Manga Reviews

Friday, April 28, 2006

Jaja Uma Grooming Up

Jaja Uma Grooming Up
Scanslated by Manga! Inc

Topic: Shounen, Comedy, Romance

Kuze Shunpei, a high school student, is on spring break going to Hokkaidou when he loses his wallet. Stranded in the mountains with no money and his motorcycle having run out of gas, he passes out in the snow on the side of the road. When he wakes up he finds that he's been saved and brought to the Watarai farm, a horse ranch that breeds race horses. There he meets a host of various people, ranging from stable hands to the owner and his family (which includes four daughters).

Shunpei is completely unsuited for the farm life, and his city upbringing contrasts sharply with the hard labor required to help the farm out. Yet despite all this, he tries his best to become accepted. However, he constantly gets into arguments with Hibiki (the second daughter), who views him as useless. Things come to a head when Shunpei scares one of the horses, who throws Hibiki (Hibiki is a rider). Ashamed, Shunpei flees back to Tokyo for the rest of the spring break. But back in Tokyo, Shunpei begins to long for the simple farm life. Will Shunpei ever be able to return and prove himself to be worthy of being a member of the farm?

The strong point of this manga is the character interaction. Shunpei's actions are ernest, but clumsy and his dialogue reflects that. As he slowly learns the various skills associated with running a farm, the ernest energy rubs off on the other characters, slowly bringing them to life. In many ways, the manga is not about the destination, it's about the journey.

The character art is fairly typical, with nothing special standing out about the characters. As with most mangas, the characters are better drawn when they are serious, and drawn deformed when they aren't. Even the horses aren't anything special, having almost no distinguishing marks between them. Outside of a few main characters, it's difficult to tell people apart from another. The background art on the other hand, is pretty, especially in scenic landscapes. The artist does an excellent job of drawing a realistic sky, rather than relying on white space with a few clouds. This simple action makes the scenes look that much larger.

Overall, this is a fun slow-paced manga. You're always watching Shunpei's life unfold, rather than some mangas where you get to see multiple events from different locales, because they occur concurrently. The plot isn't too compelling but the characters make up for it. The one major point I'll dock it for, is simply that the manga isn't addictive. Since there's no urgency anywhere, there's no overwhelming desire to continue reading at any point.



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