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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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08/07/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: I"s, vol 1 and 2"

I"s, Vol. 1 and 2
By Masakazu Katsura
Published by VIZ Media

Review by Tom Good

"Did a girl in her underwear just... come through that door? Maybe I'm getting too good at fantasizing?" -- Ichitaka, in I"s Vol. 2

This series made me stop and think about what makes a sexy manga work well. On one end of the spectrum is the type of comic where a woman decides to go into battle against heavily armed robots wearing only a metallic bikini, using combat moves straight from the Cheerleading Style of Kung Fu. Although the drawings may be racy, the reader is left bewildered by the sheer implausibility and awkwardness of the proceedings. At the other end, there are manga like Sokora Refugees and I"s, where sexy illustrations fit into a fully-realized world with likable characters and an intelligent plot.

This high school romantic comedy, by the creator of Video Girl Ai, stars Ichitaka, a boy who has fallen for his bikini-model classmate Iori. He desperately wants her to see him as more than just another hormone-crazed teenage boy lusting after an attractive girl. This presents something of a challenge, since he is, in fact, exactly that.

But Ichitaka may have more to offer, since he is also a sensitive and perceptive youth, still haunted by a prior rejection by another girl. Uncomfortable with his feelings, he spends a lot of time sweating, blushing, or both. Ichi is a well-drawn character who neatly demonstrates the wild roller coaster of teenage emotions.

I"s is pronounced "aizu" not "is." The title refers to the fact that the main characters' names start with the letter I. At first Ichitaka and Iori are the only ones in this group, but in Volume 2 a third I arrives in the form of another cute girl named Itsuki, who happens to be Ichitaka's childhood friend. She plays it cool at first, but she may be more interested in Ichi than she is willing to admit.

This is a great manga. My only criticism is that the cover designs, though good, look very feminine, which might imply to some manga fans that only female readers would enjoy this series. But I think that most men can probably remember a time when they were at least a bit like Ichitaka, which makes the story quite hilarious and fun for us, too. I would like to see this series reach a large audience, so I hope that future covers will have a less narrowly-focused appeal.

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