Tomoko Taniguchi. Central Park Media, $9.99 (179pp) ISBN 978-1-58664-900-5
This volume contains a trio of tales: ""Aquarium"", ""The Flying Stewardesses"" and ""The Heart is your Kingdom"" from the eclectic mind of Tomoko Taniguichi. The first story is about the pressures associated with the Japanese school system and the difficulties of taking the test which allows a student to go from middle school to high school. If students don't score high enough, they're not accepted to the next level and can feel as if their lives are ruined by not getting into the school of choice. Naoka is devastated when she isn't accepted into her best friend's high school. She's ashamed, depressed, and not sure she deserves to live (A number of Japanese teenagers commit suicide over test results every year.) She takes refuge in her love of the aquarium, spending hours there, and meeting a young man who shares some of her interests. Depressed by the situation, she's not sure if even that is enough to keep her here on this earth. Can his feelings for her ground Naoka or will she make a tragic decision? Although committing suicide over bad grades isn't as common in Western circles, most readers will be able to relate to Naoka's feeling of failure and disappointment over not getting exactly what she wanted. Taniguchi's shojo-style storytelling is slight in places, but captures the emotions of the characters well.
Reviewed on: 03/31/2008