Genres: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Humor, Manga, Romance, Young Adult
Kyoko followed her heart when she left the inn that she and her childhood friend, Shoutaro Fuwa, lived in so that Shou could live his dream and become a famous pop-artist. Tokyo is wonderful and Kyoko couldn't be happier! Until she overhears him gloat about how he's using her and doesn't love her at all! Angry that he's used her, Kyoko leaves, and vows revenge against Shou. How? By becoming more famous than him! And she'll achieve it by going to the company that employs Shou's biggest showbiz rival, Ren Tsuruga.
So begins Kyoko's road through showbusiness as she finds out that there is a lot more to herself than anyone ever dared think there could be.
Hello manga lovers! This week on Manga Monday, we’re looking at Skip Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura.
Skip Beat! was first published in Hakusensha’s shōjo manga magazine Hana to Yume in February 2002. Viz Media bought the rights and features it in Shojo Beat. As of September 2014, 35 volumes and one fanbook have been released in Japan, with 32 of those volumes out in the U.S.
Let’s look at the cover. The image depicts a smiling girl with short, strawberry blond hair. She wears a denim shirt-dress, and looks very indicative to shojo manga. This is Kyoko Mogami, our protagonist.
Kyoko grows up abandoned by her mom, with no idea who her father is, and lives with family friends, the Fuwas. The Fuwa family own an inn in the country, and Kyoko develops a close friendship with the son of the family, Shoutaro. But Shoutaro doesn’t want to stay at the inn. He wants to go to Tokyo and be a pop-star! He asks Kyoko if she’ll leave school and follow him to the big city. She readily agrees, since she’s loved him for a long time.
Fast forward a couple of years. Shoutaro, changing his name to Shou, is famous and Kyoko lives (mostly alone since he’s always busy) in an apartment. She works two jobs to pay their rent, buy their food, and keep the house clean. She’s also a hard-core fan of Shou’s work. One day she visits him while he’s working, and overhears him as he flirts with his attractive, older manager. Shou reveals that he kept Kyoko knowing she’d essentially live like a slave for him and be happy about it. He doesn’t care about her one bit! This breaks Kyoko’s heart, but it also unleashes a deep, seething anger in the passionate young girl. She not only berates Shou for using her, she vows to get revenge by entering the showbiz life, and becoming more famous than him!
Naturally, Shou doesn’t believe a lick of it and kicks her on out. But Kyoko is tenacious. She approaches L. M. E., the company that employs the actor that Shoutaro hates– Ren Tsuruga, and through great strive, stubborness, and surprising talents even she didn’t know she possessd, Kyoko ends up becoming a rookie talent for the company. BUT she can only enter under the condition that she learn, as The President of L. M. E. says, ‘to love and be lovable’. This is especially hard for Kyoko because after she was betrayed by Shou, she locked up all of her youthful illusions of love, determined never to love someone like that again. Of course, the world of showbusiness is unpredictable…
You’ll recall I reveiwed another story about a girl going into showbusiness, Glass Mask, when I first started writing about manga for this site. Well, here’s a more modern adaptation of a similar story, but with a different motivator for Kyoko as apposed to Maya. Kyoko’s someone I feel a lot of sympathy for, given how Shou abused her love and friendship, but I also admire her for going out and tryind something so huge, even though it’s something she’s never done before, at all, and she had no idea she had a talent for. Kyoko emerges through the story as a natural prodigy, able to reinterpret characters as opposed to how others, even the creators in shows, originally see them. She makes these characters her own, and causes a stir in the company she works for. She even becomes close to Shou’s rival, Ren.
Here’s where things get interesting, though. As the manga progresses, we learn more about Ren. His past in America, how he and Kyoko actually met long ago when Kyoko was a child. We learn that Ren birthed and encouraged Kyoko’s love of fairy tales and magic (something she adamently holds onto even after her fallout with Shou) all without her knowing. In time Ren and Kyoko begin to fall in love with one another, but while they both keep it a secret from eachother, the company President is determined to help it bloom and use it to further their careers (albeit clandestinely and not bringing their feelings to the surface to the public of course).
But let us not forget Shou. Even Kyoko, try as she might, can’t. She eventually does acting and her other jobs as a talent out of genuine love for the art, but she still wants Shou to regret what he did. The thing is, Shou doesn’t even know he regrets it, even when he tries to get back into her life again, even as an antagonistic presence. Still, seeing them fight and how Kyoko’s grown is a treat to read.
All in all I love this manga. I know there doesn’t seem to be much, but the truth is there is a lot going on story-wise. And the art, ranging from detailed and shojo-standard pretty to simple and super-deformed-chibi cute is an enjoyable combination. I personally give it 4.5 stars. Go out there and pick this title up. It’s a slow burn, and ongoing, but your patience will be rewarded.