Sunday, January 6, 2013

Manga Review: Iris Zero (Chapters 01 - 27)

Finding a good manga that you enjoy reading can be a very difficult task some times, but there are times when you come across one that is a simple joy to read, and Iris Zero is a good manga that gives you a story that is simple and enjoyable, but makes you curious as to what will happen next.

Starting with the premise of Iris Zero, 27 years before the main plot, children around the world were being born with an enhance vision called "Iris", which range from unique powers such as; to see if someone is lying or being able to see incoming danger. Before long, a whole generation of children are born with an Iris, to the point it is normal for every child to have one (99% of Children as said in the manga), but there are a few who are born without an Iris and are labeled as an "Iris Zero" by their peers and are not looked on too kindly for being different.

The main story starts with the main character named Toru Mizushima, while riding a train to school he explains a little bit about his "Low Exposure" policy that is explained in more detail later, that he lives a life to not stand out or draw attention to himself as a Iris Zero; as it causes him a lot of trouble in his life. One day in class, his life becomes very complicated when the school idol, Koyuki Sasamori asks Toru to "Please go out with me" in front of his whole class, breaking his "Low Exposure" life. After a few amusing moments, it turns out that Koyuki needs help in finding the next student council president; as her Iris power allows her to see "who are the most qualified" for the task which displays over the heads of people with "O"s for qualify and “X"s for those who are not, but she cannot find the next president so she uses her Iris to find the one who can help her, and thus why it lead her to Toru. Hesitant at first to help someone so popular and endanger his privacy, Toru helps by pointing out that maybe the reason she could not find the right person for school council president, is because she cannot see above her own head, which it turns out that the circle "O" she was looking for to find the qualified person was really her. As the student body gushes about Koyuki being student council president, Toru walks away back to his unseen life, until he finds Koyuki waiting for him outside the school gates to greet him.

After that the story goes through a series of chapters of introducing a few characters, with different Irises into the plot.

- Asahi Yuki: A hot headed girl from Toru's childhood, who ratted out Toru as an Iris Zero because he revealed her Iris; that allows her to tell if someone is lying or not if they have a tail, and was only able to gain Toru's forgiveness when Koyuki asked him; to help Asahi from being suspended after she slaps her homeroom teacher Fujimura (Age 25) for lying to her about her job choice (a Police Officer), not realizing the teacher she had an Iris that shows a person's potential.

Hijiri Shinozuka: A former suicidal and Toru's best friend from middle school, they first met when Hijiri's Iris, which lets him see butterflies that gather around living things that are about to die, told him that his friend was going to die soon and Toru was able to help avert the danger.

- Nanase Kuga: Shy, very polite, unassuming girl who has the power to see everyone's feeling, that are displayed on their backs as wings in different colors based on emotions. She met Toru on a school field during which she was alone and he invited her into his group (because she looked lost to him).

The Cultural Festival comes to school, much to Toru’s annoyance, and as Koyuki, Asahi & Hijiri are holding a "Japanese Style Café"; everyone is excited (mostly boys) for the rare chance to see Koyuki in hakama, but when the time comes for her to wear it goes missing and the class blames it on the maid café nearby, but no one can prove that they did it, when someone mentions they could have hide the hakama under their maid outfit, but Nanase points out that the hakama wouldn’t fit under the maid outfits. Toru steps out with Hijiri for a moment and he mentions it might be Nanase, as she was only one who knew that Koyuki was even meant to wear a hakama; but says it only speculation as he has no proof. Koyuki hearing Toru & Hijiri goes to ask not about her costume; but her feelings about someone she likes, because she feels that the reasons for that are the same reasons for Nanase, and her Iris told her she was the best person to help her understand why. Nanase apologizes  for stealing her costume as she saw the boy she liked was in line for Koyuki’s class to see another girl in Japanese clothes, and she believe if he saw her in Koyuki’s costume he would notice her but to no success, she apologizes again because she was going to give it back but was scared, the two understand each other’s feelings and Nanase mentions she wasn’t the only who was happy that Koyuki could not wear her hakama, at that moment Koyuki asks for Nanase’s help in putting on the hakama. Toru just walking around looking for the costume runs into Koyuki wearing the hakama, and she is happy to share the final moments of the festival with him.

After that Nanase gets a confession from Houjou, the same boy she likes, with the others watching the event play out, but Koyuki, Asahi & Hijiri see with their Irises an “X”, a tail on Houjou and later on Hijiri tells Toru he saw a butterfly on Nanase. Toru tries to keep Koyuki out of the problem by saying it’s not their problem to mess with Nanase’s affairs, but she ends up doing so by talking to Nanase’s childhood friend Harumi Tokita; and asking for his help as she says he is the most qualified person to help Nanase but secretly pretends to not care as he has his own plans. The others confront Houjou about lying to Nanase, but denied everything they say and walks away not realizing that Nanase was listening to their conversation. Houjou invites Nanase to his house and despite her better judgment with him, and the ends up in bed with little clothes on and kissing each other. But Nanase notices that Houjou’s has colorless wings on his back, meaning no emotions, and quickly learns he only likes her because she looks like Koyuki, and becomes a different person at this moment scaring Houjou. After that Nanase becomes an “Iris Hunter” stealing the student’s irises, and making Toru think Koyuki she is scared of him and leaving the school so he would not get in the way of her plans. But with Koyuki’s help after learning what Toru has to go through as an Iris Zero on a daily bases, she gets him to come back to school to help Nanase for her pain, which turns out that because of her Iris she was abused by her father and the reason her parents divorced. She is driven by her guilt over everything she had done, she tries to commit suicide first by jumping off the roof before being stopped by Hijiri as he tossed the knife he had with him, and then by the same knife tried again before Tokita stops her. Tokita was the reason Houjou asked Nanase out and for her happiness, and when it backfires and she became a Iris Hunter he took the blame and tried to make himself the bad guy. He talks her out of it, and she cuts hair off to note she is a different person, a better person, to which Hijiri says he going to keep his eye on her.

That’s the bulk of the story, after this point we get some background story on how Nanase, Tokita & Houjou became friends when he was a rebel student, an adventure on getting Koyuki a good birthday gift, and a very endearing fake date between Hijiri and Nanase. But the biggest story point is when the whole group debates the relationship between Koyuki and Toru and if he notices her feelings for him, Asahi has a one way discussion with him when they are alone when she realizes that he is only pretending to not notice because he is scared of losing not only Koyuki but everyone as a friend, Asahi leaves him to think about it and tells him it’s not nice to hurt a girls feelings when he knows when she likes him.

The story is good, it has a very moe art-style to it; but tells a story about these characters’ emotions, and each getting their own story arcs, and even then the art is nice; especially when it comes to everyone’s smiles. One of the few problems is that it falls into the trap of manga in Japan of just stopping and not having an ending, grated one of the story writers got really sick and had to stop but the story leaves off on a lot of things that need to be explained, and chances are when the writer gets better they will not continue the story. Another good thing is the little side stories that characters get sometimes, like Toru’s love for sweets when he cannot get a piece of cake because he is a guy and goes against his “Minimal Exposure” policy to get some by calling Koyuki, or the notes about how the series came to be by the characters explaining the back story. Toru Mizushima as a character is fun as he is a complete anti-social, but despite that still makes friends before he realizes what happens, and to see his view on the world; when the characters need an outside opinion on not only the world, but for themselves as people because their Iris sometimes tell them less than they may think about other people. Overall a good manga to check out if only for the characters and the emotional adventures the story takes them on.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Mood: Sunny
Phrase of the day: Do not walk the path you see, run it, and any fear you might have; will fear you by your heroic march.

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