Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Young Master's Revenge Volume 2 by Meca Tanaka is a step in the right direction (Manga Review)

Meca Tanaka
Meca Tanaka is one of my favorite mangakas. I sadly didn't love the first volume of Young Master's Revenge and yet there were some classic elements of her work at play there, enough to make me pick up volume 2. Volume 2 does improve slightly over the problems from volume 1, but not enough yet.

Summing up my concerns with volume 1: we don't know much about the leads as people. There are lots of actions taken against the female lead which are simply not okay (men lifting her up, kidnapping, trying to crush her feelings, etc...) and although all is played for comedy, still aren't okay. The female lead isn't a strong character and does not exhibit any agency. The plot is pretty cliche and tropey, but not in the good comfort food sort of way. Things I loved, the art, oh the art, I just love her style.

In volume 2, our lead boy Leo Tachibana continues his quest to make Tenma Tsuwabuki fall in love with him so that he can break her heart as revenge for being embarrassed when she pulled down his pants when they were 5 years old. Tenma has transferred to the public school to save on tuition money now that her family is poor. Leo transfers with her. The two schools are fighting and end up in a sports contest against each other, with the student council president of their elite school going up against Leo for both Tenma (as if she were an object, not a person) and the rights to the sports fields the schools share.

The saving grace of the whole two volumes comes at the end of chapter 11 when the student council president of their old school tells Leo that 10 years of hating someone with a plan of making them fall in love is just loving them the way a little boy teases the girl he likes because he doesn't know how to face his feelings. That's the most honest and real thing that has occurred yet in the series.

I continue to struggle with Tenma being pretty much non-existent. Her character isn't developed, she's just a stock character who is smart, pretty, clumsy, oblivious to subtext in conversation, and honestly a bit boring. She's also barely in the series. It really is from Leo's point of view.

What is perhaps most disturbing about her characterization is that at the end of volume 1, Leo reveals his plan to her and she feels so bad that he was embarrassed in the past that she vows to fall in love with him so that he can break her heart. Um...what? Then she goes around this volume taking notes from people on what love is. That would be cute, maybe, if it wasn't for the purpose of letting a boy stomp on a girl's feelings for revenge (which is icky).

Yet, overall, there was some progress in both of them noticing their true feelings for the other. Mostly this was from Leo and he did have some great lines like when others think her smile is scary but he knows that it isn't her real smile and that he alone has seen it. Or when she agrees to strip to stop harassment of other students (not an okay thing) and Leo covers her quickly in his clothes only to get mad at her and say: "Never, Ever do anything that devalues who you are again!" She counters with "I have value?" and he replies "Don't tell me that the girl I've hated for ten years has no value." In his head he then says: "It's okay if your worth is known only to me."

We also get a really sweet kiss on the check from Tenma and a scene during the sports festival where she's dressed as a cute cheerleader and Leo takes off his shirt to cover her, saying "Don't walk around dressed like that" only to finish his thoughts in his head thinking "Except in front of me!" SQUEEE!!! We also get Tenma's first hint that she might be feeling something for him because for the first time, his words of hatred towards her, actually make her feel something. This is all progress I guess, and I'll keep coming back cause I'm a sucker for the blushing scenes.

Also helping to redeem this volume, over its narrative and character development flaws, is the introduction of the female delinquent student council president from the public school. She's falling in love with Leo, is embarrassed and drops her tough act, and is sweetly trying to get to know him. She's a much more appealing and interesting character than Tenma at this point (and more relatable than the pretty-boy 15-going-on-5-year-old Leo). I'm hoping Tanaka-sensei will develop her more.

We still have Tenma being picked up into the air by the other president too much, which again: touching women without their consent is just not okay. We also have an overall hectic pace with lots of cliches and tropes from a plot standpoint. And the overall silliness isn't balanced against true character development and worthy background stories like in Tanaka-sensei's earlier works.

So this volume isn't quite as fraught as the last one, but still not great. It's mostly riding on her coat tails and my affection for her earlier works. That's okay, but I'm hoping the next volume improves the way volume 2 did. Overall, 6/10 (getting there).


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