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May 19, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: Stepping on Roses vol. 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Stepping on Roses
Author: Rinko Ueda (Tail of the Moon)
Publisher: Viz Media
Volume: Volume 1, $9.99
Vintage: 2007 by Shueisha in Japan, April 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: The back of the book describes it as “a rags-to-riches romance,” which it is.  It’s rated for older teens, which really just means there’s some sexual suggestiveness.  It’s not any worse than…oh nearly every other shojo title on the shelves.  It’s set in the Meiji Era (1868-1912), so it’s also a period romance.

Sumi Kitamura is really down on her luck.  Her older brother Eisuke gambles their money away, and keeps bringing home orphaned children for her to take care of.  Sumi loves each of them as if they were real members of her family, but they have very little money and are deeply in debt.  When one of the children falls ill, Sumi sets out to beg for medicine and aid, and is helped by a handsome gentleman who gives her some money.  She falls instantly in love, but the guy is far out of her reach.  The creditors come knocking again, and Sumi decides her only option now is to sell her body.  She finds way more than she bargained for when she is bought and whisked away by a rich young man named Soichiro Ashida.  After a quick makeover, Sumi is surprised further when Soichiro asks her to marry him.  Soichiro assures Sumi that he will provide for her family and give her all the money she needs if she agrees, but there is one condition – this is to be a loveless marriage.  Strictly business.  Soichiro states that he will never love her, and she is never to love him.  Can Sumi really live in this kind of relationship?  And what about the gentleman who saved her earlier – will she ever see him again?

The marriage is a sham, but Sumi must be convincing.  She starts taking lessons on being a proper lady from Soichiro’s servant, Komai.  A job that will take longer than a single volume to complete.  But the wedding is immediate, and she’ll start meeting friends and relatives quickly as well.  Can Sumi convince them that she isn’t just a girl from the streets, and somehow manage to pretend that she is in love with a man she isn’t allowed to love?  Never mind the fact that she is actually in love with her mysterious savior….

Marriage with a catch, in Stepping on Roses volume 1 from Viz Media.

The entire volume is a hyperactive sprint; the story takes off at a run, and keeps going like it’s unable to stop.  It’s some truly incredible pacing, and it helps you forget how utterly ridiculous and fluffy the book really is.  If someone took this and made it a serious story (and undoubtedly it’s been done in some form, because this plot isn’t anything new), it would be fantastic.  But this bubblegum, sugary tone just isn’t doing anything for me.  Lots of swooning and blushing, but I read (and enjoy) Black Bird, so I don’t really have a right to complain about that.  It’s not that I dislike it; I have a mild interest in who Sumi eventually ends up with (Nozomu, the guy who rescues her early on, is a little blank right now, but it could get interesting), because this early in the game, it could be either of the young men.  It’s the style and tone that I have a problem with.  I read Matsuri Hino’s manga, so it’s surprising I’m not taking to this…it just hasn’t really pulled me in, and I’m not sure future volumes will either.  There’s nothing particularly unique about it – these character types are a dime a dozen; the art is totally fine (except for an off expression now and then), but doesn’t stand out from the sea of titles out there.  Fortunately the heroine, although a tad flighty, is stubborn and determined, so I don’t think she’ll just float along like so many lead females tend to do.  Unfortunately, Soichiro is kind of a jerk, and she doesn’t bother to stand up to him much.  Time will tell what sort of character she turns out to be.

Now for a bit of quick news.  News of the demise of DC Comics’ manga imprint CMX exploded across the Internet yesterday.  A lot of people are upset, not just because they will be losing beloved titles, but because they feel like DC has really screwed everyone over.  CMX was a quiet little branch of DC, chugging along, acquiring new titles, and updating the CMX website and adding pre-orders just the day before.  The news is sudden and quite a shock.  As if someone woke up Tuesday morning and said, “Hey, what’s that over there?  Oh, who cares.  Let’s get rid of it.”  The official statement via Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan Didio is:

Over the course of the last six years, CMX has brought a diverse list of titles to America and we value the books and creators that we helped introduce to a new audience. Given the challenges that manga is facing in the American marketplace, we have decided that CMX will cease publishing new titles as of July 1, 2010.

The shuttering of the CMX line does not affect the best-selling series Megatokyo which will continue publication, now as a DC Comics title with story and art by Megatokyo’s award-winning creator Fred Gallagher.

We’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the efforts and dedication of the CMX staff and to thank our fans who have supported CMX.

I, and many others, aren’t buying it (not as a sole reason anyway).  The branch is getting shut down cold.  Solicits releasing past July 1st are canceled.  This includes titles solicited in last month’s and this upcoming month’s Previews (so if it still make it in there, just ignore the section).  Apparently anything with a release date after July 1st is dead.  Newly acquired titles won’t see the light of day, and many series will go unfinished.  The little Megatokyo addition is almost laughable.  If they canceled that they’d probably have some contract issues to deal with, not to mention that the book will bring in a good deal of money.  But Megatokyo could likely easily find another publisher if it needed to; most of these manga titles won’t be so lucky.  Especially with the manga market being what it is right now.  It’s not surprising that a manga company is struggling (Go! Comi and Aurora are recent losses as well, and Viz just fired 40-50 people and shut down its New York branch), but it is surprising that a power house publisher is pulling the plug completely and without warning.  So, condolences to those who are losing their jobs at CMX.  And I will join the growing amount of manga readers who are being left out in the cold with an unfinished title that may never again see the light of day in America.  There are plenty of places to read about how DC mismanaged CMX (poor marketing, pretending like it didn’t exist), and speculations on what might really be going on.  I’ll try to get them together and will possibly post some links for anyone interested at the end of my Friday review (it’s a yaoi title, so just scroll down if that’s not your thing).  For now, I just wanted to spread the news.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristin Bomba. Kristin Bomba said: New Review: Stepping on Roses vol 1 from @Viz_Media: https://comicattack.net/2010/05/bblsteppingonroses1/ #manga […]

  2. Billy

    What a fantastic cover. I would kill (not really) to be able to draw something even remotely that good.

  3. Kris, don’t misogynistic stories like these get under your skin? Or it just doesn’t bug you because it’s fiction?

  4. Sometimes. But yeah, the fact that it’s fiction helps. So does the fact that it’s written by a woman (though maybe that should make it worse?). Misogynistic means having a hatred of and distrusting women. This is more um…whatever it’s called…chauvinism maybe? A superiority toward the opposite sex. Where the woman is placed into a stereotypical female role. Um, when you read a PERIOD piece (like this one is), it’s less bothersome, because that’s how it was then. It’s helpful when the heroine isn’t a spineless, helpless, constant damsel in distress figure. I haven’t quite pinned down Sumi yet. Like I said, she has quite the stubborn streak, but so far she hasn’t bothered to stand up to Soichiro.

  5. Ive gotta say though that Manga were alsways seen as an affordable medium compared to Anime.Reading that stuff on a computer screen sucks aswell ^^

  6. […] [Volume 1 review.] […]

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