Title: Behind the Scenes!!
Author: Bisco Hatori (Ouran High School Host Club)
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 1, $9.99
Vintage: 2015 by Hakusensha, February 2016 by Viz Media
Ranmaru Kurisu thinks everything is his fault. No matter what he’s doing or what happens. Born to a family of fishermen, the timid, physically weak, and artistic Ranmaru never fit into the community where he grew up. This left him feeling inferior to everyone, and constantly apologizing for every tiny fault. Now that he’s in college, things aren’t much better, but he intends to work hard and find a place for himself. One day he stumbles on a film crew making a zombie movie, and finds himself in the middle of artistic mayhem when his presence interrupts the shoot. He passes out from the shock and excitement, and wakes to find himself in the care of the Art Squad, a campus club that builds sets, costumes, props, and special effects for the school’s various film clubs. The club’s president, Ryuji Goda, doesn’t tolerate useless apologies or people who run away from their problems. He’s loud, confident, commanding, and firmly believes in moving forward and evolving. He takes an immediate interest in Ranmaru (Goda seems the type to collect eccentric, troubled sorts like they’re lost puppies), and starts assigning him tasks. Ranmaru’s eye for detail and love of artistry make him a perfect addition, he just lacks confidence in himself and his skills. Even so, he manages to pull the club out of trouble with some quick thinking when a special effects model is destroyed, and he comes up with the idea for a troublesome set location. Once he officially joins the club, the hazing begins, and Ranmaru is forced to clean the club room and run various errands. Errands that teach Ranmaru where supplies are located, introduce him to the clubs he’ll be working with, give him a tour of the campus, and other useful things he’ll need to know as both a student and a member of the Art Squad. All the while, Ranmaru is witness to the passion and skill the other members of the club put into their assignments, particularly Ruka Enjoji, who must deal with a director constantly rejecting her costume designs.
The series is being marketed with steampunk themes, but there’s really nothing steampunk about it. Goda wears some jewelry with gears on it, and Hatori draws pipes and gears here and there to fill up space and divide panels. Oh, and Ranmaru likes to build robots. That’s pretty much it. It falls into the “just add gears and it’s steampunk” cliché. So if you were excited for the series because of that, well you certainly won’t find it in this first volume. I obviously can’t speak for the future of the series, but it’s a modern day university setting. I personally enjoyed the story’s setting, but I majored in theatre, and I’m a cosplayer, so I have experience set building, prop making, and costuming. I can see this being a great way to pull a reader like me in, but I can also see that backfiring if Hatori didn’t put in enough research to make things believable. It’s alright for now, although it’s odd to see Economics majors spending all their free time building sets for film clubs (who also have non-relevant majors). In an American university (at least at mine), these things went hand and hand with your major, not as outside clubs (though anyone could audition for acting roles). And I’m a little surprised Hatori didn’t just put everyone into an arts and humanities university. Their declared majors haven’t come into play at all yet, and I don’t know that they ever will. That said, I know all about turning papier-mâché into literally anything, and working together to build incredible set pieces and costumes. It’s hard work, but it’s fun, and it’s great to see that hard work come together for a production. That transfers through the story very well, especially through Goda and Ruka. They’re the liveliest of the side characters so far – Izumi is a blank-slate pretty boy; Tomu is loud and talks tough; Maasa likes creepy things. Goda carries a lot of the story in his role as the group’s leader, but he’s also the impetus for pretty much everything going on. Ranmaru is way over-the-top, even for Hatori, and really needs to be more balanced with the other characters. Hatori’s energy is here, fantastical and exaggerated, and there are glimpses of charm and heart that could bloom throughout later volumes. There’s also the hint of a love triangle, already, in volume one, though it’s possible I’m reading too much into it. I’m not completely sold, but I did enjoy it, and I’m a fan of Hatori’s other licensed works, so I look forward to watching the characters change and grow. Especially Ranmaru, who certainly has the most obvious room for growth.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.