Friday, August 20, 2010

Portrait of M & N, vols. 1 and 2

By Tachibana Higuchi
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Why does love have to hurt?

Mitsuru and Natsuhiko have both started in a new high school and have attracted attention because of their appearance and aloof demeanors.  But they both have secrets that drove them from their old schools and inaccurate rumors about those secrets have followed them and begin to make their lives more difficult.  Fortunately no one has learned that the secrets are that Mitsuru is a masochist while Natsuhiko is a narcissist.  While both have triggering events that cause their behaviors to flare out of their control, they manage to keep them a secret despite the other students’ curiosity.  Their shared secrets tie them closer together even though their respective obsessions put up obstacles to being emotionally honest with each other.  The mental confusion and uncertainty that they both face comes across each day as they try to keep their secrets and rein in their behaviors.

While aspects of Mitsuru and Natsuhiko’s relationship feel true, especially their uncertain feelings, the portrayals of their masochist and narcissist tendencies are not, especially with the idea of having such blatant triggering events.  Those are not intended to show the difficulty with living with such tendencies as a teen, but instead to set up comedic situations.  That uses up a lot of the respect the manga had earned, because it turns what could have been serious high school drama into something that uneasily straddles the divide between drama and farce.  The title would have been much better served if the humor had came from the story or if there were characters there for comedic relief.  There are several characters that could have taken that role, but they were not central enough to the story to take up that burden.  Still, a good story that is undercut by a cheap device to inject comedy.

Portrait of M & N, vol. 1 and vol. 2 are both available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

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