“A Little Bit Of Life” – Four Shoujo Stories (manga) – 7/10 Beach Balls

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. ~Maria Robinson

Genre: A mix of Shoujo and Josei stories. Other than that, it’s in the review for each one-shot.

Review Status: Complete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US. However, it is out of print, and due to when it was brought over (’96), the art is flipped in the US printing.

Art: The art is slightly dated, though still pretty typical for shoujo series. The lines aren’t always clean, but you have long-haired girls and big eyes. Some of the art is better than others. The one-shots collected in this are from all different time periods- They Were 11 was published in ’75, while some of the others date from the 80’s and 90’s.

: In the review for each one.

This collection of stories is was the first shoujo manga published in the US. It’s a bit of a shame that it’s now out-of-print. Four stories from various mangaka that sprawl various genres and situations, this collection shows the roots of shoujo. However, I regret that they didn’t always pick the best stories to be published and really show Shoujo’s abilities. Two were very good, but the other two were poor in execution and story. However, the two that are good are worth seeking out on their own.

‘Promise’ by Keiko Nishi (Slice-of-Life/Drama/Supernatural)
A girl’s who’s become lost in life meets a stranger who is strangely familiar, and helps her gain back some understanding and happiness in life. Reiko always knew her mother wasn’t going to stay a widow forever, but when her mother suddenly introduces her to her husband-to-be, it comes as a shock. Reiko’s feeling as confused and as in turmoil as many people do when their parents decide to remarry- something that’s far from uncommon in today’s society. She has a hard time coming to terms with it and wishes she were dead so that she wouldn’t have to deal with it all- like her twin brother who never got a chance to live. Of course, the mysterious stranger who becomes friend and confidant expresses the idea that perhaps her brother is the one who is jealous of her. Perhaps in dealing with all the stress and discomfort of family life, Reiko is the lucky one. This was nice because it’s so relatable for so many people. While it’s not the best one-shot I’ve read, it most definitely is one for when you’re stressed by family and feel like giving up. 8/10

‘They Were 11’ by Moto Hagio (Sci-fi/Psychological/Mystery/Shoujo)
Only 10 students were sent out in on the mission into space. So why are there 11? Who is the extra, and why are they there? This is by far the best one-shot in the volume. This slowly explores the mystery of the ship- why it was abandoned, what happened to the people on it- while getting into the psychology and suspicions of the students. Tensions start building from the beginning as they can’t verify who is and isn’t a student. Accidents begin to happen and things start centering on one student who has empathetic abilities. Whether these students will survive is questionable, and will keep you on your seat! Good enough to have had a movie version made of it, this is a great story for anyone who enjoys thrillers! 10/10

‘The Changeling’ by Shio Sato (Sci-fi/Shoujo/Drama)
Lin has come from earth to contact and research a civilization started a thousand years ago. What she finds is a civilization that had a revolution 70 years ago, destroying a decadent noble class and establishing a virtual utopia. But why did it happen only 70 years ago and no sooner? What’s the secret behind these people that have genetically engineered themselves to no longer be able to breed with humans? This story is pretty short and to-the point, written in the vein of ‘I, Robot’ or ‘Bicentennial Man’. It isn’t half as sophisticated as those stories, though, and fails to have much dramatic emotional impact when the secret is exposed or when the explanation for everything is given. With such weak characters and a rushed pacing, this is a very weak addition to the volume. 6/10

‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ by Keiko Nishi (Josei/Drama)
The second contribution to this collection by Keiko, this story is about a man who’s been visiting his mistress when an earthquake hits. Enticed to stay, he starts reminiscing about how he met and fell in love with his wife. But was it really love? Or does he love his mistress? What does each woman really mean to him? It’s not as well put-together as her other work in this, ‘Promise’, is. It only shallowly explores his feelings for his wife and how they got together, and his relationship with his mistress is downright annoying. His mistress behaves like an immature child, while his wife lives out-of-touch with the world. The plot is pretty tragic, though, since when he realizes who he truly loves that person ends up dying. Overall, though, this is another poor story. 5/10

Overall, the four stories in here do manage to convey the range of shoujo and josei stories out there, but are of mixed quality.

: 14+. There is a little language, I remember the d-word being said twice. There are two instances of Barbie-doll nudity or where the genitals are covered up. ‘They Were 11’ had alien races involved, and two of them are hermaphroditic until maturation- one never matured and lives an extended life as a monk among his people, another will gain the ability to become fully a man if s/he passes the test they are on. S/he and another guy develop a somewhat romantic relationship, and s/he states that s/he would become a woman for him. In another story, a man is having an affair. No nudity or sexual situations are shown, just his bare chest and some of her legs. Any and all deaths are either offscreen and/or implied.

Other titles you might enjoy
They Were 11 (anime)
Solanin (manga)
Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan (manga)
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (manga)


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