Review: Suihelibe! Volumes 1-2
Junior high is a time for new experiences, new activities, and new friends. Tetsu’s life, though, seems to be the same as it always was, though, until his search for a club to join leads him to the dwindling biology club and a strange young girl named Lan. She is actually an alien from the planet Noid on Earth trying to recapture escaped animals from her planet. Lan’s inability to keep even the simplest of secrets and the constant interruption of the alien animals soon turns Tetsu’s boring life into one a lot more interesting than he was expecting.
Suihelibe! Vol. 1-2
ISBN 978-1-4012-1900-0 and 978-1-4012-1901-7, $9.99 each
Rated E for everyone, for ages 9-12/grades 4-6
Azuma’s two volume series is the ultimate in cute, but young female manga readers will find much to love here. The characters are the driving force behind this shojo title. Tetsu is a typical manga male character—very ordinary, but determined to succeed once he has a goal to shoot for. The injustice of how animals are treated motivates him out of the slump of his life and gets him fired up about making the biology club a success. This fiery passion spills over into the other club members, such as Suzuka, a good girl who joins the club against her friends’ advice’; Akutsu, a distrustful boy whose love of astronomy makes him wonder about Lan’s real origins; and Mizumoto, a boy who joins the club when he gets a crush on Lan. The alien girl is another manga standard—the perky, determined girl who doesn’t follow conventional rules of behavior. Her actions provide much of the comedy of the series and will make readers chuckle as Tetsu tries to clean up her messes.
The plot is simple—each chapter involves an ordinary event, such as going to the beach, joining a club, or taking a class, and adds the interruption of a Noidian creature. In a longer series this formula would become repetitive to the point of boredom, but in a two-volume work things keep moving swiftly, giving readers just enough time to get to know the characters before moving on to the final conflict. This conflict takes up the second half of the second volume and revolves around Lan being judged by her alien teacher to see if she has learned anything during her time on Earth. Azuma is a strong writer who makes readers really feel the loss that Lan’s human friends will feel if their alien buddy leaves them. She also makes sure to completely wrap up the series, something that doesn’t always happen in shorter works. There are no loose ends, even though readers will know that the biology club’s adventures will continue outside of the pages of the story.
Azuma’s art is as cute as her writing. Very rounded faces and softly formed bodies give her characters the appearance of being younger than they are, but they never look too babyish for the intended audience. Her costumes are always attractive and almost beg to be reproduced for Halloween or conventions. Parents, though, may object to a few of them which feature details that are more appropriate for older characters and readers. The effect doesn’t over sexualize the characters, but it might lead to some discussions about appropriate outfits with the late-elementary/early-middle school age readers. There is also a good amount of talk about romance, developing bodies and other topics of interest to 9-12 year old girls which moves this series out of the “everyone” range allowed by the rating.
This is a strong, if sugary cute, selection for girls who have liked series such as Ultra Maniac. While it occasionally borrows a little heavily from that magical-girl manga series (and at times from Harry Potter), readers should like Azuma’s mix of silliness, science, fantasy, and romance. And at two volumes, this is a great way to add to a manga collection without having to add a lot of volumes.
About Snow Wildsmith
Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.
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