Kiri’s friend Kanako gives a present to one of the members of the Scissors Project. Her act of kindness is interpreted as a bribe to get a makeover, and they reject her out of hand for being too ugly. Kiri decides to help Kanako and give the boys a lesson in what true beauty is.
By Kiyoko Arai
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
I first read the preview for this manga in the Shojo Beat sampler Viz gave out at the San Diego Comic Con in 2007. I really like the first chapter, but had more than enough titles to read at the time, so I put it off. When I did finally pick it up, I was not disappointed.
Beauty Pop starts out with a little girl being teased by three boys, who cut up her hair and leave her crying. Then a person of indeterminate gender appears, and asks if the girl would like to have some “magic” performed on her. The next day, we follow a teenage girl going to school. As she is walking one way, the little girl from the first page is walking the other with her friend, her hair styled nicely as she passes the three boys, who do not look happy that their teasing failed.
The older girl is Kiri Koshiba, the protagonist of the series. She is unlike almost every other shojo lead I’ve ever read. She is low-keyed, lazy, uninterested in boys or fashion, and is sarcastic, to almost downright snarky! I love this girl! She is also a very gifted hairstylist, but is uninterested in becoming a beautician. While at school, she finds out about the Scissors Project, a group of three boys, Shogo Narumi, Kei Minami, and Kazuhiko Ochiai, who do makeovers for girls in a public show. Kiri is unimpressed, especially after her friend, Kanako Aoyama, tries to show her feelings for one of the boys, Ochiai. Kiri tells the boys off in her own sarcastic way, for nitpicking at Kanako, and leaves with her. Back at Kiri’s house, she offers to give Kanako a makeover. The next day, the Scissors Project does a makeover, and after the show, a girl walks up to Ochiai. He doesn’t recognize her at first, then she tells him that she is Kanako, and basically tells him off, leaving the boys to wonder who gave her the makeover.
The rest of the volume is dedicated to the Scissors Project rejecting a girl who wants a makeover, and Kiri then taking on the girl and showing them how wrong they were. In each chapter, it’s a girl who is looking for the confidence to say or do something, usually to confess their love to some boy. We also learn more about the main characters, Kiri and the Scissors Project, and what does/or doesn’t motivate them. Volume 1 ends with a contest at the School Cultural festival between the Scissors Project and “X” (as Kiri has become to be known). The crowd will decide the winner, and the loser will have his/her hair cut by the winner. Of course, this is where the first volume ends.
The second volume follows the same formula as the first, with Kiri helping girls and boys in need of some confidence, and introduces us to two more characters. Kiri’s mom, who has been living in Hollywood, and working as a makeup artist, and Iori Minamoto, a transfer student that Kiri knew when she was small. He immediately glomps onto Kiri, and gets on Narumi’s nerves. So far, there isn’t a hint of romance between any of the characters. There is still too much competition for anything thoughts of romance, especially for Narumi, whose full attention is on becoming the best beautician in Japan.
Beauty Pop is really fun so far. The character interaction is great. Kiri’s calm, uncaring attitude is a fun contrast to Narumi’s overreacting anger. All of the characters are very natural and realistic in their motives. Narumi and the other boys want to become famous and successful. Kiri just wants to help people by giving people the confidence to do what they want. The hair cutting might seem kind of boring, but the payoff is always worth it. Arari doesn’t dwell on it, keeping the action moving. There wasn’t a single part of the volume where I wished she would just get on with it. I will definitely be keeping up with this series. It’s smarter and more sassy than a lot of the shojo that’s out there. Plus, Kiri has a big fat cat named Shampoo. Always a plus in my book.