When I was in high school, I had a new crush every five minutes. And a lot of those weren't on real people, but on popstars who I read about in magazines, saw on MTV, and heard whispering to me over my headphones. And since not all of them were female, I'd have been thrilled to have had a manga like SENSUAL PHRASE. It's got comics, music, and dreamy romance? I am so there!
The story of Aine is really every adolescent's wishes fulfilled. So awkward and strange are we, most of our love at that time goes unrequited, and generally, the towns we are trapped in are too small for the things we know we can do. Imagine, then, that the obscure object of desire that adorns the poster on your wall plays a concert, spots you in the audience, and sees everything about you that no one else can see. So it is when Sakuya, lead singer of Lucifer, spots Aine (though, he nearly runs her down with his car, rather than playing out the "Dancing in the Dark" video). He finds some lyrics she wrote for a contest and looks through the poetry to the girl full of sexual longing behind them. He draws her into his world under the pretext of making her the band's lyricist, but we know he wants so much more.
Since this is a romance manga, nothing goes easy, and the reader will likely share Aine's frustration at Sakuya's push-pull romancing throughout the forthcoming volumes. But such is the nature of these relationships. The payoff can't happen too fast. The true purity of teenage puppy love is the longing, and that's what SENSUAL PHRASE has in spades. It's also full of desperate poesy, backbiting peers, and self-discovery. The English rewrite for the book is by artbomb's own Kelly Sue DeConnick, and she teases out the natural anxiety in Shinjo's script. She also turns the heat up on Sakuya's smoldering gaze by letting his dialogue ooze with bad boy self-confidence.
Given that I am not all that different from when I was 15 (and I have the angry ex-girlfriends to prove it), I still crush like mad. SENSUAL PHRASE is my new #1. J'adore SENSUAL PHRASE.
Jamie S. Rich has edited comic books for ten years, over half of them as editor in chief at Oni Press. In 2000, he published his first novel, Cut My Hair, and is currently exploring his second. When it's done, he swears his website, confessions123.com, will make a lot more sense. In addition, he has written film and music criticism for various publications, and has worked on scripts for far more Tokyopop manga translations than he cares to count.