Marmalade Boy

Genre: Romance
Length: 8 Volumes
Allegiance: Shueisha/Tokyopop
Mangaka: Yoshizumi Wataru
Vintage: 1992-1995
Intelligence Agency Report by: Lady Sage
Koishikawa Miki’s parents have always been a little crazy, but this time they’ve gone too far. They were supposed to be out having a romantic vacation in Hawaii, but upon returning, they inform Miki that they will be getting divorced and swapping partners with the Matsuuras, another couple that they met there. To complicate matters, the Matsuuras have a son Miki’s age named Yuu, who’s incredibly cute – but also the biggest jerk Miki has ever met! How can Miki learn to deal with such a messed-up situation?

Research Agent Report by: Lady Sage 
Overall 8.25
(not an average)
Marmalade Boy takes a group of realistic characters in a realistic world, and throws them into a completely unrealistic situation. There are several bizarre plot twists and coincidences, and yet somehow it never seems to lose grip on the fact that it does take place in the real world, and the characters are meant to be someone that readers can relate to. The art is standard shoujo for its time. It’s nice enough, and the character designs are cute, but nothing earth-shattering. Certain elements of it reflect the real world setting: people’s appearances change over time, whether it is small differences, like street clothes or hairstyles each day, or subtler changes in appearance reflecting the four-year time frame. The backgrounds are rather sparsely detailed or even nonexistent; instead, Yoshizumi focuses on the characters’ facial expressions and body language, which are adeptly illustrated with clean lines and relatively realistic proportions, large eyes notwithstanding. As an added bonus, each character’s facial features actually differentiate in ways, although there is naturally some family resemblance between two related characters. 

As with the art, in many ways the plot is typical shoujo. There are numerous love polygons in as many shapes as you can imagine, and after a point it becomes unbelievably predictable who will end up with whom, and many of the plot twists are a bit much to be believed. Yet, in the sea of implausibility, there are things that make it possible to suspend disbelief to the necessary extent. Each character has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, faults and foibles. They all have distinct personalities without becoming complete caricatures, a valuable trait in anime and manga. Miki, for all the bizarre occurrences in her life, is very much a real girl: many of her experiences are comparable to more typical situations, just on a grander scale; many of the reactions and emotions she goes through are standard for a girl her age, making her especially easy for the target audience to relate to. 

Sure, it has its contrived moments, but Marmalade Boy is a charming, pleasant shoujo manga with a lot going for it. Haters of shoujo need not apply, but those who are willing to give it a try are in for an enjoyable trip through the conventions of shoujo manga.