Attention, Attention: This is a manga review.
I just spent several hours over the past couple days going through old picture CDs and my HS SR year memory book. I posted up about 70 photos from when my friends and I were in elementary and on through HS (and a tiny bit after). Several have already seen them, and we all had a good time reminiscing about "The Good Old Days." Most of my pictures contain the same 5-6 people over and over again (my closest friends through all my primary schooling), including a very good friend of ours who died a couple of years ago. So it was sort of a testament to him, as well. He's in 19 of the 70 pictures (and just off to the side in a few others). I know I enjoyed seeing his smile again, and it seems the others did too. We miss you, Nick.
Now that I've depressed everyone, lets get on to the review. I haven't looked at manga very much on here. Then again, most manga run on for years and years, so they're a little harder to review as a whole (as opposed to individual volumes, and if you thought my anime review backlog was bad, well...It would not be a good idea for me to start reviewing single manga volumes). Captive Hearts only ran 5 volumes though, and it's final volume came out just last week.
Captive Hearts is the first serialized manga from Matsuri Hino (Vampire Knight, Wanted, MeruPuri), published in America by Viz Media's Shojo Beat line. For those of you who have never read Hino-san's books, she has a talent for writing some seriously silly and ridiculous story lines. Her most recent, Vampire Knight, is about a private school attended by humans during the day, and vampires at night. Wanted is a one-shot about pirates. And MeruPuri is a story about a 12-year-old prince who ages 5 years whenever he is in the dark. I've read all of them (well, I'm reading VK since it's ongoing), and they're all equally silly. Vampire Knight is a bit of an exception, because it's Hino-san's first attempt at a more serious, dramatic story, but she still sneaks some very silly elements in there.
20-year-old university student Megumi Kuroishi has been living a life of luxury in the mansion that once belonged to his father's master and mistress (Yoshimi Kuroishi is a butler at the mansion), the Kogami family. 14 years ago the Kogami family traveled to China and disappeared. It was eventually determined that the family died of an illness in China, and the Kogamis left the mansion to their devoted butler and his family. Megumi is living his carefree life until one day, the young daughter of the Kogami family, Suzuka (now 17), suddenly returns home. The moment their eyes meet, Megumi is stricken with an intense desire to serve Suzuka and becomes entirely devoted to his "Princess." Unknown to Megumi, who had lived most of his life without the Kogami family around, the Kuroishi family is under a 100-generation curse to serve the Kogami family, body and soul. And since Megumi hasn't been exposed to the curse in many years, he is extremely sensitive to it and frequently launches into over-the-top man servant fits whenever his and Suzuka's eyes meet.
Somewhere along the way, Suzuka and Megumi fall in love, although it is unclear to Megumi if the feelings he feels are his own or from the curse. Seeing how tortured this makes Megumi (not to mention how troublesome the whole mess is), Suzuka vows to find a way to break the curse and free the Kuroishi family forever.
Things get truly ridiculous in this story. Even Hino-san makes mention of how extreme it can be, with side-bar comments like "is it really OK for me to write something this silly?" (That's not an exact quote; I couldn't find it again, but she says similar things several times in her columns.) I'm not sure if she's making excuses, or just making sure that people understand it's not meant to be taken seriously (it's not, by the way). Basically Megumi's "man servant fits" are off the deep end. When his eyes meet unexpectedly with Suzuka's, he transforms into a doting, devoted servant, willing to do anything at all for her; he sparkles, calls her princess, and gushes over her. He's always protective of her, and takes care of her, but the fits take it to an extreme, and they happen a lot.
A nice break from all the silliness is Suzuka's tragic, troubled back story. The story of the curse's origins (in the 3rd volume) is also a nice break and is rather more serious than its later effects on Megumi. A couple of the volumes also have some unrelated one-shot stories that Hino-san wrote for various things, all romance stories of course (some are very sweet, others are so-so). Captive Hearts is, after all, a romance, with a lot of comedy thrown in. If you can get past how ridiculous it is, the story is actually decent, and Megumi and Suzuka's relationship is very sweet. It's not great. The art is OK; it's clear this is an early work, but it shows a lot of potential (and indeed she has improved a great deal). Sometimes there are continuity issues, or panels are misdrawn. It's an average manga, but it's short, so it won't take a large time or monetary investment if it interests you.