Arisa Vol. 1 (Manga)
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Release Date: October 2010
Price: $10.99
Creator: Natsumi Ando
Format: 202 pgs.; B&W; Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-3455-2241-2
Age Rating: Teen+
ICv2 Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

This is an odd combination of styles and subjects for a shojo manga.  Within the trappings of a high school story is a weird blend of The Parent Trap and Lord of the Flies.  It works, which is a credit Natsumi Ando, who has crafted this strange tale.

Tsubasa and Arisa are twins who live separately.  Arisa has good grades, a cute boyfriend, and what seems like a charmed life.  Tsubasa is alternately feared and loved by those she encounters, with her strong personality and volcanic temper.  Then, after receiving a cryptic note during a visit, Arisa attempts to commit suicide.  She survives, but while she is recovering, Tsubasa disguises herself as Arisa, in order to find out what really happened.  As she enters her sister’s world, she finds out that it’s not so perfect after all, to live in a place where wishes come true, and bad things just go away...

The blend of wide-eyed shojo story with encroaching personalized horror is well handled.  Tsubasa’s determination and methods are kind of goofy, but sincere and plausible enough that the reader gets caught up in the story.  Because the artwork is exactly what the reader would expect in a shojo manga, the elements of horror are even more disturbing, in a setting where everything is just so darned pretty.

For teens and up, due to some disturbing themes, including attempted suicide.

--Nick Smith: Librarian Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.