Sensual Phrase Vol. 1

by Patrick King

Fateful encounter? Check. Innocent heroine? Check. Flowery, delicate artwork? Check. Looks like we've got ourselves another shoujo. Luckily, there's always room for more.

Actually, Sensual Phrase goes a bit further than the average shoujo tale. It's more mature than other series such as Peach Girl or Pretear. The main character, Aine, finds herself swept into the middle of the tempest that is the pop music industry after Sakuya (lead singer in an up and coming band named Lucifer) almost hits her with a car.

The back of the book isn't entirely accurate. It states: "Aine is determined to make it big in show business. On her way to an audition one fateful day, she absentmindedly steps into the street and barely avoids getting struck by an oncoming vehicle." Truth be told, Aine doesn't have her heart set on fame or fortune - at least, not any more than the average person does, at least. Her friends convinced her to enter a lyric-writing contest because of her talent as a poet, and at their urging, she concedes. As she says, "It's not my dream job, but it might be fun."

She wasn't on her way to an audition, either, but instead she was on her way to submit her lyrics in the contest.

There is truth, however, in the book's description that the day was in fact fateful. The oncoming vehicle that almost ended the 17-year-old's life was driven by the aforementioned Sakuya. After stopping, he grabbed her lyrics, helped her up, gave her a backstage pass to his next show, and drove off.

She didn't even recognize him until she attended his show and saw him fronting for Lucifer. What happened next was even more shocking to Aine than the revelation that she had earned the attention of a rock star.

He used her lyrics in a song, the closing number for the set.

Not only that, but the crowd loved it.

Thus begins Aine's career as the lyricist for Lucifer, though the relationship between Sakuya and Aine still has some room to grow. So far, it's possible that Sakuya is merely using Aine for her ability to write heart-flutteringly sensual lyrics - lyrics that only a virgin's imagination can compose. While she is aware of the possibility that Sakuya may only see her as a stepping-stone on his way to the top of the pop music scene, Aine is too much entranced by the mysterious, gorgeous singer to care.

What she doesn't realize, perhaps, is Sakuya's own fixation on herself. I'm sure these plot points are to be explored in further volumes, however, and I look forward to it.

The artwork in Sensual Phrase is evocative of Yuu Watase's works, such as Fushigi Yugi or Ayashi no Ceres. Shinjo's lines are delicate and precise, and she uses a large wardrobe of clothing to cover her characters. She also does a good job of using various screentones to add textures to clothing, and her shading techniques are equally impressive.

Sensual Phrase is the first manga I've read by Mayu Shinjo, though I hope it isn't the last. It's true that shoujo stories are flooding the manga shelves in bookstores, and tales of aspiring stars are also a dime a dozen in the anime and manga industry. Think about it - Gravitation, B.B. Explosion, Chance Pop Session, Kaleido Star - there are plenty of series that deal with fame and its repercussions.

And yet, I still find these stories rather appealing. I'll likely keep picking them up as long as they continue to arrive, and so long as they remain entertaining, I shouldn't complain.

This book was published in Viz's new standard size, and remains unflipped. Sound effects have been replaced with English equivalents, and other script (such as notes) were also translated and re-written. There's a nice article from Brandon Niven in the back of the book examining the subjects in the book, though there are few other extras to speak of. There's clearly potential here, so I'll be looking forward to the next Sensual Phrase featuring Lucifer.

I bet the parents love that name.

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  • Sensual Phrase Vol. 1

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    Viz, LLC / Mayu Shinjo
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