Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Songs to Make You Smile

By Natsuki Takaya
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: When do shojo songs not make you smile? 

Songs to Make You Smile is an anthology volume by Natsuki Takaya, creator of Fruits Basket.  This collection is mostly of one-off stories of young love, though there is a Tsubasa: Those With Wings story included that uses its characters to tell a twisted Snow White tale.  The story that gives its name to the anthology is a high school romance between an unemotional singer whose emotional songs touch the heart of a girl whose own heart has been lost due to bullying.  Next, Chisato feels emotionally cut-off from her recently deceased father but through the actions of her new stepmother she reconnects with him.  Inagaki is a world class violinist who other students often deride for riding on his famous parents’ coattails, but a viola player can hear his true original music playing through.  Finally, a young man given to knitting and other less than manly arts is given the courage to declare his love through the actions of his grade school cousin.

One of the worst parts of any anthology is that often they hide one or more clunkers that just are not very good but rely on the rest of the anthology to get readers.  None of the stories here are that, surprising since it was originally published before Takaya's far better known Fruits Basket, meaning that they were made when she was still gaining experience.  There are several different artistic styles she in the book showing that growth, with the one with the Chisato character looking the oldest but none feeling dated.  There does seem to be reliance on standard storytelling elements but while none of the stories feel original neither do they feel particularly cliche-ridden.  The only story that particularly stands out is the Tsubasa: Those With Wings side story, mostly because it is such a cheerfully abusive tale that manages to avoid being cruel.

Songs to Make You Smile is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

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