Real life. Real People. Realistic manga.
This is a manga that very few seem to have read or even heard about. It's only got around 300 votes on MAL (which is low when popular stuff can get over 10,000) and only the contents of volume one have been put on the internet for e-pirates like myself. This isn't really that shocking when you consider what the series is about and the audience it's aimed at, but it's still a shame that it, a series Tokyopop have released in English, hasn't received more love when it's a very well-written, very realistic series.
Each of the six volumes of Confidential Confessions (CC) provides 1-4 stories that focus on a different set of characters and problems. The main character of each each story is always a junior-high school female. As the covers of each volume indicate with words such as "rape" and "suicide" being spread across them in large, faint letters, there's none of the joking or silliness that's often associated with manga/anime included - it's as close to reality as manga can get.
Volume one opens with a story about a pair of suicidal high school girls who hate living meaningless, lonely existences. The female lead can't handle the emptiness of life as an adult, her mother making her problems worse by putting on front to the world; acting like her husband hasn't left her. The other girl suffers from bullying, and has done for years. Both end up coming together, drawn to each other by their feelings of depression, and what follows is an insightful look into the minds of people who wish for death and what it means to be truly suicidal.
The second story is about a girl who, having left home to live on the streets, selling her body for money, is changed forever by an encounter with someone who sees her as more than just an object to be used. Although it was really just there to fill the space the first story of volume one didn't fill, it was very good and the author got her message across.
The third story lasts for the entire second volume (the longest story in CC), it being about a girl who has to decide if she should keep quiet about the sexual harassment of the famous tennis coach that works at her school. Given the way Japanese men grope girls on trains in Japan, the story about a famous high school tennis coach molesting and talking dirty to his students, who feel forced to go along with his actions out of fear of losing their places on the tennis team, never came across as unbelievable.
Moving onto volume three, the fourth is a 150 page story that deals with a girl who, due to the pressure of her father, enters into the world of drugs and becomes addicted to the point of selling herself. The way an ordinary school girl slowly went from pressured but happy to selling herself for the money to buy more drugs made it one of the most emotional stories of the series, and the way the author detailed what happens when someone takes different drugs made it yet another highly informative story for people who want to know a little more but don't want to read lifeless text to find out. The final story of the volume was just there to fill the remaining 50 or so pages left by the first story... It was neither excellent nor awful, instead being somewhere in-between.
Volume four is a collection of four short stories. All of them remained interesting until the end, but none of them were able to match up to the first three stories in volumes 1-3, all of which had far more time to develop and were far more moving as a result. I prefer having one long story in each volume, with an extra story added to fill space if needed. Also, a few of the stories in the volume were a little hard to swallow, the most difficult to view as something that could happen in the land of the real being a story about a school teacher beating and dragging a school girl by her hair in public, and another involved a girl getting away with murder.
Volume five was a big improvement and the best volume in the entire series, returning to the high quality shown in the first three volumes. As expected, the first story, involving the gang rape of a girl and how she had to continue living after that, was the most moving and best story of the lot. Everything was handled excellently by the author, with her going into detail to explain how, no matter how you think you'll act in any situation, you don't know if you'll be able to do the brave thing until fear has got hold of your heart. I found the relationship between the female lead and her boyfriend touching: it was totally believable how he reacted initially and later tried to make amends. There was a rather dodgy piece of dialogue, though, which I'll quote...
"Because it was made with the "knife" called a penis."
The other story included, which lasted the same length as the rape story, wasn't far off the quality of what came before. The story was about how a high school girl had to deal with having AIDs and slowly becoming weaker and weaker. It was both informative (no-one wants to read about deadly diseases until they need to!) and, like just about all the stories in CC, was very moving. It gave me a warm feeling to see someone with such a horrible illness fighting against it with the help of her best friend and boyfriend.
Volume six was, sadly, the weakest of the collection. The first story was an unusually dull tale about stalking, it taking a lengthy period to reach a conclusion of no real interest. Reading the story made me dislike the weak and submissive main character. The last story was on improvement, it being about how a victim of bullying turned into a bully, but it was short and, like the stories in volume four, lacked the detail of the more detailed stories that make up the series.
So, what do I think of it after finishing? I think it's one of the best series out there. The quality goes up and down depending on the chapter since each chapter has a totally different story but very few of the stories were poor. Only the long and boring stalker chapter in volume six, which had a terrible lead character who kept messing around over a nutjob ex-boyfriend, was truly disappointing. The other lower quality stories weren't so bad because they only lasted 50 or so pages, where as the stalker story dragged on for 150.
Confidential Confessions is the perfect manga for young women and/or manga readers who want to see realism after seeing one too many mecha series. The author doesn't force the rights and wrongs of the world down your throat like parents tend to: she tells totally believable (for the most part anyway), non-preachy and hard-hitting stories from the perspective of young women who encounter many of the problems, varying from suicidal thoughts to dealing with rape, that people have in the land of the real. The author is able to tell interesting stories and, at the same time, provide information and help people with similar issues to those depicted in her stories.
Overall, my feelings are that, despite having the odd average story, CC is up there with the best manga has to offer. The only real flaw I spotted aside from the odd poor chapter was the similar character design of all the characters in the stories: there was too little variation between each character and that made it hard to remember the characters from each story. The only other 'flaw' would be how nearly every story ends on a semi-happy note, but there's no rule saying that realistic stories have to end in depressing fashion and it would've kind of defeated the purpose of the stories if they started and ended depressingly. But, ignoring those issues, anyone who likes their manga realistic should seriously consider splashing the cash to get the full series - I promise you won't be disappointed!