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Manga Review: Pastel Vol. 2

Pastel – Volume Two
Story and art by Toshihiko Kobayashi
(Past Reviews: Manga Volume One)
Publisher: Del Rey
Retail Price: $10.95
Release Date: March 2006
Pages: 208 b/w
Age Rating: 16+

When Mugi meets the gorgeous Yuu, it’s love at first sight. Imagine Mugi’s surprise, then, when he learns that they’ll be shacking up under the same roof along with Yuu’s cute and curious little sister. Just when Mugi is finally starting to get used to the idea of living with his dream girl, a third wheel rolls in.

Manami-chan is Mugi’s old friend from school, but boy has she grown up fast. It turns out that Manami-chan has always had a thing for Mugi, but the innocent young Mugi is completely oblivious. Only Yuu knows Manami’s secret. Now Mugi finds himself caught in the middle of a teenage love tug-of-war!

Extras:

About the author
Honorifics Guide
Translation Notes
Preview of Volume #3

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REVIEW – Rating: 8/10
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Kobayashi’s manga about teenage independence and frequently recurring semi-nude bath scenes continues in Pastel Volume Two, where our main character, one lovelorn Mugi, is attempting to deal with a summertime crush. In a bayside town that fosters only the most relaxed and/or jaded of townsfolk, Mugi lives on his own away from a workaholic father. When a family friend passes away however, Mugi’s father decided it would be easier for the orphaned children of the family friends to live with Mugi than by themselves. The problem? The elder sister Yuu is gorgeous sand forces Mugi to fall for her–whether she realizes it or not; and the younger sister Tsukasa, budding preteen as she is, thinks she has fallen in love with our guy Mugi herself.

A little more than your typical, summertime Romantic Comedy, Pastel from the beginning on through the second manga volume, takes only a few characters and dumps a whole bunch of social dilemmas on top of them to solve. Mugi is still getting over the loss of his last girlfriend and Yuu is getting over the loss of her parents. Meanwhile, as we find in this manga volume, an old schoolmate of Mugi’s, called Manami, comes over to visit as well. Of coarse, sharing close quarters with two attractive young women is both a dream and a nightmare for Mugi, who has the worse luck whenever happening across a changing room. Only to further complicate things, Manami’s presence only forces Mugi to blush a few panels faster. And yet despite it all, Mugi remains a strong and evolving character, smoothly moving from a cautious and indecisive boy and on into a confident and humble young man. One of the finer aspects of this comic is the progression we see in Mugi’s disposition towards others; a fine bit of continuity in an otherwise common genre of manga.

By throwing an old schoolmate (who obviously harbors a longtime crush) into the story, Pastel is attempting to complicate Mugi and Yuu’s relationship as much as possible. The two (Yuu and Mugi) embody what will probably evolve into a type of romance where both partners love one another but for one reason or another, refuse to tell each other of their feelings. Living together, undergoing the scrutiny of the public eye, and enduring the spot-on teasing (or is it torture?) of little Tsukasa are examples of such rational complications. And now that we have another potential lover in Minami, we officially have a love triangle.

Manami Sakiya is an interesting third point to this triangle as well; she’s both appealing and unappealing to Mugi in a number of ways. Aesthetically, she isn’t as pretty as Yuu, but Manami’s rough, slightly temperamental exterior visibly softens when she’s around Mugi. Juxtapose Yuu’s under-eager passivity with Manami’s straight talk and you might understand the conflict a little better. Manami is only told that Yuu is a “relative” of Mugi’s (to explain their living situation), but Manami is starting to catch on, and she’s starting to put the moves on the rather oblivious Mugi in the meantime.

I’ll agree that the school days friend angle could be ruled cliché, but I do believe it serves a purpose in this comic. For example, Manami knows one version of Mugi (simple & funny) while Yuu knows only one version of Mugi (honest & steadfast). Each of these versions of our lead character is a slightly embellished ideal of young Mugi, but is nevertheless true, in part. As a result, each girl’s expectations of Mugi require a different facet of Mugi’s maturity. Manami requires a good ‘ol days reactionary temperament, while Yuu is more forward-looking in how she wants Mugi (and herself as well) to behave. Pastel is a quick and enjoyable read, but thanks to this smartly worked love triangle, the story doesn’t move too fast for its own good.

As far as how the comic is progressing graphically, there has been a dramatic increase in the artist’s use of and subsequent detail of facial expressions. There are more blank faces, curious glances, discouraged sniffles and “Damn, there goes my chance” facades in the second volume of Pastel then the first, and all for the better. The clearest example of this I can offer up for analysis is a “face” that Yuu makes on occasion. As a reserved young woman who often finds her own passivity to be a far better looking glass than what presently occurs. Yuu is gentle, emotional and yet still very eager for things to go right. Given that she rarely starts a conversation on her won in this comic (for she almost always speaks in responses or interjections), the reading audience is therefore left to interpret her “faces” and gesturing as Yuu’s primary means of expression.

This face of Yuu’s in particular that will serve as an example, is a bit of a mixed expression in and of itself; representing worry, frustration and sincerity all at the same time. Her eyebrows are faintly u-shaped, her eyes are on the verge of watering over, and her dainty mouth is drawn with a meek quiver. Yu appears in this manner to chiefly express disappointment–such as whenever she calls Mugi an “idiot” only to forgive him two frames later–however, she also looks this way as a matter of hope. Pastel is narrated by Mugi, so we rarely know what goes on inside the mind of the girls. Nevertheless, this expression helps us peer into Yuu’s genuine sense of relief whenever she is around [an honest] Mugi. It reveals to us that, although frustrated with him at times, Yuu really does feel something for him.

The downsides to the second manga do not reflect the first manga volume all that much, and ultimately represent change or adjustment of pace that the series has shown thus far. The ridiculous amount of semi-nude/bathing scenes is cut in half, and the weak characterization seems to have filtered into something a little more engaging. Kazuki, Mugi’s best friend, only has a few appearances in this volume, but I can’t say that I really miss him all that much. I am still hoping however to further get into the mind of the reserved Yuu some more… but until that happens, I guess I’ll remain satisfied with what I have for now.