Manga Review: Songs to Make You Smile

Manga Review: Songs to Make You SmileSongs to Make You Smile by Natsuki Takaya
Published by TOKYOPOP on May 2010
Genres: Romance, Short Stories
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
one-half-stars

In these unforgettable tales from the creator of "Fruits Basket", a pop band vocalist meets the only woman who touched his heart; a girl wonders if her deceased father ever loved her; the son of a musical genius tries to find his own voice; an 18-year-old boy tries to learn to be a man; and, in a side story to "Tsubasa: Those with Wings", ultimate love thrives.

This is a collection of one shots (manga stories consisting of only one chapter). Natuski Takaya, for those who are not familiar with the world of shoujo manga, wrote what is arguably the most popular series in that genre: Fruits Basket. I have read that series several times and loved it more each time (expect a review someday). One shots are not my favorites, just like I prefer novels to short stories. These are largely disappointing, nowhere near as good or clever as Fruits Basket, the beauty of which is largely because of the time you get to spend watching the characters grow and change.

The title story tells of a boy with an angry expression, who is actually just thoughtful and loves to sing in his band. He finds a soulmate in his band mate’s cousin. This story is pretty cute, probably the best of the volume, in fact, which is probably why the title is named for it.

The second story focuses on a girl who has a serious daddy complex, since he died without ever having given her a birthday present. She is left living with her relatively new step mom, who is trying to set her up with the boy next door, her childhood friend. The girl, Chisato, does not trust that her stepmother will not abandon her. I thought this story was completely incomprehensible, considering that (SPOILER ALERT) her father had bought her presents but never gave them to her for some reason. What is that? Nobody does that.

The third story calls to mind La Corda d’Oro, only really short and with only Len and Kahoko’s characters. There is the gifted violinist, son of musicians, who is having trouble finding his place and his own sound because he does not know how much of his recognition is based on talent and how much on his parents’ fame. A forthright, pure, viola-playing girl helps him find his own sound.

Story four reminded me of Banri Hidaka’s works, only not nearly as cute. There was definitely some of the younger female/older male possible love interest thing happening, as well as the male lead not adhering to traditional male pursuits. While Banri put in the time to make the age differences in her stories not creepy, Takaya doesn’t have time for that and I’m mostly just creeped out by the possibility, even though nothing happened here.

I hated the final story. It’s a revisionist Cinderella, wherein Cinderella is a big ol’ jerk. She’s a princess in her own right with no evil stepsisters or stepmother. She’s the evil one. Other than that change, the story goes through most of the tropes of the Cinderella story, but changes them all around. Done right, this could have been hilarious, but this really didn’t work, because I hated everyone and it was just plain weird.

Summation: Read Fruits Basket instead. This really just isn’t worth your time and that definitely is!

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