In Volume 1 of Itazura Choucho, (悪戯ちょうちょ) we were introduced to Sakura and Nanoha, two students at a highly competitive performing arts school. Bucking the weight of tradition and propriety, they have been accepted into the end-of-year competition, despite the fact that they are merely first-years.
Sakura is intense and yet, unfocused, so the mangaka provides her with a focus for her rage. As with all good “talented performer is talented” manga, she is assigned coach who is awful to her, someone she can rail against, hate virulently and generally get better because of. Meanwhile Nanoha is having issues of her own. Most of Volume 2 is spent with Sakura and her oni-coach.
Both girls, lost in their own training, are hiding their concerns from the other, but friendship and love bring it all out into the open. In a final climax, Sakura breaks her own walls and admits her feelings for Nanoha are more than friendship. Whether Nanoha returns the same level of emotion remains to be seen.
The art style is very girls’ manga, classically shoujo visual setups, but this manga is another Comic High series. And, like several other Yuri series that have run in that magazine, it continues to surprise me at every turn. The general heightened emotion of training for the competition reminds me of Ace wo Nerae. Unlike most sports manga, the relationship between Sakura and Nanoha is not a distraction from the competition, but a respite for both of them. And, in between both storylines, we see them hanging with friends and doing typical school activities, which is just about unheard of in hobby/sport-focused series.
Art – 8 Not sure if it’s cleaner, or I just like it more now
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Yuri – 7
Service – 1
Overall – 8
I really had no expectations for either of the first two volumes, but now I can’t *wait* until Volume 3. Ayase Mana has made a fan out of me. ^_^