What kind of person will I become? What can I do for myself? Children ponder those very questions, and from those thoughts, the "Heart's Egg" is born. Unseen by most, the Heart's Egg remains hidden within every individual, and represents a person's own ideal character.
While adjusting to life at a new school, Amu Hinamori has unintentionally gained a reputation for being "cool and spicy." Unhappy with her outward persona, Amu often wonders how she can act more like her true self. Her desire for change is manifested when one morning, Amu awakens to find three eggs beneath her. They hatch to reveal Ran, Miki and Suu—three "Guardian Characters," each an embodiment of Amu's ideal self.
Shugo Chara! follows Amu's journey as the trio begin to show her just how much potential she has, encountering other Guardian Characters, and a few troublesome experiences along the way.
Shugo Chara! received the 32nd Kodansha Manga Award for best children's manga in 2008.
The series had nine volumes published in English by Del Rey from March 27, 2007 to July 27, 2010. Kodansha Comics USA picked up the license and published volumes 10-12 from May 10 to September 6, 2011, also republishing the previous volumes from August 21, 2012 to January 4, 2013.
I started off reading this manga because I heard it was a fun, happy-go-lucky kind of story. It was! I laughed out loud a lot and the message was upbeat and positive. But it was more than just a good time. I finished the series feeling not just satisfied and cuddly, but inspired.
I'm a sucker for creators who take an everyday life concern and turn it into a compelling story. The concept which this manga is based on, that of having dreams or an ideal self, is something I think everyone can relate to. I know I struggled with identity when I was younger. Getting
to see Amu initially discouraged by what she lacks and slowly begin to understand and believe in herself is a beautiful thing. Combined with her other trials of having friends move away, trying to find out what love really is, and being a responsible older sister/buddy, this really makes her a dynamic, relatable character. Throughout the story as she gains confidence she has an awesome power to change those around her for the better. This is one area I believe the story did well at.
Most of the villains in the story are fairly likable. None of them are evil "just because". They are smart in their methods as well. I was never groaning at how silly a bad guy was acting, because what they did made sense. Additionally, those who are redeemed retain their original personalities and turn to good because they remember what they have lost. I enjoyed that rather than just beating enemies down through sheer magical power, Amu also worked at their hearts.
Initially I was skeptical about the Guardian Characters. Normally when something small and cute shows up its bound to be annoying. But I ended up feeling the opposite towards them. They were all hilarious! I liked their distinct personalities and their interactions amongst themselves. As for their relation to the plot, I think they were a really good manifestation of ideals. Some of them took a distinguishable form of a future career, such as an air-hostess. Others embodied a state of being such as freedom. A few characters had more than one Guardian Character. Sometimes they would disappear or turn to darkness. They could guide and give power to those who believed in them. All of these aspects are things that can be true of dreams in real life.
I waver about whether relationships among characters were handled well. On one hand, the romance aspect of the manga is amazing. I normally shun romances, but this one made my heart skip a few beats. Amu's innocence and tendency to blush made her adorable! Her quest to understand love and her uncertain feelings towards various characters remind me of many young people and myself at times. Growth in her romantic relationships is clearly shown and really cute! You can tell what Amu is feeling in all of these interactions. I know some people don't think the romance went far enough or ended satisfactorily, but I feel the consideration Amu's love interests have for her (and the grace they have for each other) is what's really important. And that is there in spades.
On the other hand, I think friendships could have been fleshed out a bit more. Particularly between Amu and Nadeshiko, there wasn't a lot of development. The first season of the anime does a better job of this with episodes that show them hanging out together. As a group the Guardians are pretty cohesive. Individually, however, there wasn't a lot of time for clear, deep bonds to form. Towards the end of the manga was kind of weird. I felt that hints of romance forming between side characters were unnecessary and a bit at odds with individual personalities. It seemed like a rushed "as long as everyone has someone" kind of resolution.
Pacing of the story moved right along. There weren't a lot of uninteresting side stories or filler chapters. Powers and transformations stayed fairly tame and weren't blown out of proportion or continually upgraded in an attempt to keep things interesting. In a world where most series resort to such tactics, this was refreshing.
Overall, I found Shugo Chara! to be a feel-good series with a surprising amount of depth and relation to life. I'm not about to say it's world-class writing and that it opened my eyes or anything like that, but there are many insightful moments in this story. It's a wonderful series to pick up if you're ever feeling down about life.
I like the art - clean, straightforward, and very pleasing to the eyes. I thought the character's emotions were also clearly reflected in the art.
The story was okay. It was fast-paced which is good. I love Ikuto's character very much. Hehe. There was too much idealism which isn't much too my taste. And at the end, there was a confusing all-fantasy arc that surpassed space and time which I didn't really like. But overall, I thought the manga was good and I definitely enjoyed it. I liked best the dokidoki moments of Ikuto and Amu. Hehe. I also liked how Ikuto was portrayed and those
times when he couldn't express himself very well. There were things that came out unexpectedly (I thought Tadase liked Nadeshiko :P), but they were still interesting.
P.S. I watched the anime first but after episode 8, I gave up and read the manga instead. The anime was very slow-paced and has a lot of fillers. I'm not sure if I'm gonna continue/finish it, but if it's for the sake of Ikuto, maybe I would. Hehe
In one line : // If you're into fanservice before anything else, this manga is for you. //
I've never been into Shoujo. Works targeting females very often present the same overused tropes with little to no variation ; therefore, I've never been too fond of them. If I do feel like reading one from time to time, I easily enter the "overdose" zone when it comes to them. To some extent, it can be argued it just isn't my thing, that Shounen, Seinen, etc. also lack variations overall and yes, I couldn't deny it is partly true.
That settled, how come I started Shugo Chara so
long after its release ? Even though I never touched the Anime, I did vaguely know it from its popularity. And I was more or less pressed to someday touch that work. I could have gone with the Anime (from the fragments I saw it is way better than the manga, minus the number of fillers), but it was too long ; so I went for the manga, the original material. And it was a chore. It goes beyond me just disliking it. I could have dealt with it if it had qualities - regardless of my enjoyment - but its "qualities" are mainly "potential qualities" rather than factual one.
And I'll go through them a bit.
It'll be rather short. The first chapters don't reflect a mastered art, the panels are sometimes off and the proportions, especially, are problematic. But it gets better along the way, sort of.
The limits of the mangaka seem to rapidly show off, though, as legs and sometimes the faces continue to be off. It would explain why she refrains from actually "showing" the fights. They last for one or two pages and during that time, the panels stick to the charas, static, instead of showing the actions, movements. In short, you have no idea what's really going on during those moments. Does it matter ? Apparently not, if those fights really mattered they would be longer (and I'll come back to it later) but "clarity" is a criteria nonetheless.
And the lack of clarity is also perceptible through the absence of backgrounds. Now, the relative absence of backgrounds in Shoujo (yes, it's not a genre and yet work targeting females tend to share the same codes) isn't something new and is part of its code ; however, there are a limits to everything and Shugo Chara break those : the pages should remain clear, no matter how little background they possess.
The concept in itself is interesting, however, the manga fails at properly exploiting and developing it. Everything (Embryo, Shugo Chara, X-Eggs, Humpty Lock and Dumpty Key, etc.) seems to be an excuse to deliver fanservice ; while pretending to be something else and that's exactly where the issue lies. I don't mind fictions which are nothing but a concentration of fansevice, when they know to be nothing else.
There's no proper "arc", most chapters are "pauses", as though something tenseful occurred needing for the readers and the charas to cool down ; the issue is those supposedly "key points" don't exist in the sense the pacing doesn't offer you the slightest variation in the tension bar.
And that's probably the roots of every narrative issues of this manga : the pacing. In a way, there's no way to get bored, but there's no time to get really entertained either. The manga keeps jumping from one thing to another, without developments and build-ups, for most of the manga, and through that goes to conveniences after conveniences leading to amusingly absurd situations. It tries giving valuable lessons to children, but they fall flat. As I said, everything is too convenient and easy for it not to ring artificial.
EX. Kairi is a traitor and it shocks the Guardians. I’m completely fine with the idea, but maybe making him more than a background chara would have given his treason more impact ? He was as important as Yaya, then got a crush for Amu - solely because she's the protagonist - and then, tada !, betrayal. And he’s missed by the entire Guardians even though their relationships were never built out.
(SPOILERS END !!!!)
All in all, two themes are really developed : at the age of the protagonist, kids generally fall for the look of people : they have crushes, they aren't in love ; knowing the person is developing love. However, even the two charas (the one saying it and the one hearing it) do/continue paying attention to the look instead of the person, as though this conversation never occurred for the longest time. Even more ironically, it's a third chara that shows first he became aware of that dissonance and this is another issue with this manga : nothing seems to really matter. And I already explained the reason (see the paragraph above). To come back to the thematic, it was a pleasant surprise - I really was bothered with the overload of superficiality and didn't expect the mangaka to have a use for it - but it's a shame it didn't out-build itself properly.
The second one is the "would-be-self". How at the early teenagehood we are in an identity crisis and Shugo Charas are a good representation of it. Sadly...as I explained earlier, it is rapidly cast aside for more "important" matters : fanservice. Though the last arc tries to wrap everything tossed aside together to pretend it wasn't forgotten, but it doesn't work.
However, before going to the end of the manga, let's point out other things first.
Like the lack of information. Nothing surprising in itself with the preponderance of fanservice, but I do question the validity to have the first real piece of information in chapter 27.5 out of 48 (the "official" ending) outside of the main story (as it is an omake). As for other important information, you can wait for the last arc of the manga, an "epilogue" arc, which will try to cover everything left.
Also, on a more positive note, either the author improved or she suddenly realized her main flaw as the “save Ikuto” arc finally shows some notion of pacing. Even if it is still flawed and the arc afterwards, as well as the “adds” (aka “encore" chapters) which are even better balanced, they all show an improvement, which is an easy word compared to the mess it was before. And I only speak of the pacing, not if the events are even credible considering the quasi inexistent development of the charas and their relationships.
It's also starting from this arc that the manga finally starts having some really touching moments and chapter 42 is the first justified "pause", even if the arc before didn't convey tension as well as it could have due to the lack of elaboration, be it storywise or characterwise.
Lastly two coated suggestivities : The final page of the official end of the manga is a huge "fuck you" and so is something occurring a few pages before where Amu got the lesson and understood and then "fuck you reader, I wanna mah happy ending even if I'm gonna kill the rule I just established cos it sells more ! and invent something in the very last "Encore" chapter". Yes, it's a bit crude to formulate it that way, but it really how it made me feel.
The second one is that I also cannot say I'm very fond of the "Encore" chapters that, even if they show correct pacing, seem to be “let’s pair charas up" chapters for the sake of having charas being together even if their relationships were never really developed.
The pacing's issue underlying everything, it is with little surprise to end up with bland characters, though some carry some traits, a lot of them are shallow and will remain shallow. However, the mangaka tries to deepen a few of them near the end. Do they ever become proper characters ? Some of them will, yes, but as said before, most will remain shallow and charas shouldn't be shallow for 3/4 of a work. Less fanservice and more development would have been a good way to counterbalance it.
Funny enough, the manga seems to be aware of it to some extent as you have some small jokes toward it here and there, be it how sudden and "out of nowhere" some things are, or characters being supposedly gone and yet another character will consider the knowingly gone character as still there, or a chara conveniently being there, how ? "it doesn't matter" replies said character.
It is hard to feel empathy for most charas. Sure, you can feel attracted to the trope they vaguely try to reflect (I was attracted to Nadeshiko, for example), but with everything being so fast, it's rather hard to be attached for the characters themselves. For example, a chara stays for 10 chapters - mainly as a background character - and then leaves to reappear 7 chapters later and everyone acts as though it's been ages. Theoretically, it should also reflect the reader, but as a reader, I wasn't even given proper time to connect to said character. Why should I feel anything for him leaving and coming back ? Especially this quickly ? And that's just one example among many "it's been a long time" that occur.
Now about the timespan of this fiction, it's 2-3 years. During the first year, Amu crosses 5-7 times path with Ikuto. And I'm supposed to root for them ? To find their pseudo-feelings/relationship credible enough ? Why ? It's ironical to say, but Amu and Tadase had more development together than Ikuto and Amu. But the main male is Ikuto, so regardless of everything, it is to be expected to turn out that way.
Concerning Ikuto, he's the embodiment of the phantasm of young girls to have an older guy falling for them (because you’re so awesome ?). His development, like most charas, is quasi inexistent and rushed in to justify the "save Ikuto" arc, even if it fails due to the lack of development (yes, yes, I'm repeating myself over and over) and yet, you can rest assured he's a succeeding soft porn material (by soft porn I mean fictions or characters whose only existence is to make females/males drool in desire).
As for the rest of the cast, I brushed it already, they reflect the teenager identity crisis, I don't have much to say ; the idea is nice, but how it was conveyed, not so much... Sure, I could mention Amu which is supposed to represent the chara every young girl would want to be, but it's obvious, isn't it ?
It is bad. Not the worst thing I've came across and I kudo it for improving, but it can't bandage the damages.
Am I surprised of its popularity ? Well, the Anime is popular and as I said, the fragments I saw were better qualitywise. The manga ? How many people read it just because of the Anime ? But well, that's not the subject.
So, let's turn the question differently : am I surprised this work, despite being bad, could sell enough to earn an anime adaptation ? Apart the fact quality and popularity don't always walk hand in hand, no I am not surprised. The targeted audience primarily don't care much for quality, it wants to sigh, to drool, to feel and it achieves that not really with the material provided, but through its own phantasms which fills in the numerous holes.
Would I recommend it to young girls then ? No. Young or not shouldn't justify bad quality. The manga had potential, it could have been done properly, the last quarter of it shows it is able to (more or less), but in the end, it was wasted.
PS : The manga has lots of erotical and sexual metaphors. Not saying if it's good or not, just wanted to point it out.
The idea for the story was good, and it had plenty of humor and kept me hooked... at first. But as I got more into the story, I noticed that it just didn't have the right... appeal, or feeling, so to speak. The concept was creative, but the story overall could be better. And the ending was confusing and a lot went unanswered. Overall, this manga was alright, but could have been better. I was hoping for a better story, and a better understanding. It is also considered a "children's manga", but I highly disagree. With a few strong curse words and a couple of
sexual references, it would be best if "children" did not read it until they are older.