Saturday, May 14, 2022


The Tokyopop library is riddled with manga like this - no-name titles with a few interesting ideas that were unceremoniously dropped because no one bought them.

SHORT SUNZEN! (Shoto Sunzen!), by Susugi Sakurai.  First published in 1999 and first published in North America in 2008.


Tama High is notorious as one of the roughest high schools in the area, and few of its students are as rough-and-tumble as Satsuki.  Even though she's only a first year, she's more than ready to take on any challenge and find fun wherever she can.  At her side is her best friend Sendou, who is absolutely smitten with Satsuki.  How can he find the nerve to tell her how he feels when Satsuki won't stop getting into trouble and is seemingly oblivious to every romantic overture?


In theory, Short Sunzen! should work for me.  It's a shojo romance that's more of a comedy of errors than anything else.  Satsuki is a fun and lively heroine, a bonehead with a heart of gold (and much to my surprise, a bit of bisexual streak).  Making her a bit of a hooligan adds some necessary spice to the otherwise mundane school activities and quasi-dates.  There's just one thing holding its story back, and its name is Sendou.

Sendou's a nice enough boy, but compared to Satsuki he's kind of a drip.  After a while I got sick of his mental whinging over his crush, wishing that Satsuki would notice him or that she would act and dress in a more femme fashion more often.  After a while it just got tedious.  Surely if he's known her for some time, then he should know that the only way to get through to Satsuki is direct words and action.  He can't keep pining for a version of the girl he wished he loved.  He doesn't love a delicate flower, he loves the kindhearted, trash-talking, brawler who also loves her siblings, protects the innocent, and has some amazing late 90s fashion.  Frankly, he doesn't deserve her.


Sakurai's art is messy and awkward.  She clearly hasn't quite mastered proportions yet, as all of her characters are tall and gawky with frighteningly long limbs and occasionally oversized hands.  It's the sort of thing I don't usually see outside of BL from this era.  She's also not so hot with faces, as everyone's mouth is too tiny and flappy and all of the faces are crammed into the bottom third of the head.  Sakurai's panels are placed slap-dash all over the page, and the spindly font used for the text doesn't make things any clearer.  


There's a multi-part comic about the mangaka having to take a bullet train to Tokyo to finish a late chapter.  There's also a long omake where the main characters of Short Sunzen! invade the mangaka's home.  Finally, there's an unrelated side-story with the unfortunate name of "Girl-Boy."  It's about two very tall classmates that everyone presumes will get together, but the girl is concerned that people might discover she likes cute things.  She does in fact get together with the tall boy, mostly because he turns out to be working at the same cafe as her sister.  How much you can tolerate this one will depend a lot on your tolerance for the backwards notion that seems to permeate Japanese media where only little kids and girly-girls like sweets.


Short Sunzen! has a great heroine and some decent ideas in it, but the art and the love interest leave a lot to be desired.   Apparently even its publisher desired something better, which is why they quietly dropped it in 2008 without completing it.

This series was published by Tokyopop.  This series is complete in Japan with 5 volumes available.  2 volumes were released and are currently out of print.

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