Imadoki! Nowadays, vol. 2: Magnolia
by Yû Watase
After having been pleasantly surprised by volume 1 of Imadoki! I found myself a bit disappointed in this second volume. Gone for much of this volume is main character Tanpopo's positive and forthright attitude; instead she comes off as yet another shojo manga girl pining for a boy who is distant and unavailable. The gardening club also moves to the sidelines, becoming a weak excuse for character actions rather that a prime motivator or a strong metaphor. Near the end of the volume we start to get a glimpse of the return of the old Tanpopo, but it's a little too late to save the whole book. It remains to be seen which way the story will go, but I'm hoping that Watase again veers away from standard shojo tropes in future volumes. Of course, art-wise the book still looks fabulous.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)
Doubt!! vol. 1
by Kaneyoshi Izumi
We all know the story of the Ugly Duckling and how she turns into a beautiful swan, but what happens after the transformation? Ai Maekawa was a dweeb/geek/nerd (a 'Jimi') in junior high, but when the opportunity comes to attend a new high school where no one knows her, Ai transforms herself over the summer into one of the beautiful people. Of course she now thinks that life will be so much better at her new school, but she's in for a rude surprise: the boys treat her like an object rather than a person, the popular girls don't like the new competition, and the other girls are jealous. And inside of her new look is still the same insecure Jimi, now terrified that her 'shameful' past will be exposed. Creator Izumi treads a fine line in presenting Ai as likable even though she can be vain and oftentimes petty, but through the first volume at least she does a good job. Izumi keeps the story moving and the characters show signs of growth in character and personality. It remains to be seen if she can keep a level of interest going through multiple volumes, or if like so many shojo stories it starts to bog down in repetition. Izumi's art is attractive, with a smooth line that gives the story a nice feminine edge, and the storytelling moves things forward without confusion.
Rating: 3 (of 5)