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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

Against the Paw
Diane Kelly
Progress: 194/352 pages
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World
Abigail Revasch, Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, Tara Sands, Listening Library
Progress: 67/473 minutes
The Mystic Marriage
Heather Rose Jones
Progress: 302/426 pages
Ichi-F: A Worker's Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
Kazuto Tatsuta
Progress: 448/553 pages
The Naked Sun
Isaac Asimov
Progress: 20/187 pages
50 Girls 50 and Other Stories
Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Gary Groth
Jennifer Foehner Wells
Progress: 58/367 pages
Family Complex - Mikiyo Tsuda Mikiyo Tsuda (and her BL pseudonym, Taishi Zaou) is my guilty pleasure. Her stories aren't exactly deep and moving. Her characters and situations may only have the most tenuous of connections to reality. However, I love her sense of humor and the way she draws her characters so much that it doesn't matter.Family Complex isn't Tsuda's strongest work, but it takes excellent advantage of her greatest strength: her ability to draw incredibly beautiful characters. She's so good at it that she actually fails a bit where Akira is concerned: the only thing that makes him not good-looking is that other characters say he's not as good-looking as the rest of his family. As pure “pretty characters” eye candy, Family Complex gets an A+.Story-wise, it's not nearly so good. Actually, there isn't much of a story, period. Family Complex is very character-focused, but that doesn't mean the characters are all that deep and complex. Each family member (except Akira) has personal or internal problems caused by how incredibly beautiful they look. Harumi yearns to have real friends and maybe even a girlfriend (or possibly boyfriend – I don't think it matters to him which), rather than just servants who put him on a pedestal. Natsuru is uncomfortable with the fact that she doesn't belong with either the girls or boys her age. Fuyuki suspects she doesn't fit in with her classmates but isn't sure how to fix this. Young Hidetoshi and young Nanami just wanted to look differently than they did. Akira wants to look more like a part of his family. None of them really overcome their problems completely, although most of them do manage to find someone to be closer to – and even that statement makes Family Complex sound like it has more depth than it does. So, let me be absolutely clear: this manga has all the depth of an inflatable kiddie pool.The humor is another area where Family Complex isn't quite up to par, compared to some of Tsuda's other works. That's not to say I didn't find this volume funny. I love how over-the-top the family is in their looks, their lives, and how much they adore Akira. Much of the humor is based on the assumption that all the world is pretty much normal, except most of the members of the Sakamoto family. I particularly enjoyed the bit during Fuyuki's chapter, when a pervert exposes himself to her (creepy and horrific in real life, but handled lightly and humorously here) and Fuyuki silently agonizes over how to respond to him before finally, casually chasing him off with a single word.As in some (all?) of Tsuda's other works, a lot of the humor is gender- and sexuality-related. Harumi's chapter is the best example of this, as he tries to get back at his servant-friends by pretending he and Akira are dating (Harumi's friends don't know Akira is his brother). Later, Natsuru messes with Harumi's friends' heads by pretending she and Harumi are about to kiss – as far as Harumi's friends know, Natsuru is actually a good-looking guy. Neither Natsuru nor Harumi's sexuality is very clear. Natsuru is perfectly fine with having a girl harem, and Harumi doesn't seem to care who he ends up with, so long as it's someone he can be emotionally close to. Girls squeal over Natsuru, and guys worship Harumi. Then there's Hidetoshi, who met Nanami while unwillingly cross-dressing. Strangely, although I got tired of the gender/sexuality jokes in the show Baka and Test, I didn't mind them so much in Family Complex, perhaps because it was only a one-shot and wasn't long enough for the jokes to be done to death.Family Complex's main saving grace is that it doesn't take itself all that seriously and is overall light in tone. It's brain candy of the lightest, fluffiest sort. Those who go into it not expecting much and who enjoy Tsuda's art and generally weird sense of humor may like it. Personally, I'm happy that Digital Manga Publishing released this in a nice, large size, complete with a pretty, removable dust jacket – all the better to admire Tsuda's characters.Extras:Mikiyo Tsuda's "Detached Retina Diary" is 15 pages long, if you count Tsuda's one-page introduction to it, and Tsuda sticks it into the volume just before the pages showing young Hidetoshi and young Nanami. It's basically Tsuda's experience with being diagnosed with and treated for a detached retina. I'm not an ophthalmologist, so I don't know how good all the information is in this section is, but it still serves as a terrifying warning to those who experience a sudden vision change: go see your doctor, and get the problem taken care of! Shojo manga creators are notorious for the strangeness of their side notes, but I think this is the longest and most detailed note I've ever seen dealing with health problems.This volume also includes a considerably less horrific and less interesting afterword, in which Tsuda, in manga form, talks about messing up and sometimes using her pseudonym, Taishi Zaou, when she should be using her real name, Mikiyo Tsuda. She also writes about wanting to be able to draw more BL manga (the stuff she does under the name Taishi Zaou) and her fans' feelings about her works created under her two names.There are also a couple manga pages underneath the dust jacket (one page is a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the characters, while the other is a peek at Akira and the rest of the Sakamoto kids maybe 10 years into the future), plus 4 pages of 4-panel comics featuring Tsuda. (Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)