At this very moment, I should be having a great time in the hot springs of Gunma prefecture, but a last minute volcanic eruption in Iceland kind of trashed my plans for the whole week, and I am rotting away in my room instead. So now that everything is canceled, I'll try to blog a little for a change.
For starters, I'd like to introduce the first volume of Shoujo sosuu, literally “young girl prime numbers.” It's the latest all-age manga by Nagatsuki Misoka (serialized in Kirara Forward) whom you may know for his LO-published story-heavy eromanga A day in the life, or his later 4-koma HR. Shoujo sosuu doesn't have a lot to do with prime numbers, but it certainly does with young girls. It's the everyday life story of Anzu and Sumire, two twin middle school girls with somewhat constrasting personalities, and of their older brother, their friends, their acquaintances and so on. A standard setting perhaps, but with a rather unique spin on several levels.
For one thing, Nagatsuki-sensei has a peculiar art style; in particular, he draws his manga in greyscale instead of black and screentones; this fits the mellow atmosphere of the story quite well. His characters are really cute, and a noticeable improvement over A day in the life. Except mouths, which for some reason are really off in many panels, unfortunately.
The narrative structure is also interesting. As usual in the slice-of-life genre, nothing too consequential seems to happen (although character relationships do evolve in ways that are apparent even at this early stage). But Nagatsuki-sensei takes this idea one step further, by consciously avoiding the resolution of narrative tension in individual chapters. There can be a build-up of some kind, and suddenly the focus shifts to somewhere else (especially from Sumire to Anzu or the other way around when they are not together), or someone falls asleep, and an ellipsis follows. I'm not sure yet how I like this, but the change from the more usual one-punch-line-a-chapter format of slice-of-life comedies is not unwelcome.
The main draw of Shoujo sosuu, however, is probably Nagatsuki-sensei's fascination for young girls showing on every page. He loves their body lines, their moody quirks, their spoilt child antics, their joie de vivre, and succeeds pretty well at conveying that love to the reader (not that it was too hard in our case, I confess). This passionate dissection of youthful cuteness may be the “decomposition in prime factors” that the title is alluding to.
The older brother character, Fujio, a stout bearded guy in his early twenties, acts as an author surrogate of sorts. He is a professional figure designer—in the business of making cute things (a kawaii-ya-san, to quote the obi strip)—and also admits to not being insensitive to his twin sisters' gentle sensual beauty, although he doesn't do anything improper.
“Why are young girls always so gleaming?“, Nagatsuki asks on the cover flip. “Why not try and elucidate this eternal mystery once again together?” Well, why not indeed?