Shioko Mizuki • Go! Comi (2005–2007) • Akita Shoten (Princess, 2003–2005) • 7 volumes • Shôjo, Romance, Family Drama • 16+ (language, mild violence, seual situations) Slam dunk manga amazon
When her grandmother dies, fifteen-year-old Kajitsu is forced to move in with her long-lost stepbrothers Natsu and Toru (the breadwinner of the group); they are soon joined by Kajitsu’s irresponsible twenty-eight-year-old stepmother and her six-year-old daughter, all living together in a tiny run-down house. But Natsu has grown from a cheerful kid into a good-looking but distant teenager, and Kajitsu finds herself unexpectedly attracted to him, while simultaneously seeking a father figure—or something more—from Akai, her twenty-something guidance counselor. Depicting a struggling alternative family where almost no one is related by blood, Crossroad consciously tackles Important Social Issues; the pleasant surprise is that it’s a well-written manga that allows its characters to grow and change, rather than just using them as idealized mouthpieces (though Kajitsu makes a few good speeches). Forced to grow up too fast, the characters struggle with themselves and with their own feelings. The art is sketchy and cartoony rather than polished, giving the series a warm, handmade look; the one possible complaint is that, as in most manga, it’s hard to tell a cute teenager from a cute twenty-eight-year-old. Silly humor and inappropriate crushes, including brushes with incest, keep the wheels of the story turning.
CoroCoro Koromo-chan, “Roll Roll Koromo-chan” • Mook • DrMaster (2005) • MediaWorks (Dengeki Gao!, 2001–2003) • 1 volume • Four-Panel Comedy • 13+ (brief partial nudity) Ushio and Tora Manga
Four-panel, chibi gag strips involving a perky costume fanatic (whose regular clothes look like a maid outfit) and her friends. Like Azumanga Daioh, the cast consists mostly of cute girls, and the series ends with school graduation, but the comparison ends there: the characters are one-note and the jokes are pandering, not in a seual way, but in a back-patting sense. The anime-style art is unmemorable. Still, there are good absurd moments, such as animals cosplaying as other animals, and the main character cos-playing as the Ebola virus.