Itazura Choucho (悪戯ちょうちょ) by Ayase Mana is an odd book. There’s really no other way to describe it. The title translation on the cover, “Mischievous Butterfly” doesn’t really fit the story at all.
Nanoha and Sakura attend a school for the arts as first-years, and because of the competitive nature of the school, are not planning on trying to compete in the year-end school competition. Sakura has a contentious relationship with the piano she plays, although she needs to play, like other people need to eat, she cannot just relax and play. Luckily for her, Nanoha adores the way she dominates the piano, and finds beauty in Sakura’s art. When Sakura plays, Nanoha cannot help herself, she has to sing.
The oddness of this story lies in the intensity with which Sakura is portrayed, compared with the actual plot. No one seems to be opposing them, except in the vaguest way – after all, they are only first-years, so its presumptuous of them to be competing at all. But that’s not really the issue at the heart of this manga. The issue is really in the relationship Sakura has with the piano – is she running from it, or trying to master it, or does she need it? None of this becomes important when Nanoha sings with her – the only thing that is important is the music.
It’s finally time for Sakura to perform in front of the judges and other students; Nanoha comes running in and the two of them soar together. The piece may have begun as Für Elise, but by the time they are done it has become, as Nanoha points out, a love letter by them both for each other. Judges and students rise to their feet in applause.
As they admire their championship rings, Sakura and Nanoha have yet another one of those oddly intense moments as they promise to stay together forever, bizarrely part, then run back into one another’s arms stating their love for one another.
The story was “odd” merely because there didn’t seem to be any actual conflict, but Sakura’s internal tension is very high. Her piano playing is portrayed violently, with wild arm motions, with the visual impression that she’s pounding the keys into submission…but the story indicates that she has a genuine mastery of her art. It’s hard to reconcile the visuals with the story as its presented, which is of two girls who are musically talented and who live happily ever after. ^_^
Art – 7 It’s a little messy and crazy, but not bad at all
Story – 7
Characters – 7 It *felt* like Sakura was supposed to be emotionally unbalanced, but she wasn’t, really.
Neither was Nanoha really the grounding influence she appears to be.
Yuri – 7
Service – 1
Overall – 7
I can’t say I disliked this manga, but the level of intensity was incredibly high for what was not a particularly high-tension story, which left me wondering what I was missing.