro’s reactions and his snarky comments about Ren’s evolving feelings for Kyoko we are given a better understanding of Ren’s feelings for Kyoko. Yashiro says what Ren is feeling...although in a giggling schoolgirl kind of way. He's the ultimate shipper and fangirl for Kyoko's and Ren's relationship. Some of the best scenes are when Ren, Yashiro and Kyoko are together. Kyoko is obtuse to Ren’s feelings and Ren is trying to keep cool. All the while Yashiro is there with a running commentary that Ren gets, but Kyoko doesn’t. While there are several more supporting characters that I really like, Moko and Yashiro are my favorite.

Lastly, I love the artwork in Skip Beat! I hate reading a manga where all of the characters look the same. Skip Beat! does a good job of creating a unique depiction of each character. One of the best things about this series is how each character gets a makeover depending on what they’re currently acting in. (This is the best perk, I think, of having the series focus around the entertainment industry.) Currently, Ren and Kyoko have a sort of punk look going on which is one of my favorite looks for them, although this isn’t my favorite arc of the series. I think the mangaka, Yoshiki Nakamura, does a good job balancing the serious with the funny in her artwork as well.

I highly recommend this manga series, especially to people that liked Fruitsbasket, Ouran High School Host Club, and High School Debut. It’s one of the better shoujo mangas out there right now with strongly developed characters and a premise that is as entertaining as it is implausible. I'll warn you now that it is a long series and there hasn’t been an announcement on how many volumes the manga will ultimately be. Currently there are 31 volumes released in America (the 31st volume just came out on June 4th). If you do start reading the series try and get at least 5-7 volumes at a time because you will not want to stop reading and the pacing of the story is quite slow (it would have to be with 30+ volumes).

Read my review of Skip Beat! Volume 32


  1. I'm reading number 17 right now and I love it! Thanks for introducing it to me. I'll have to pick up some of the others that you said are similar to it. I need some more that are like Mars or Boys Over Flowers. Any suggestions?

    Great post, Amy! I love the way you review. It's both entertaining and smart. :)

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying my posts.

      High School Debut and Ouran High School Host Club matches the absurdity in Boys Over Flowers and has a romantic element as well. They also have strong female leads who don't act in a typical way.

      If you liked Mars I think you'd enjoy We Were There, Say I Love You and Sand Chronicles. Like Mars, there's a somberness below the surface of these stories. They're also edgier and more realistic and than other shojo manga.

      Say I Love You hasn't been published in English yet (I think the first volume publishes in 2014), but you can find them translated online or you can watch the anime. The anime is excellent and how I was first introduced to the series.