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Manga Review: Conflict Lover

Alternate names: Lovers in Conflict, Furachi ga Chishiryou, Ibara no Kanmuri, Akegata Kimi ni Omou Koto, The Crown of Thorns, A Rude and Lethal Injection, Conflict Lovers, I Think About You at Dawn, Wild Rose’s Crown
Year: 2012
Author / Artist: Satoru Takamiya
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Comedy, Drama

Reviewer’s Note: My review reflects the Blue Flor and Shoujo Crusade English translation. It includes sex scenes.

For those interested, the author/artist Satoru Takamiya has about a dozen romance genre anthologies under her belt beyond this title.

Conflict Lover is a short anthology consisting of a three-chapter story (A Rude and Lethal Injection + Conflict Lovers) and two single-chapter stories (The Crown of Thorns and Akegata Kimi ni Omou Koto). Unfortunately for me, the fan translation that I read was missing was the last short story called Akegata Kimi ni Omou Koto.
The first of the stories, a three-chapter story, focuses on the “political marriage” of high school student Sagiri to 24-year-old Sanada Soushi after her sister who was originally engaged to him runs off unexpectedly. Sagiri now has to deal with her own hangups and concerns about whether she will make a good partner. However, her mischievous hubby is more than up to the challenge of convincing her that he legitimately cares about her. This comes off as a charming comedic romance story with a snarky male protagonist that comes off as playful and caring. Of course, this is playful and caring by shoujo comedic romance standards, which also includes “the lewds”.
As for the first of the shorter stories, I was annoyed by it but it shows that Satoru Takamiya can write something more dramatic (in this case a romantic drama set in the Showa era) than the more comedic tale of Sagiri and Soushi. In my case, I find these romantic dramas to be a tad too artsy for my taste. It is more of a personal preference thing more than anything else. Some of you might like the theatrical elements of it, however.
To the artwork, the character designs aren’t really unique and they feel slightly ugly for my own personal preferences. However, you can still tell characters apart from each other whilst conveying action and emotion. As much as I enjoyed the storytelling elements, the artwork did still let it down somewhat. This is a shame because Satoru Takamiya is obviously capable of telling a variety of different stories.

The question is: Do I like Conflict Lover enough to read more of Satoru Takamiya’s other titles? In this case, I would provide a resounding yes. Whilst I appreciate good artwork, the story is more important to me. I can forgive mediocre artwork if the storyteller put in effort on telling a compelling story with interesting characters. I do not, however, recommend it as an entry level shoujo series due to the artwork, sex scenes and adult themes therein.

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Manga Review: 18 Diary

Year: 2003
Author + Artist: Akira Shouko
Online: MAL, Kissmanga, Mangafox (MF version is incomplete)
Genre: Shojo, Slice of Life, Romance

18 Diary consists of three one-shots, each focusing on a separate couple. The stories are cute and surprisingly varied, showing the complexities of school and family life from the perspectives of young men and women in different situations. The time constraints still mean that some ideas aren’t explored but I don’t have an issue with that because it was easy to root for the success of these three couples. There are no issues with consent like a lot of modern shojo series, with the characters having agency in their own decisions.

  • Story 1: A young woman is in love with a long-time friend who has had a long-time crush on a childhood friend. When his crush starts dating a college guy, he decides that he wants to do something to impress her. He enlists that aid of his long-time friend to teach him how to swim, leading to him realising that his affections should have been directed elsewhere.
  • Story 2: An angsty girl hooks up with a guy from school at a party. In lieu of leaving her parents stolen divorce papers for some bizarre reason at the hotel where they bumped uglies, the angsty girl and her beau enact a plan that is soon rendered pointless but manages to help them strengthening their growing affections for each other.
  • Story 3: A young woman that looks after her little brother makes the acquaintance of a son of the manager of her school. In spite of her long-term jealousy of this perceived black sheep of his family, she discovers a rather complex young man that wants to become a professional dancer. The two quickly become friends and then smooch buddies.

The characters are allowed to succeed and fail, but some readers will prefer a bit more conflict. The couplings also made sense, each character complementing the other. I suppose that it wouldn’t necessarily be a romance if the couplings weren’t complementary.
The artwork is pretty standard in style for the time that it was written. Whilst certainly not exceptional, it does what it needs to convey the situation and emotions of the character. It may not be as pretty as some of the new manga series, but I still find myself enjoying it a lot more than some of the newer stuff.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable anthology of shojo romance. The pacing for each story was good, it was easy to care about each character and the artwork was good enough to convey the story. I recommend it to long-time fans of the genre. However, it might spoil newcomers to the genre as it is in my personal opinion of higher quality than a lot of manga in this genre.