It’s finally here!
Kageki Shojo!! The Curtain Rises was one of my favourite new manga series from last year, and I’ve been greatly anticipating the arrival of Kumiko Saiki’s sequel series: Kageki Shojo!!
It’s time for more drama, more dazzling theatre and more adorable moments of friendship!
Watanabe Sarasa has managed to make it into the Kouka School of Musical and Theatrical Arts and is just starting her journey to achieve her dream of becoming a top-star in the famous all-female Kouka Acting Troupe. While the school is highly competitive, Watanabe has managed to make friends with her roommate, Narata Ai, and her cheerful personality allows her to get along well with the rest of the first-year girls. Her current situation is like a dream, but for one small problem – their acting classes are super boring! The first-years spend all of their time in lectures and they won’t get any practical experience for quite some time. Watanabe takes it upon herself to talk to their teacher about it, but, when dealing with the faculty of a school with such a long history and deep sense of tradition, is any kind of change even possible?
Kageki Shojo!! is less a sequel to Kageki Shojo!! The Curtain Rises, and more of a direct continuation. The story picks up exactly where the previous manga left off, without wasting time with reintroducing any of the characters or plotlines. This was great for me, as I was able to jump right back into the story, but it means that you should absolutely read The Curtain Rises before picking this title up.
I was delighted to read more of Watanabe’s exploits at the Kouka School. She remains a fun and spunky heroine who you can’t help but root for. Her friendship with the reserved, Narata, remains endearing, and it was great to see Narata start to be more communicative with some of the other girls in their class.
The highlight of this volume, for me anyway, were the flashbacks to the early days of the Kouka theatre, which has a history dating back to before the 2nd World War. In a tear-jerking series of reminiscences, one of the older members of the school board thinks back to how he originally fell in love with the world of the Kouka theatre, how the devastations of the war nearly destroyed the troupe, and how it rose again from the ashes.
Getting a glimpse of how storied the Kouka Theatre’s history has been, and how much it means to it’s fans, adds a lot of weight to the school’s traditions. Though, there are some things that could use some updating, you can see why the people in charge of the school might be emotionally attached to the old ways of doing things. But that doesn’t stop the girls from wanting some changes, and Watanabe is a force of nature, so hope is not lost for the girls seeing some improvements to their curriculum.
Another great part of the is volume is the storyline where the first-years are assigned a group project and we get a little more focus on some of the girls who have, up until this point, been mainly background players. Watanabe and Narata get to work with Hoshino Kaoru, a legacy student whose mother and grandmother were both actresses in the troupe, and Sawada Chika, a girl who got into the school along with her twin sister. Hoshino can be intense, blunt, and even harsh with the other girls, who she feels aren’t always taking their training seriously enough. Sawada, meanwhile, seems to have a number of insecurities related to being compared to her sister. It was a lot of fun to see Hoshino butt-heads with the others, and then come to the realization that she needs to learn to compromise in order to succeed in a group setting.
Kageki Shojo!!’s ensemble cast of bright, young hopefuls is probably one of it’s strongest features as a series. All of the girls are highly-motivated and have their own challenges to overcome when it comes to achieving their dreams, and I wind up cheering for all of them to keep improving and reach their full potential whenever I read this manga.
The group project has revealed a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of each character as a performer. In Watanabe’s case, we see that she has an uncanny ability to replicate any performance she sees. Her powers of recall are extraordinary, and her attention to detail allows her to perfectly embody the actresses she admires. This is a skill that comes from her background as the daughter of a family of classical Kabuki actors. In Kabuki theatre, stage names are inherited and actors strive to embody the style and skills of those who held the name before them, so Watanabe naturally seeks to mimic the powerful performances she witnessed from star Kouka actresses.
But perfect replications of other people’s acting styles aren’t what people are paying to see when they go to a Kouka musical. They want to see something unique and beautiful. If Watanabe wants to achieve her dream, she’s going to need to come up with her own approach to portraying characters, and not just copy what she sees other people doing. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with!
Kageki Shojo!! continues to be as entertaining and emotional as the previous entry in the series, and I’m just as much in love with these characters as I was before. I can’t wait to read more of this manga, and see if these young ladies will manage to achieve their dreams and become stars in the legendary Kouka Troupe!
Final Score: 9 out of 10
For more information on this manga, visit Seven Seas Entertainment’s website.
What did you think of this manga? Is anyone watching the new anime adaptation? Let me know in the comments.
Also, be sure to check out my review of the first part of this series:
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