After a post on Ai Ore! last week, I thought it fitting to highlight the other series that is well known by Shinjo here in the states. Sensual Phrase, also known as Kaikan Phrase, ran in Shojo Comic from 1997-2000. It may be hard to find since it was printed by Viz from 2004-2007, but if you liked Ai Ore!, then it will be well worth the trouble.
The Gist: The main character, Aine Yukimura, is a lonely high school girl who by accidental circumstance becomes a lyricist for a popular Japanese rock band called Lucifer. The manga series focuses on Aine’s relationship with the vocalist of the band, Sakuya Ookochi. Despite the obstacles and enemies the two must face, their desire and love for one another continues to bring these two lonely people together.
The Characters/Romance: On the outside, this is an unrealistic story of how a high school girl hooks up with a celebrity. If you look at it shallowly, it is a very cheesy premise. It has the drama of a soap opera, and of course would be every teen girl’s fantasy. Really, what girl hasn’t at some point in her life wanted to hook up with a hot, sexy rock star? When you dig a little deeper, you find a story of two people who have had lonely lives, that find understanding and happiness within each other. The rock star, Sakuya, was once not a celebrity. His history explains his hate/love relationship with music, as well as his fear of abandonment and incomprehension of being loved. Aine can understand to a degree how Sakuya feels, because she has been neglected by her feuding parents for quite some time. Though their relationship starts at a physical level, by Sakuya seducing Aine to get her to write naughty lyrics, it quickly develops into more than that. Sakuya suddenly finds himself having more than just desire, and his protective instincts kick in. Aine deals with jealous relatives, abusive fans, and eventually sexual assault. Sakuya blames himself and his musical success. The love they have for one another is what becomes the healing agent for the both of them.
The Art: Artistically, I can see the style dating in this series. Shinjo’s late 90’s big hair and fashion designs stand out like a sore thumb. You often see Sakuya and think, “What? More animal print?!” Thankfully, at least half the time Aine is in a school uniform. It’s the band’s attire that stands out the most. I also find in Shinjo’s drawings that the anatomy looks off at times; heads too small for the bodies, or hands too big for the arms. What she does do well is faces. The characters’ expressions are often all that is needed to grasp the emotions of the moment. Sakuya stares off the page with a melting look of desire. Aine’s fears and disappointment are projected on her face. I also must give Shinjo credit for drawing some delicious “bishies” – that’s short for bishonen (which means beautiful boys, so learn it now). All the guys in this series from the band members to the company executives are pleasing to look at. In this genre, that’s what keeps a female audience coming back for more.
One other item of note is the updated covers for this series. With the newest reprint, Shinjo did a re-design and the art came out seductive and risque. I much prefer them to the previous editions. Don’t expect them here in the states, though. I’ve only seen them on the Japanese reprint and the French Pika edition. Here are a couple of examples of how the images changed:
The Audience: Erotic – There is an explicit content label on this series and for good reason. There are many sexual scenes and nudity. I already mentioned the sexual assault. In fact, the last volume has a scene that I consider pornographic. It’s not something I would want my teen son or daughter under 16 to read. So this is definitely for a more mature audience.
On a more personal note, I do highly recommend the anime. The art is dated, but the story is a prequel to the manga, about how the band Lucifer is formed. It provides more back story for the characters, and in my humble opinion, is actually better than the manga since the focus is more on the band and not the sexual relationship between Sakuya and Aine. It’s also got a rockin’ sound track that you hear over and over, so it does get stuck in your head. The band used to record the songs for the anime became an actual J-pop band named Lucifer and went on to produce future albums after the series ended.
Media Status: Sensual Phrase has been released in English by Viz media in 18 volumes. The anime consists of 44 episodes by Studio Hibari. It has never been dubbed, and subbed copies are almost impossible to find. Do a youtube search if you’re interested.