I found the book in the library and immediately grabbed it when I saw the writer! I really enjoy reading Natsuki Takaya's work (Fruits Basket), because she captures the emotional problems of teenagers (/adults) really well. However, I tend to compare and find most of the similarities between all of them; I cannot base her manga independently 'cause all I see is Fruits Basket in them.
I expect her to have this “higher quality story” for all her manga. However, to be honest, when I read one of her previous stories, I was disappointed; I couldn't even read the whole thing. That was why I
avoid having preconceived high expectation from manga artists.
The high rating I gave this book is probably because of the low expectations I had for it. I saw reviews online, and I did not like what I was being told. So, I was surprised when I saw myself enjoying and laughing at the story.
(This review contains no real summary, as myanimelist did a great one on top!)
This manga consists of 5 short stories (the last one is an extra from her other manga: Tsubasa).
The 5 stories have different artistic style. Ding Dong, Voice of Mine, and Double Flower brings you back to the 90's with those infamously classic big eyes (Kodocha is the anime I can think of that describes the art)!
The other two: Songs to Make You Smile, and Princess Dark Black are similar to Fruits Basket.
I think I liked this book because I was able to see how Natuski Takaya grew as an artist and a writer. It is inspiring to see the progress of a person. In these short stories, you can see some of her earlier ideas that later was incorporated into the brilliant masterpiece, Fruits Basket. Thus, I do recommend this book to people that like going "behind the scenes" to know what created one of the best selling manga out there (Fruits Basket).
My favorite short story was, Songs to Make You Smile. The narration was amazingly written; I was not irritated by the way the main character talked about his problems. It was funny and it was done really well!
Furthermore, Song to Make You Smile, and The Voice of Mine are both about the love of music. However, although music is the subject, the motifs are about bullying and self-loath.
The fact that the manga was short and simple is what made me like it. If they were to prolong the stories, I don't think I could have read it any further. Some of the stories have been played with before by other writers, so dragging the storyline would have made it seem more unoriginal. That is why, by keeping it simple, I was able to see the emotional problems of the characters very clearly.
I love that in practically all of the stories, you get the feeling that the women are weak, but as you read on, you realize how strong they really are.
And of course, since this is a romance genre, all of the short stories had the typical love ending. My favorite quote from this story about love was: "Just a second!! Are you saying I'm going to fall into that childhood friend cliche"
Princess Black was the one that had a different vibe than the other four stories. I did not read Tsubasa (this section came out of that manga), but I found it funny. This was less about romance and more about comedy. Unlike the other stories, the main character for this one explicitly stated how she was seeking love, but as I said, it is the least romantic one out of all the of stories.
I know people specifically disliked Black Princess because it was so different, but I find it humorous when authors’ make parodies (their own rendition) of fairy tales. Natsuki already did a Cinderella one, and this is the one for Snow White (I think it was more inspired by the original version, as opposed to the Disney remake). In her version, Snow White is a simpleton and extremely dependent, but the difference is that she is PURE EVIL, and the stepmother is actually nice. Furthermore, unlike the original tale, the readers see Snow Whites father!
The only problem with the story was the last half in my opinion. The perverted part of the story came out of nowhere, and there was small fan service. I already was not expecting a comedy after reading the other stories, let alone have unnecessary perverted moments. It caught me by surprise, and it did ruin the fun out of the book.
I don't really want to talk more in-depth about this manga; they are short stories, and anything beyond the summary will technically be spoilers.
Nonetheless, I do think this is worth reading if you like Takaya's work and want to see how she progressed. It's not the best, but it's not the worst. However, I highly suggest you borrow and read the book before you buy it. The storyline, and the art may turn you off Also, before you read this book, don't expect too much from it in order to truly enjoy it.