I love apples. They’re one of my favorite fruits. The best apple is one that is sweet, has lots of shine, and has a satisfying crunch. In a sense, my taste in apples is like my taste in shojo manga – it needs to be cute and sweet, it has to look great on the page, and it has to have solid writing and relationship building.
Magic Touch is the definition of a rotten apple.
It’s hard to know where to start with this manga. The author, in a sort of tongue-in-cheek manner tells us in the first volume that she developed the idea for Magic Touch in a short story deadline, and somehow, someone liked it enough for it to get its own series. The author claims she doesn’t know how the series got published. I’m not so sure I understand how it got published in Japanese, let alone licensed in the USA by Viz Media.
The story follows main character Chiaki Togu, a cute girl who loves massage. She’s part of the high school massage club and she is the best freshman masseur in the high school massage club. Her brother is also a masseur, and all of her friends are in the massage club. They give massages during break time for anyone that wants one. She meets a man on the train who has the stiffest back she’s ever seen, and it turns out to be the prospective love interest, the stoic, unreadable Yosuke. He promises, in the first volume, that if she can make him fall for her, he’ll let her give him a massage.
First, let’s ignore the ridiculous premise of a “high school massage club.” It’s better this way, because we can forget about the seedy “massage parlor” imagery that comes with the setup for the book, and we can suspend our disbelief a little easier. Joking aside, the entire backbone of this story is ridiculous bordering on disablingly stupid. Sadly, mangaka Izumi Tsubaki spends far too much time focusing on the most tedious and banal parts of massage for you to ever truly forget that you’re reading manga about a high school massage group.
In the first chapters though, the drama is thick, because Chiaki has this evil twin, who apparently gives out her sister’s name when she’s having cheating relationships with other girl’s boyfriends. Yosuke only makes this little agreement with Chiaki because his younger brother got played by a “Chiaki Togu” and he wants to lead her on.
I was expecting this to be the best, juiciest melodramatic chunk of shojo ever. Even if the set up was ridiculous, this would be interesting, right?
This little plot line resolves almost too quickly, and the evil twin sort of dissolves into the background as the Chiaki and Yosuke relationship starts treading water. I do mean that. These two characters tread water longer than most professional swimmers. At the end of the second book, Chiaki hasn’t even realized that she likes Yosuke for anything more than to practice massage. It’s quite frustrating to see the two leads constantly doing nothing. The biggest thing that happens in the second volume is Chiaki makes Yosuke a lunch. Really.
Another thing that irked me was the botched joke telling. I can’t decide if Magic Touch is supposed to be sweet and sappy with jokes here and there, or a melodramatic high school conflict romance. It tries to be all of the above, and ends up with sloppy jokes that just don’t make the mark, and drama that is off tilt.
The only thing that makes these two volumes even worth looking at is the art. It’s clear that Tsubaki is a new artist, because her style changes dramatically over the first two volumes. Despite being a newbie, her paneling and delivery of key moments was right on track. I really enjoyed the dramatic close-ups and the costuming. The characters do look good, even if they can’t express their feelings.
Overall, I’m highly disappointed with this beginner’s first two volumes, but I suspect that Izumi could improve over time. Her art certainly did so within two volumes. Still, the art alone does not a good manga make. My opinion – skip this title. It’ll be cathartic.