Friday, August 13, 2010

Jonathan Recommends: Pastel Volume 1

On the surface Pastel seems little more than fan service to amuse hormone-driven teenagers. The cover even shows a scantily clad girl wearing a swimsuit. But, as the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” teaches us we have to dig beneath the surface to find the gold that is Pastel Vol. 1 by Toshihiko Kobayashi.

The central character is everyman teenager Mugi Tadano who is recovering from a severe heartbreak when his girlfriend moves away. To get over the loss he gets a summer job at a tropical snack bar and gets set up with cutie Yuu Tsukisaki. The hilarity begins when he accidentally walks in on Yuu in the bath and becomes shamefaced over his error. When he moves back home for school a surprise awaits him and history repeats itself. The conflict of teenage boy meets teenage girl combined with an almost parental or brotherly compassion makes this a worthy read. Koyabashi does an excellent job of capturing teenage emotions in this whirlwind using Mugi as the poster child. Through slapstick comedy Pastel portrays the transformation of innocent youthfulness of characters who struggle with growing up and maturing into adulthood.

The artwork beautifully portrays places that most of us will never visit. The beachside summer locale for Mugi’s job makes the reader hear the seagulls and feel the sun beat down on their faces. The urban setting of Mugi’s home and school brings the hustle and bustle to life. We can picture this happening here in the U.S. with some slight adjustments. Even the internal artwork of buildings and Mugi’s home is incredible for the insight into Japanese family life.

This series is geared towards a Grade 10+ (at minimum) male audience. It features typical, but highly suggestive, manga artwork. Kobayashi does a superb job balancing the suggestive artwork and its comedic effect. At the end of the day, Pastel is a heartwarming story of a confused adolescent combating his hormones and his compassion. The universality of that ensures a solid foundation of common ground between reader and the characters.

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