Age Rating For Older Teens
Working part-time as a telephone-dating operator, Nico Hayashi has plenty of clients eager to engage her in titillating conversation. But what her customers don't know is this: the person they're flirting with is really a 14-year-old junior high school girl with a secret agenda. On the phone she's known as Sexy Voice. But, really, she's more than a professional flirt. Secretly, she wants to change the world and maybe become a spy and fortuneteller, too. Along for the ride is her friend Iichiro Sudo. He's an underemployed twentysomething hipster with an obsession for collecting toy robots. Together they are Sexy Voice and Robo...two people doing their best to bring some hope into this crazy world.
If there's any title that'll dispel your notion that all manga are one and the same, it's Sexy Voice and Robo by Iou Kuroda. My first impression when reading this title is that it had indie-comic sensibilities, both in storytelling and art yet remaining distinctly Japanese. This book features 13 chapters that are all episodic in nature yet contribute to the overarching stories of of our protagonists. This title also includes two "extras" which are two-pages long each but doesn't contribute to the overall story nor does it make sense from a storytelling perspective.
The main character of the series is Nico who moonlights as a telephone-dating operator and uses her talents to achieve her ambition of being a spy by taking on eccentric missions for a mysterious old man. Aiding her is one of her clients, Sudo, a mecha otaku who doesn't even realize that he's being used by Nico. While each chapter stands well on its own, it is by reading them chronologically that we witness how the two characters mature and develop, especially Nico who begins to have doubts about her dreams of becoming a spy as the emotional stakes in each mission escalates.
Character development is the strength of Sexy Voice and Robo and has this complacent slice-of-life mood to it even amidst kidnappings and foiling assassination attempts. The only fault of this series is that we never get to see the final fate of our two protagonists as the story seems to end abruptly but not without closure of a sort due to the episodic format of the stories.
I'm a big fan of shonen manga and Sexy Voice and Robo sets me at a different pace from the norm: rather than action and adventure, we get more introspection and reflection. Sexy Voice and Robo might not be to the tastes of the "typical" manga fan but those disdaining the stereotypical manga title might want to give this a shot.