Short Sunzen! Vol. 1

Susugi Sakurai, Created by . Tokyopop $9.99 (0p) ISBN 978-1-59816-937-9

If there is a genre of manga that is yanki shojo (gangster girl comics), then Sunzen! is it, a quiet, girlish answer to thug high school manga (i.e., Cromartie High ). Satsuki Kurakawa, the toughest girl in Tama High, a school comprising yakuza-in-training, is best friends with Aya Sendo, the toughest guy in Tama High. The story line dissolves into the recurring “platonic boyfriend” scenario rife in shojo manga (Sendo has feelings for Kurakawa, but Kurakawa is oblivious), but Sakurai gives the tough-girl routine a sweet, feminine finish. Whereas most gangster girl characters are designed to be prickly and abrasive, Kurakawa is tough but loyal and affectionate. However, the best part is the chapter breaks, where Sakurai literally illustrates the challenges that she encounters as a creator (i.e., taking the bullet train to Tokyo to hand in her pages on time, then spending hours in the publishing office toning her pages). This could be a safe manga for the uninitiated reader, with its accessible “girl power” themes and recognizable cityscapes. Sakurai’s style is quite beautiful and leans more toward josei (women’s manga) simplicity. However, like josei, the story is subtle and requires two reads for full appreciation—a task that newbies may concede to, but veterans may pass over in search of more immediately entertaining fare. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 01/21/2008
Release date: 01/01/2008
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-1-59816-938-6
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