21 Mar, 2008

Teru Teru x Shonen, Vol. 1

By: Chloe Ferguson

By Shigeru Takao
CMX, 200 pp.
Rating: Teen

teruteru1.jpgShinobu Oshiro may be queen of the high school, but her ice-cold demeanor is anything but royal. Raised as the daughter of a prominent family, she spends her days being guarded by the family’s biggest secret investment: ninjas. The arrival of childhood friend and bodyguard Saizou is quickly followed by a puzzling series of death threats and attempts on Shinobu’s life. It’s up to Saizou to unravel the mystery—and try dealing with his growing feelings for Shinobu!

Quick! What do you get when you try to mesh watery teen hijinks with ninjas? In the case of CMX, it’s a rare misstep in the form of Shigeru Takao’s Teru Teru x Shonen. The summary alone oozes cliché; the final product is, simply put, a mess. Takao’s characterizations are as flat as the paper they occupy, with just about the entire cast able to be reduced into single sentence archetypes like “the snotty rich girl who maybe cares” or “the reluctant fighter” and “the shy geek in love.” To boot, everyone is introduced within the first two pages, with little development to change your first impressions. It’s difficult to convey just how painful an exercise Teru Teru x Shonen is—imagine poor characters run through a weak, clichéd plot strung together primarily by episodic hijinks. The narrative never follows anyone too closely, making it hard to endear yourself to any one character, let alone care about Saizou’s subtle angsting about his feelings for Shinobu. The “I’m in love with my childhood friend, but lack the courage to tell her” line is as old as the hills, and Teru Teru x Shonen does little to breathe new life into it.

What little semblance of a plot there is doesn’t go very far towards ameliorating the many problems. To summarize what was learned in this volume about the nefarious attempt to kill Shinobu: someone is trying to kill Shinobu. Possibly using ninja skills. Which most readers will figure out five pages in, at the part where, y’know, she receives the foreboding letter. The plot is primarily an exercise to advance the “character development” of the two central protagonists, although, frankly, there’s little development to be seen by the time this volume winds down.

Takao evidently has the artistic skills to draw some decent shoujo; it’s a bit of a mystery why she never seems to use them to their fullest extent. The art has the standard shoujo proportions and angles, but seemingly remains stuck somewhere between storyboard and final form. Tone usage is kept to the barest of minimums, and when it does appear, it’s usually as print-block black. Many scenes—including some crucial ones—seem overly sketchy or light, and the result is a book that has the looks of a decent artistic beginning without the follow-up effort required to put the final polish on. That’s a shame, since even a nice gloss on a bad product can occasionally salvage a few points here and there. The bottom line? Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Volume one of Teru Teru x Shonen is available now.

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