My angel is the centerfold
The genre of boy’s romance comics in Japan tend to be pretty formulaic. Shy boy is in love with beautiful girl. Beautiful girl is obviously interested in shy boy, but a series of misunderstandings and accidents ends up with shy boy seeing beautiful girl naked, or in her underwear, and so beautiful girl thinks shy boy is a pervert, and shy boy gets more shy. Sassy girl then comes into the picture, aggressively throwing herself at shy boy. Hijinks ensue.
However, even formulaic stuff can be good if you like the formula, and if the writer serves up some good characters. I won’t say that “I”s” revolutionizes the genre, but for what it is it is really good. It plays the formula, but plays it with virtuosity. Masakazu Katsura (“Video Girl Ai”) is a breath-taking artist who can draw a beautiful girl better than anyone else in the business, and is no slouch on the fan service either. The covers are really stunning, almost photogenic. As a writer, he breaths life into the characters as well, and shy boy comes off as much less of a wimp, and seems like someone who actually deserves to wind up with beautiful girl.
The set-up for “I”s” takes you into the story right away. High school student Ichitaka Seto, a typical shy Japanese teenager, has a massive unspoken crush on his gorgeous classmate Iori Yoshizuki. She is a sweet girl, a member of the school drama club. Then out of the blue, she poses for a series of sexy swimsuit shots for a girly magazine. Hijinks ensue.
This first issue sets the tone for the rest of the series. It is more darker and “hard edged” than something like “Pastel” or “Love Hina,” with Iori getting into some serious trouble due to her photo spread. Seto risks much more than a bloodied nose to help out his dreamgirl, and he realizes that if he is going to win the heart of this angel than he is going to have to shape up and be a man. Its a good inner battle. On the one hand, he wants to buy the girly book and oogle Iori’s body, but on the other hand, he sees how much pain her mistake is causing her, and he doesn’t want to be one of “them.” He loves the girl, not the photograph.
It’s unfortunate that Viz chose to censor the book, although the censorship doesn’t distract from the story at all. It is just a reality of the American marketplace, where nudity is far more taboo than it is in Japan.