~by Yoshiki Nakamura
The first omnibus volume of Yoshiki Nakamura's manga series Skip Beat!, published in 2012 by Viz Media, collects the first three volumes of the original English-language release--all three of which were published under the Shojo Beat imprint in 2006. In Japan, the first three volumes of Skip Beat! were released between 2002 and 2003. Currently, Skip Beat! is the only manga by Nakamura available in English and it is the series for which she is best known. In addition to the original manga, Skip Beat! has also been adapted as a drama CD, a twenty-five episode anime, a live-action television series, and even a video game. Skip Beat! was selected as the topic of the June 2013 Manga Moveable Feast. I had previously read several volumes of the series and vaguely remembered enjoying them, but I was glad for an excuse to give the series a closer look.
Kyoko Mogami left home after graduating from junior high, following her childhood friend and love Sho as he pursues his career as an idol. Now living in Tokyo and working two jobs just to afford their apartment, Kyoko is happy as long as she can support and be with Sho. But then she finds out that he's been taking advantage of her the whole time--he harbors no feelings of love for Kyoko and instead views her as a convenient if sometimes annoying maid. Betrayed, Kyoko is determined to wreak havoc on Sho's life and take her revenge in the only way that he'll deign to recognize: she has decided to enter show business. Kyoko has her sights set on joining LME, one of the biggest talent agencies in Japan and coincidentally home to Ren Tsuruga, and incredibly talented and successful actor who Sho hates. Kyoko doesn't have a particular interest in show business, nor does she have any training, but what she does have is guts.
At the beginning of Skip Beat!, Kyoko's life is consumed by Sho and her love for him. After his betrayal, her life continues to be consumed by Sho, but love has been replaced by hatred and vengeance. Sho's a total jerk, so I can't really blame Kyoko for her change of heart. At first Ren comes across as a jerk, too, but its really more that he can't be bothered by people who don't take show business seriously. This is why early on he and Kyoko don't get along--he appreciates her guts and willpower, but dislikes her motivation to succeed. Kyoko is focused on making it big just to show up Sho. But as can already be seen in the first Skip Beat! omnibus, over time she starts to change. Initially she wanted to be a celebrity solely for the sake of revenge, but she is slowly gaining pride in herself and in her work for its own sake. Granted, getting back at Sho, and to a somewhat smaller extent Ren, is never far from her mind.
Kyoko is one hell of a character. She's brash, stubborn, and determined. And she's not the only one--Skip Beat! has many strong-willed and incredibly eccentric characters. I like Kyoko a lot. I appreciate a heroine who is willing to take control of her own life and work through her mistakes. Skip Beat! itself is a highly entertaining manga. With so many strong personalities involved there's bound to be conflict and the results are very funny. The characters frequently end up in outrageous situations and their over-the-top reactions are priceless. Nakamura's visual gags in Skip Beat! are great, too. Kyoko's inner demons often make an appearance to spur her on and occasionally are even strong enough to affect those around her directly. All told, Skip Beat! is a tremendous amount of fun; I enjoyed the beginning of the series even more than I remembered.