Cherry Juice

April 20, 2010 dreamkaleidoscope
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TITLE: Cherry Juice
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: Haruka Fukushima
PUBLISHER: Tokyopop
RATING: Teen (13+)
CATEGORY: Shoujo
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 4
SCORE: 5 (Okay)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Haruka Fukushima (mangaka of Instant Teen and Orange Planet), Marmalade Boy, romance, drama, comedy

Incest between closely-related blood relatives is considered taboo in the majority of cultures around the world, but when the relationship between step-siblings becomes something more, does the same rule apply?

That’s the premise behind Cherry Juice, a series about a pair of fifteen year old step-siblings named Otome and Minami. Otome’s widowed father and Minami’s divorced mother got married five years ago, combining their respective families. However, starting from the day they first met, Minami’s feelings for his new “big sister” — Otome is a mere three days older than him — have been more than brotherly. Though he tries to ignore his love for Otome, when the two are forced into sharing a bedroom and Otome starts dating Minami’s best friend Amane, it becomes more and more difficult for Minami to deny how he feels. Throw in Otome’s conflicted feelings for Minami, and you get what should have been an interesting story about a (semi-)forbidden romance.

Unfortunately, Cherry Juice is just not that good. I actually did like it a little more on my second read-through — I didn’t care for it much at all the first time I read it — but it’s still not a series I would recommend.

One of the major problems is that it seems that Minami and Otome are the only ones who see the fact that they are step-siblings as an obstacle to a romantic relationship. Even Otome’s grandmother (and, to a lesser extent, Minami’s mother) are rooting for them to get together. Granted, there are a few characters who think step-siblings falling in love with each other is weird, but even they come around by the end. The lack of true disapproval for their feelings makes all the angst Minami and Otome go through seem really unnecessary.

There’s also the matter of the whole “sharing a bedroom” thing, which makes me want slap their parents for their idiocy. (Backstory: Otome’s grandmother temporarily — later, permanently — moves in with them after hurting her hip playing beach volleyball.) What kind of parent in their right minds thinks it’s a good idea to let their hormonal teenager share a bedroom with their opposite sex, equally hormonal step-sibling? That’s just asking for trouble! I don’t understand why Granny and Otome couldn’t share a room, or if Granny really needed a room to herself, why Minami couldn’t just sleep in the living room or something. I mean, he prefers sleeping on a futon, anyway, so what does it matter where he sleeps? Forcing Minami and Otome to share a room like that just seems like a cheap excuse for fanservice, as they seem to walk in on each other quite a lot in various states of undress.

Then there are the leads themselves, who are fairly unlikeable characters, in my opinion. Why Otome falls for Minami when Amane is a much better guy, I have no idea. Minami comes across as a jerk most of the time. He’s always manhandling her and insulting her by calling her stupid, idiot, ugly, fat, etc. — typical things that a brother might call his sister, but not exactly terms of endearment from a lover. Not to mention that he’s a terrible flirt who enjoys being the only male in the Cooking Club. Of course, a lot of his acting out is the result of him being frustrated by his feelings for Otome, and he does do some sweet things when he realizes what a jerk he’s been, but that doesn’t excuse his behavior. Add that to that the fact that they’re both kind of abusive to each other, and their relationship is not one that I felt like rooting for.

I didn’t root for Amane and Otome either, for that matter, because Otome is almost as bad a character as Minami. She’s so wishy-washy about her feelings for Amane and Minami, and she’s a major crybaby, not to mention a bit clingy. Also, it doesn’t seem like she has any real interests of her own. She’s a member of the Kendo Club, but she only joined because Amane was a member, not out of any real interest in the sport. I honestly don’t know how she managed to get three hot guys — yes, there’s a third guy in the mix, but I won’t spoil who he is — to fall in love with her. She’s not particularly kind, or smart, or funny, or even interesting. She is cute, I suppose, but she’s never held up to the same standard as Minami, who is considered the hottest guy in school and has a harem of girls after him. It’s a mystery.

So, what did I like about this title that allowed me to give it an “okay” rating? I’m kind of wondering that myself at the moment… No, seriously, the comedy is pretty good. I didn’t laugh out loud at anything, but I found myself rather amused by how Minami and Amane sometimes flirted with (and even kissed!) each other as fanservice for their female fans. At one point, I even thought it might be nice twist if they ended up together. (And I’m saying this as somebody who isn’t into boys’ love.) Naru and Aiko, Otome’s two best friends, are fun characters, as well. Aiko’s huge (and very obvious) crush on Minami is hilarious, and Naru is kind of awesome (as in, very awesome). Fukushima should have written a story focused on Naru, Amane, and Aiko instead, with Otome and Minami as the supporting characters. I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more!

Artwork is decent shoujo. It’s not quite as pretty as I usually like, but it’s not terrible, and the character designs are good. Fukushima is apparently a big fan of uniforms, as evidenced by most of her sidebars, but I have to say, I didn’t really care for either of the uniforms Minami and Otome wore. (They started high school during the course of the story.)

Cherry Juice is not something I would recommend to somebody who wants to read about a forbidden romance that is, actually, you know, forbidden, but it can be funny at times, and has a great supporting cast. If you can get pass the unlikeable leads, the silly plot, the unsatisfying melodrama… Well, it still probably wouldn’t be worth it.

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