Skip Beat! fans abound, and four of us got together to discuss some of our favorite aspects of this long running shoujo series. Please welcome Sean Gaffney and Michelle Smith from Manga Bookshelf and Lori Henderson of Manga Xanadu. I thought I’d get us started off by asking where everyone is in the series.
When did you pick up Skip Beat! and how much have you read?
Michelle: I started reading Skip Beat! back in 2008—wow, it’s been over five years already!—and have read through volume 30. Normally, I would’ve read volume 31 by now—this is one of the rare series that I usually read instantly upon acquiring it—but I’ve had some reading to do for other projects.
Lori: I discovered Skip Beat! with a random volume I got in the middle of the series, four years ago and was intrigued immediately. I’ve been slowly picking up individual volumes of the series, I’ve now read consecutively through volume 11, mainly thanks to the MMF. It usually takes one of these to get me to catch up on some of these older series I’ve been collecting, but never quite getting around to reading.
Sean: I started reading from Book One, and have been ever since.
Laura: Same here. I discovered it right around the time it started releasing, and have read up to vol. 30. Alright, so what aspect of the series do you enjoy most, or find most engrossing?
Most Enjoyable Part of the Series
Michelle: That is a hard question! While I strongly love the focus on Kyoko’s career, her relationship with Ren is probably the most engrossing aspect to me, simply because I continue to be impressed that they can not get together for so long and I am still not bored! Kyoko has been so broken by what happened with Sho that she is genuinely unable to contemplate entering into a romantic relationship, while he is holding himself back largely because of her age and inexperience. As a result, it doesn’t feel like some artificial drama is keeping them apart.
Sean: Actually, as we’re finding in the most recent volumes, Ren’s past may be holding him back just as much as Kyoko’s. Given that I have a drama degree, you’d think that Kyoko’s acting jobs, and choices she makes, would be my top pick here. And for the most part they are, even if I disagree with how she goes about them. I’ve never been a fan of method acting, and Kyoko’s immersion in her various roles makes me uncomfortable much of the time. Some of this is deliberate, but some of it is also dissonance – I was horrified at Natsu/Kyoko’s torture of the actress in Box R, and was expecting far more consequences than eventually happened.
I also love watching how Skip Beat! deals with Sho. An antagonist for the most part, most series would be content to have written him out 20 volumes ago. He can be astonishingly immature – both when dealing with Kyoko and in his own career – which rings true, given the celebrity bubble he works in. He’s also clearly talented when he puts his mind to it, rather than just a cardboard ex-boyfriend. Most importantly, he understands Kyoko better than Ren does – and she understands Sho better than she does Ren. This makes sense – they grew up with each other for years, whereas Kyoko’s only seen Ren a few months (Kuon aside). It makes for a great extra dynamic in their fights, as each drags the other down to childish levels, and also means a Kyoko/Ren endpoint isn’t completely inevitable.
Lori: So far, for me, it’s been all about Kyoko. I loved her from the moment she declared her revenge on Sho! I think her evil spirits are great, and I love the way everyone around her reacts to them. I also enjoy watching her act. She gets into character to quickly and so completely. From her time on the movie set with Ruriko, to Sho’s video shoot, to her recreation of Mio for Dark Moon. I love seeing her take on the parts and make herself a part of them.
Laura: I agree with your analysis of Sho, Sean. I think Kyoko’s relationships with Sho and Ren are so well developed by Nakamura that they never feel cliche. There is meaning behind their actions that she shows the readers, even if Kyoko isn’t in on it. My favorite part like Lori, is Kyoko’s character. I love watching how Kyoko reacts to everything. She doesn’t always realize the emotions behind her actions, even if we the readers do. Her reactions sometimes are so over the top I can’t help but die laughing.
So I have to ask – Are you Team Ren or Team Sho?
Team Ren or Team Sho?
Sean: I supposed if pushed, Ren, but I honestly think the best thing for Kyoko right now would be team No One. But this is a shoujo manga, so that’s not gonna happen.
Michelle: Sho doesn’t deserve her, so I’m on Team Ren for that reason, but really I do agree with Sean that Team No One is best. I just can’t imagine her in a romantic relationship, and I’m going to be crushed if it ends up distracting herself from her goals (like what happened in (the vastly inferior, IMO) Honey Hunt).
Lori: I’m in agreement with Michelle and Sean. Ren is the better of the two guys. His jerkiness is more tolerable than Sho’s sheer immaturity. But I really don’t want to see her in a relationship right now either. I’m really enjoying her career climb, so seeing her distracted by a relationship would diminish my enjoyment and the series in general.
Sean: Oh man, if Skip Beat! goes all Honey Hunt/Hot Gimmick on me, I may have a coronary. Though given this is the woman who wrote Tokyo Crazy “let’s let the heroine have chain whip fights” Paradise, I think we’ll be OK.
I think anyone being on Team Sho would agree it requires MAJOR character development on his part in the “not being an asshole” area. Although I think most also agree: Sho is a step above Reino/Vie Ghoul?
Laura: Oh, definitely better than Reino. Reino is just creepy and awful. I think Sho’s biggest issue is that he’s emotionally immature and doesn’t know how to manage a serious relationship. I interpret his “asshole-ness” as being a cover for his own insecurities. I don’t see Nakamura bringing Kyoko and Sho together as a couple again, but there’s enough history between them that a relationship would be possible. Especially with how strong Kyoko’s emotions are towards Sho.
However, I’ve been more drawn towards Ren and Kyoko getting together ever since Ren’s dad came into the picture. Watching Kyoko play Kuon and then being mentored by Kuu gave me a picture of what Kyoko’s family could be if she were with Ren. While I love the dynamic of Ren and Kyoko’s relationship, it is promising to see how Ren’s family could propel Kyoko’s self-confidence and help her achieve her career goals. Something that she’s needed but never gotten from her own parents.
Michelle: That’s a good point about Kyoko thriving with a family of her own. And reminds me that I love that domestic side of her as well as her penchant for supremely girly things.
Sean: And don’t forget about Team Moko! 🙂 Kyoko’s friendship with Kanae? Basically her first female friend ever. As the roundtable’s resident male, I love it to bits, and like how Kyoko has softened (yet still annoyed the hell out of) Kanae/Moko. Actually, they remind me of Rei and Usagi from Sailor Moon. Any thoughts?
Laura: Ah, yes. Team Moko. 🙂 I love the evolution of their relationship – from rivals to cohorts in Love Me. Kyoko so desperately desires that female bonding, especially since Sho’s presence kept her from having any close girlfriends in school. Moko’s done her fair share of influencing Kyoko as well. Her presence helps motivate Kyoko to perform better, and understand the dynamic of female friendships. I love how it allows Kyoko to express her very girly desires, and Moko continues to enable that in her. Princess makeup, anyone? 🙂
There are a lot of moments I really love in this series, but is there one scene in particular that you love or favor?
Favorite Skip Beat! Moments
Lori: There are a lot of great moments in this series. It’s hard to choose just one, but one that really stuck with me was during the filming of Sho music video, when she pushes him off and his reaction. He can’t take his eyes off her even though he’s supposed to in the script. She draws him in with her acting despite himself. I love that she turns the tables on him and he has to start acknowledging she isn’t the “plain, boring” girl he originally thought.
Sean: I feel bad for mentioning such a depressing scene, but one point earlier in the series has always stood out for me, where Maria is asking Kyoko about her mother and father, and Kyoko’s expressions; followed by her essentially begging Lory not to tell her mother about this. Kyoko’s family situation has sort of faded away as she’s gained more confidence, but this is a stark reminder of what she went through as a child, and the kind of upbringing that caused her to cling to Sho like she did. Nakamura really does a great job showing you the despair that sits inside Kyoko, and it’s not as far from the surface as we’d like. I do wonder if Kyoko’s mother may show up near the endgame of this series, just to make things worse.
Michelle: There have been many awesome scenes in Skip Beat!, but the one that really stands out as iconic is the one in which Kyoko administers love advice to Ren whilst garbed in a chicken suit. That’s something you just don’t see everyday!
Laura: Yes, the glorious chicken suit! There are so many great scenes with Kyoko as Bo. Especially when she interacts with Ren or Sho.
Asking me to pick a favorite moment is difficult. I love the Curara audition, Sho’s promo video, Kyoko’s valentine presents, and the Tsukigomori after party, when Kyoko is dressed up by Kijima. But if I have to pick an all time favorite it would be more recent when Kyoko is acting as Setsu, Cain Heel’s sibling. She must go beyond her comfort zone and act bold, immodest, and selfish…and forward. Far from her self-conscious, girly self.
As for the end game, does anyone want to guess Nakamura’s conclusion? After 30+ volumes, we’re getting pretty close to the finale. What kind of ending do you think will satisfy fans?
Skip Beat!’s Conclusion?
Sean: I dunno, are we getting close to the finale? I haven’t heard anything about “the manga is now entering its final arc!”, the way we did with other long-running Hana to Yume titles like Gakuen Alice or Shanimuni GO. Certainly it’s the oldest series in the magazine, but I think she can keep it going a little longer. (There is a plot point that suggests you may be right, but… spoilers.)
What do I want from an ending? Kyoko achieving things as an actress through her increased abilities. Kyoko resolving things with her mother, even if that’s only getting past it. (Kyoko’s childhood, and Ren’s, convince me they both have mild PTSD.) Kyoko saying goodbye to her little floating mini-Kyoko demons. Sho getting over Kyoko and maturing as a person and songwriter. Ren being able to relax and be himself. Kyoko, Kanae and Chiori figuring out what Lory is trying to teach them by being in the Love Me Section. And, given this is a shoujo manga, yeah, Ren and Kyoko getting together.
Things I don’t want: more suggested Kanae/Hio romance, except as a one-sided crush on his part. More Reino and Vie Ghoul. 🙂
Lori: I’m nowhere near thinking about that, being so far behind, but from what I’ve read I, I would want Kyoko to be completely free of Sho emotionally. I would hate to see her dark aura go away, but for her to be a complete person, it would have to. I also want to see her become the great actress she’s shown she can be. I’d like to see her get with Ren, but only after they both get over their emotional issues and can be whole people again.
Michelle: Hm. I’m of course anticipating that Kyoko will learn that she met Ren as a child, and that they will eventually get together. Beyond that, I think I’d like to see her let go of whatever it is that remains with Sho. Like, I don’t want her to need him to acknowledge her success, and I want her to more firmly and completely commit to loving her craft for itself (which, really, she does) and set all of her Sho-related grudges aside.
I confess that I am kind of worried about how she’ll react to Ren’s past, assuming she learns about it. I mean, she knows him well enough to tell when he’s experiencing certain emotions that he’s hiding from others, but how will she react when Ren really does relax, tell her everything, and become his true self all the time?
Laura: Oh, yes. I’ve often tried to picture Kyoko’s reaction when she discovers how long Ren has kept their mutual past to himself. I think she’ll be livid. But beyond that, I wonder what Ren’s true personality will turn out to be. He won’t be the person from before his career, because he’s been changed so much by Kyoko, but then he won’t be the persona he’s been presenting as Ren either. So I’m curious to see who the real person will be, and like you said, how Kyoko will handle it.
Michelle: I feel like betrayal angst from that alone could last volumes. I hope it does, unlike something like Hana-Kimi where there’s, like, zero betrayal angst at all.
Laura: I don’t think Hana-Kimi had the angst because it only took a volume before Sano discovered the secret, and Nakatsu was just relieved when he found out. But in the case of Skip Beat! – where Kyoko has gone a significant amount of time being ignorant – she’ll be furious. And I hope it does take several volumes to sort it out because it’s what the guys deserve.
As far as the ending goes, I would like to see Kyoko put Sho behind her. I hope she chooses to challenge herself in her career, and eventually gets to co-star with Ren at some point. It would be cool if Sho does the theme song for their show or movie. Like Sean, I also want to see Kyoko resolve her issues with her family. That will help her to move on from her childhood. As for getting together with Ren, he’s going to have a lot of explaining to do, and with what Kyoko went through with Sho, I don’t know how willing she’ll be to trust him. Maybe it will work out…but I think it’s going to take a lot more volumes! I hope Hakusensha gives Nakamura the time to finish the piece her way.
And that concludes our discussion! Thanks to Lori, Sean, and Michelle for participating. It was fun getting to discuss Skip Beat!
Have your own opinion? Feel free to share in the comments.