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Short-Tempered Melancholic

Review

Short-Tempered Melancholic

The popularity of shoujo manga in this country owes a great deal to the teeming pen of Arina Tanemura, the creator of Kamikaze Kaito JeanneFull Moon wo Sagashite, and The Gentlemen’s Alliance +, some of the best-selling girls’ manga. Short-Tempered Melancholic collects her first four short stories, all of them romantic comedies set in high school.

A lot of shoujo manga features a doormat of a girl trying to win the affections of a standoffish guy. Tanemura takes a different tack, creating smart, talented girls and pairing them up with good-natured guys who respect them.

The title story is the longest. Kajika Yamano is a high-school student who also happens to be a powerful ninja. When Fujisaki, the president of the tea ceremony club, tells her she should be more ladylike, she throws herself into mastering the feminine arts --- cooking, sewing, flower arranging --- and of course fails hilariously. But this is no Pygmalion. It turns out that Fujisaki is a ninja from a rival clan, and his suggestion was merely a ruse to weaken Kajika and lure her away so he could attack her grandfather. Kajika takes care of him and the other ninjas with her secret weapon, a magic cord that binds up her enemies and does double duty as a hair ribbon. The story then takes off in a different direction when Kajika’s longtime friend Yuga decides to become a ninja and fight Fujisaki for her love. Their climactic battle ends in a surprising and satisfying twist, with the supportive Yuga triumphing over alpha-guy Fujisaki.

Each of the other stories revolves around some standard misunderstanding: Pen pals who switch pictures before they meet, a girl whose shyness is mistaken for aloofness, the girl who likes her best friend’s boyfriend. Tanemura manages to bring each of these plots to life with interesting characters, a few telling details, and a bit of a twist at the end.

Tanemura’s hyperkinetic style lends an energetic feel to these stories. Every panel is crowded full of stars, sparkles, and flowers. She even draws little hearts and faces in the word balloons to indicate emotion. She fills the pages with overlapping panels, and her figures are all skinny, huge-eyed (even by manga standards), and animated. While the visual complexity of her style may be a challenge to the inexperienced manga reader, her stories have universal appeal. The girls are smart and accomplished in their own right, if a bit clueless about some things. (The running gag in the first story is that ninjas keep arriving to fight Kajika but she’s too busy with something else to notice.) The boys, even the also-rans, are all wholesome as can be. And in a genre that usually sends absolutely terrible messages to girls --- you’re not good enough, don’t be a geek, try to please the guys --- each of these stories is a breath of fresh air. The guys not only respect the girls, but they are also willing to let the girls call the shots. More of this, please!

Reviewed by Brigid Alverson on August 5, 2008

Short-Tempered Melancholic
by Arina Tanemura

  • Publication Date: August 5, 2008
  • Genres: Manga
  • Paperback: 181 pages
  • Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
  • ISBN-10: 1421518015
  • ISBN-13: 9781421518015