I talk about one other series by KUDO Ikumi on this site (Kin no Angel) and I enjoyed it a lot (still waiting for volume 2…) so I figured I would check out some of her other works. This one was made before Kin no Angel and is a one-shot collection of short stories. The art on the cover here really reminds me of NAKAHARA Aya. In particular, that guy looks like he stepped out of Nanaco Robin. I am somewhat torn on this artist’s style. In some cases, it is very clean and pretty, but sometimes things get a bit messy. It is very similar to other series that run in Margaret magazine. It’s not awful, but it is not outstandingly original, either. And what the hero is wearing… I think only in shoujo manga could a guy get away with wearing capris like that. At least, it’s not as common for guys in the US to wear them. ^_^ Anyway, the title of this book was a bit difficult to decide on, because it is a pun. In Japanese, the English word “love” is written/pronounced as “rabu” or “labu.” So when you go with the “labu” spelling, the title of this book is “Shangri-labu,” or “Shangri-la,” haha get it? Hah, funny 😛
Ah hah. Our first story begins, as many manga do, with a love confession! It is the summer of Azusa MIYASE’s first year of high school, and she has finally found the perfect chance to confess her feelings to the boy she has liked from afar for a while now. His name is NIIJIMA-kun, and look! There he is, all alone by the shoe lockers! Azusa takes a big chance, and confesses…. and he accepts! Niijima looks startled, but happy, and Azusa has a boyfriend!
For once, this isn’t a situation where the heroine is clumsy and inexperienced. Azusa actually has an ex-boyfriend already, from back in middle school. She is still on friendly terms with him, even though he has a new girlfriend now. But Azusa is surprised to discover that she is Niijima’s first girlfriend! However, in spite of her previous dating experience, Azusa isn’t totally confident. In fact, there is a cute girl in another class who seems to like Niijima, too. And this girl is small and cute, and looks good with him. Not that Azusa is ugly, but she did feel awkward on their first date when she realized the heels she was wearing put her at the same height as him, it was like they were siblings or something. Can Azusa overcome her insecurities in the face of cute competition?
Story 2, Baby Star, is the longest, and is my favorite. AYASE Narumi is a 1st year high school student at last. It is the first day of school, and she is bravely walking on campus, determined to become a new person, to change herself and start afresh. Narumi is stylish and cute, and her new classmates all seem to recognize her as cool and pretty. Success! Of course, it’s not like Narumi was ugly or unpopular in middle school. However, her look back then was natural and plain, and she would always stand in the background, watching the prince-like boys she admired date the cute and stylish girls.
Why such an effort to change herself, then? Well, it all started on the day she took her entrance exams. It was snowing outside, and very windy. As Narumi headed to the school for her tests, she saw an old lady struggle with an umbrella that had broken in the winds. Narumi couldn’t let that poor lady suffer in the snow, so she gave up her own umbrella to the woman and continued on her way. As she neared the school, running for cover from the snow, she slipped and nearly fell, but was rescued by a boy who was holding up a sign that contained directions to the examinations. The boy was cute. VERY cute. In fact, he was just like the princes she always admired from afar. And he is a student at her prospective high school? A sempai? Narumi was dazzled, and vowed to change herself so that she would gain the notice of a prince like him.
Well, Narumi gains notice all right, but not quite like how she imagined it. She ends up making a new friend, a female friend. HOSHIKAWA Uko is a bright, energetic, and very friendly girl who takes one look at Narumi, runs over, and asks to become her friend. Uko is not exactly one of the stylish cool girls that Narumi always admired, but Uko os so fun and friendly, Narumi can’t resist, and is pulled along in the other girl’s pace. Ahh, but things look up for Narumi. It turns out that Uko is a close childhood friend of that boy Narumi met on the snowy day! His name is ICHIKAWA Shuusuke, and he lives next door to Uko. He says that he and Uko are like brother and sister. Wow, Narumi can’t believe her luck! By being with Uko, she gets to see Shuusuke too!
But naturally, things start to worry Narumi, once she sees how so many other girls try to use Uko to get close to Shuusuke, who is very popular. Is Narumi doing the same thing too? Narumi still feels awkward in her new stylish appearance, and sort of feels like she is lying to everyone. Can she really be her true self around Uko? Why does Uko want to be friends with her, anyway? They are not alike at all? How does Shuusuke feel about Narumi, and how would he react at seeing her real, ordinary, style?
The last story is rather silly and involves yet another one of those amazing shoujo manga heroes who is a stylist. In this case, the guy does manicures and paints nails. Seriously. This only happens in shoujo manga. Anyway, our heroine, Ayame, is part of a family that teaches traditional tea ceremony. Her strict older brother is in charge of the business, but Ayame often ends up working as well, dressed in a formal kimono. She longs to do some more youthful things. One day, after school, she accompanies her friends to go karaoke. There she meets a very handsome, if somewhat strange, guy named Kutsumi. After initially being misled about his personality and thinking he was a player, Ayame discovers that he works in a salon, and is in the process of learning to do nails and manicures. He admires Ayame’s hands, and asks her to become a hand model for him. Oh yeah, there’s a pick-up line for you! (“Hey baby, wanna be my hand model?” lol ) Ayame agrees, but soon finds herself falling for him. However, he has a policy of not getting into relationships with his models. What is Ayame to do?
There is a 4th story, sort of, but it is only 2 pages, and is basically a girl named Sakura talking about names (such as Sumire ‘violet’ and Tanpopo ‘dandelion’) and a boy saying he likes Sakura. There is not much to it, and I sort of wonder if it is related to some other work by this author. Hmmmmm.
This is a fun little volume, with heroines who aren’t dumb as bricks, and heroes who are not jerks, though they can occasionally be a bit… unrealistic. All three guys have their own little surprises to bring to the stories, though.