Cy Believers, vol. 1
By Shioko Mizuki
Rated OT, Older Teen, 16+
Go! Comi, $10.99
Cy Believers is a strange little story. It features some of the most unlikable characters I have ever encountered in a manga, set in an incredibly artificial situation, and yet I liked it anyway.
Shioko Mizuki is the creator of the excellent soap opera Crossroad, so naturally I was expecting more of the same, but Cy Believers heads off in a different direction. It’s set in one of those Japanese boarding schools where an elite student government rules everyone’s lives with an iron hand. When I was in high school, student government was a pretty token affair, but in manga, they are more like ruling juntas, with seemingly unlimited power and a special structure of their own.
Such is the case at Domus Aurea, a boarding school where, we are told repeatedly by narrative boxes, freedom and self-determination are cherished traditions. This must be intended as irony, because the very first thing we see is Natori Nijo, head of the Public Safety Commission, wielding a bullwhip as he clears out a student club that hasn’t met his standards. Apparently Natori is consolidating power by eliminating clubs for infractions of school rules. Natori also wants to totally control his fiancée, Rui, but Rui is having none of that; when he tries to rape her, she clobbers him and walks out.
Rui wants to join the Public Relations Club, the most prestigious club in the school, but she is shunted off to the “downsized team,” basically a bunch of losers that the club would like to dump but can’t. The three students who make up this group, called “The Believers,” are one of the funniest parts of this book; they toil unquestioningly under low-watt bulbs, assembling toys to make enough money to keep going. Their other project is providing power and shelter for two bishi computer geeks, Rio and Azumi.
Rui is your typical shoujo heroine, and therefore the least interesting person in this motley crew, but if it wasn’t for her, they would all just sit around and make toys and fix computers. Like all good shoujo girls, Rui is incensed by injustice, and when Natori shuts down the Believers, she starts a new computer club, the Cy-Believers.
And there’s your story. There isn’t much sexual tension or even believable emotion, but Mizuki does seem to be setting up something for the future volumes. What makes Cy-Believers tick is the humor of exaggeration—the hard-working Believers, the power-mad Natori, and Makise, the sex-crazed but agoraphobic student body president.
Mizuki’s art is willowy and attractive, although her characters are not particularly unique. Backgrounds are sparse, and her drawing and composition are serviceable but not remarkable. One distraction is the quality of the lines, which seem thin and wispy and occasionally fade out altogether; I assume this is a problem with the print quality.
This is not a deep book, but it is a funny one, if you enjoy watching exaggerated characters crashing into one another. There is a hint of a deeper plot—the whole school is controlled by a mysterious computer—so it will be interesting to see what Mizuki does with the weird setup she created in this volume.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher.