Saturday, March 5, 2022

Kageki Shojo volume 4 (manga review)

Two high school girls with feathers falling around them
    I want to love this series, but "Kageki Shojo" volume 4 (by Kumiko Saiki, published by Seven Seas) just spins it's wheels and keeps us at arm's length from our lead character.
    "Kageki Shojo" is the story of an all-girls performing arts school where the goal is to enter the adult all-female performance troupes upon graduation. Watanabe Sarasa is the tall, goofy, high-energy, raw talented, odd-ball who is also positioned, maybe destined, to be a great and unique talent. Should be an amazing series, right? Sadly, this volume doesn't do anything meaningful and in four volumes, I'm not getting a good feeling for this series living up to it's early promise.
    Volume 4 focuses on a once-a-decade school sports festival where the main competitors are the adults from the performance troupes. It is set up as a type of fan service to the fans of the performance troupes. By various circumstances, Watanabe Sarasa has to fill in for one of the adult performers. Of course, her elevation to this position should be a source of great drama amongst the other students, but by and large, that just doesn't come to fruition. While some grumbling is hinted at, four volumes in, everyone seems to have more or less accepted our odd-ball with the high-ceiling untapped talent. Which makes it pretty drama free. 
    In addition to there being no real inter-personal conflict, there is no intra-personal conflict either. Yes, you might say that the whole end of volume 3 (she must find who she is as an actress instead of perfectly mirroring other's great performances) has it's fulfillment in this volume. But it wasn't enough. There is no interiority which how Watanabe is written. We don't really know what she's thinking or feeling or struggling with, not in any depth. (If you read this with any regularity, you know I like my characters with angst) The story is told too much from a third person perspective without enough internal insight. And with little meaningful plot or inter-personal conflict instead, there just isn't much actually happening. Hence my "spinning it's wheels" comment earlier. 
    What continues to be most sad for me as I read this series, is that the prequel volume "Kageki Shojo: The Curtain Rises" focused on Watanabe's roommate, Narata Ai, who is much more interesting and is given much more internal conflict. She's beautiful, somewhat famous already, but an outcast in many ways, with complex internal emotions, she holds others at a distance, and her outcome and destiny are not as clearly fixed as Watanabe's. 
    In fact, I always read Narata's arc with the potential to be very open ended and potentially sad. She was a teen idol in an idol group, who was the outcast of that group. Her move to the Kouka school almost has the feel of going into exile, almost like Maria in "Sound of Music" going back to the nunnery. So what will this hold for her? Will she continue on to join Kouka's troupe? Will that make her happy? Does she long for something else? Is that something else in entertainment, or is it something totally different? There's so much to explore with her character. I so wish that we got more of Narata in the main series. I really wish she was the main character in the main series. She is simply more interesting.
    So "Kageki Shojo" volume 4 is fine. The art is somewhat simple, but still engaging. What little conflict there is is fairly superficial, the plot itself isn't that interesting, and we don't really get any insight into the lead character. I just don't know where this series is going, or what it's trying to say or be. Or maybe, I do, and it's too simple an outcome and I'm looking for something more that will never be there. (shrug). Ah well, it's not bad, I'll keep reading it, but it isn't great either. It's just sort of fluff.

BTW, this is the 300th post on this blog!


Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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