Manga of the Month: Chocolate Cosmos

Chocolate Cosmos (チョコレートコスモス) by Nana Haruta

narutaki_icon_4040_round I had been hoping for more of Nana Haruta’s romance manga to make it into English. I’m a big fan of her series Cactus’s Secret which was released by VIZ a couple of years ago. Chocolate Cosmos is part of VIZ’s fairly new and small section of digital only releases.

Sayuki is a sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued girl who is really a romantic at heart. While on a trip to the beach with friends, she meets and falls for a guy working at a chocolate banana stand. The feelings seem mutual. But it turns out that guy is actually one of her teachers.

Chocolate Cosmos is pure fantasy in regards to dating your teacher, one in which things can work out pretty OK without any consequences. But the extra touch that makes Chocolate Comsos a little special is actually Sayuki’s exploration of her own feelings and her relationship with a different boy completely.

Sayuki spends a lot of the manga examining what she wants and how to go about it. There is pretty much no question who she has romantic feelings for (and whether he has them for her either), even with her childhood friend Yushi in the mix. But what I found refreshing was the slow reveal of Sayuki’s past feelings for Yushi and how things have changed for her. Their final conversations about those feelings are very satisfying and tread a less familiar path.

The melodrama of the series is very low-key and interspersed with a lot of humor which is why I enjoy Nana Haruta’s stories so much. Chocolate Cosmos is just the type of romance manga one wants to devour in a lazy summer afternoon.

~ kate

Manga of the Month: Honey So Sweet

Honey So Sweet (ハニー) by Amu Meguro

narutaki_icon_4040 Every now and then I just need a very simple, very sweet romance between two adorable kids. This time around kind-hearted Nao and delinquent-with-a-heart-of-gold Taiga fill that niche perfectly.

Nao sees a beat-up boy in the rain, she can’t bring herself to speak to him but she leaves him her umbrella and box of bandages. Unbeknownst to her, that boy turns out to be scary-faced Taiga who asks Nao out soon after they start high school. Nao ends up accepting out of fear, but soon realizes that Taiga is a good-hearted person and confesses that she just wants to be friends.

Nao’s honesty at the beginning of the series is really endearing and it creates a bond of trust between her and Taiga. Plus, the cards are on the proverbial table about their feelings. What starts off as kind of an oddball friendship becomes the cornerstone to their school life as they navigate fitting in and other high school experiences. They rely on each other when faced with the not-overly-dramatic obstacles in their paths.

Taiga’s nervousness around Nao is more than a little adorable. You’ll be hard-pressed not to be warmed by the way he sends her texts or how he reacts when she calls him for the first time. For Nao’s part, she is a very open and kind person but willing to stand-up for her friends. And of course we get the chance to watch her fall in love with Taiga.

An irresistibly super cute romance at its finest.

~ kate

The Anthem of the Heart: The Egg and I

hisui_icon_4040 I think I have officially proved that I am an anime fan. I could point to 8 and half years of running a blog, 6 years of podcasting, or dozen of panels run at conventions as some sort of poof of dedication to the hobby. I think they all pale in comparison to braving a blizzard that dumped over 2 feet of snow on NYC just to see The Anthem of the Heart. That alone should allow me pass by any gatekeepers without a second thought.

(Truth be told gatekeepers almost always have their opinion formed before they talk to you but I like to believe beautiful lies.)

I do mention that in advance that if you are a strong proponent of the theory of effort justification and its effect on a viewer’s experience that it might be a factor in this review. My journey was not flying to Japan to see a movie premiere but it was a fairly long hike over quite a bit of snow through a very stressed transit system. I don’t think it prejudiced it me in favor of the film but it was quite a trial to see the movie and an equal undertaking to get home. When you have to climb over walls of ice that are as tall as you are, dig out trapped taxis, and stand in subway stops with snowdrifts in them you are going place some weight to the work you placed into your odyssey. Keep that in mind as you read this.

A good question might be what sort of movie would motivate me to do my best Robert Edwin Peary impersonation? The Anthem of the Heart has a fairly strong pedigree. Much of the staff of the movie including Tatsuyuki Nagai, Jin Aketagawa, Masayoshi Tanaka, Kazuko Nakajima, and Mari Okada also worked on AnoHana. While hardly a perfect work (as evidenced by its vocal detractors) I thought that AnoHana was extremely entertaining and rather touching anime so I was looking forward to seeing what this team could do with the tighter storytelling space of a movie.

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