Monday, December 27, 2010

I Reads You Review: FAMILY COMPLEX

Creator: Mikiyo Tsuda (cartoonist); Duane Johnson (translation)
Publishing Information: Digital Manga Publishing; B&W, paperback, 200pp, $12.95 U.S.
Ordering Numbers: ISBN 13: 978-1-56970-771-5
Rated “T” for “Teens 13+”

Mikiyo Tsuda is a manga writer and artist; she also creates under the name Taishi Zao. Tsuda is known for her comedy-shojo manga (with shojo being comics for teen girls). In the comedy-shojo vein is the manga, Family Complex, originally serialized in Japan in 1999 and 2000 and published in the U.S. by Digital Manga Publishing in 2008.

Essentially, a collection of inter-connected short stories, Family Complex focuses on the Sakamotos, a family of extremely beautiful people. There is the 41-year-old father, Hidetoshi, who is pretty rather than handsome, and the 41-year-old mother Nanami, who is more girlish than womanly. The oldest child and son is the tall, dark, and handsome, 17-year-old Harumi, and the 16-year-old elder daughter is Natsuru, a robust young woman. The youngest child is the silent and alluring 10-year-old, Fuyuki.

The only exception to the rule of beauty in the Sakamoto family is the rather ordinary younger son, 14-year-old, Akira Sakamoto. He feels out of place with his family, because people outside the family are taken with the beautiful Sakamotos, but don’t think Akira belongs with his own family! Akira has developed a complex about being different, and it may cause him to turn away from the family that loves him.

I’ve come to enjoy Mikiyo Tsuda’s work, although some of it seems to be the comic book equivalent of mindless, American television situation comedies. Even with elements of and references to Gothic-Lolita, bishounen, boys’ love, and girls’ love, this frothy concoction is for readers who love “cute” and teen-oriented manga about close and lovey-dovey relationships.

I think Family Complex works because the Sakamotos are like a cotton candy version of the Addams Family, except that unlike the Addams, the Sakamotos are liked because they are so pretty, lovable, and open-hearted. Not only are the characters within the manga drawn to them, but so are the readers. Tsuda also manages to tell a sincere story about adolescent insecurity that, in spite of the cuteness, feels authentic when it depicts the struggles of a teen to fit in with family, friends, and schoolmates.

The Sakamotos appear in another Tsuda work, Princess Princess, with Akira being a supporting character in the series. They shine in their own story, Family Complex.


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