Arisa (Volume 1)

Natsumi Ando

I was a little late for Manga Monday this week, but still wanted to talk about this manga that seems to be on a lot of people's radar right now.  Arisa is a new book being published by Del Rey, from Natsumi Ando, the creator of the excellent Kitchen Princess.  I enjoyed Ando's earlier series quite a bit, so I'm happy to see Arisa getting noticed, especially since it is also shaping up to be a well-executed book.  The story follows Tsubasa, a girl with only guy friends because she has a temper and scares her female classmates away.  She's never been the popular one, the one surrounded by people - that honor has gone to her twin sister Arisa, who goes to another school.  Arisa seems to have the perfect life, as Tsubasa sees first-hand as she takes Arisa up on her offer to go to her school in a wig to take her place for a day.  She's class representative, has a hot boyfriend, and everyone seems to love her, as she's always surrounded by adoring boys and girls.  Yes, it's a little Parent Trap, especially with the two girls separated due to their parents' divorce that has Tsubasa living with her father, while Arisa is with her often-absent mom, and the whole switching-places-thing, but it really turns into something altogether different as Tsubasa comes to realize that not everything in Arisa's life is as perfect as it seems from the outside.  It starts when Arisa attempts suicide and ends up in a coma.  Tsubasa suspects that something at her school is to blame, from the looks Arisa gave her while talking about school, and a note slipped into her locker.  So Tsubasa decides to go undercover, taking over Arisa's life to unearth the truth for herself.  Of course things get a little awkward with things like the boyfriend and things she should know about, but Tsubasa seems able to convince everyone she is who she pretends to be.  And she does end up discovering a dark side to the seemingly perfect world surrounding Arisa.  A secret that's dark and frightening, that Tsubasa doesn't quite know what to make of.  Arisa is full of mystery and excitement, as well as a good amount of comedy to offset some of the darker moments.  Ando provides a well-balanced story here that's sure to hook readers with its interesting premise and restrained pace.


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