Blue is for boys, and Pink is for girls is the joint most recent anthology from Sweatdrop Studios, and is linked to it's sister anthology Pink is for girls. Basically the idea is to have two takes on each story in the anthology, a shonen realisation, and a shoujo realisation of the same piece, although each piece is drawn by a different artist from its sister story and has a different title. The reader however can see immediately just by looking at the characters that the stories are more or less based on one or the other, just from different points of view.
The content in Brief
Alive in triumph & Give me my Romeo, by Subi & Emma Vieceli.
Both renditions of this story begin in a studio where the participants are rehearsing a play, and the director has a nasty habit of shouting "CUT!" every time both couples are doing a kissing scene.
In both versions this is for different reasons, in one just because she feel's happy with the scene, and in the other version for a different reason. Both takes on this story use the same play and setting, they just look at different characters.
If you look at the different emotions in the characters faces you can see why, the strength of the dialogue is also a clue.
In both versions the resulting romances are homosexual. But it's still the same story, with hints of the other going on in the background. Although you'll have to look closely because these hints are small.
The differences in these two takes on this story are obvious, the girls' version is full of emotion and angst it's romantic with a bishies. I suppose that's what girls would want; and the boys' version has plenty of action and gratuitous fanservice.
In both stories all about men and two women. With no other member of the opposite sex to spoil the fun.
Both stories were good, although I preferred the girls version even though I had to read it three times to get the gist of it, the hints of the end result were subtle enough that I completely missed them, plus the small facial shots look similar to the ones of another character in the story and I wondered how we got from A to B.
The characters though are so much more real, although Subi's were funnier with more action the are more the stuff of fantasy than reality, although certainly appealing. It's all a matter of taste and what matters to you as a person as to which story will be best for you.
Both stories are artistically very good, Emma's is wispy and floaty, and Subi's is much more solid. Overall it's a good piece, although some confusion may occur in Emma's story, where as Subi's is fairly clear from the outset. Both takes on this story use the same play and setting, they just look at different characters.
Two Halves: Blue Seas & Two Halves: Pink Skies, by Dock & Carrie Dean
In Dock's boys version; Two Halves is the story of a crazy anime fan of swashbuckling anime akin to One-piece who sells all his anime merchandise to become a pirate and steal this pendant related to this fictitious anime series called Two Halves.
In Carrie's girls version; another obsessed fan of the same series; a girl wants to join the crew of the guy in Dock's version.
Both takes on this story are very funny and full of depictions of stereotypical pirate behaviour, and Otaku behaviour. They often exaggerate the lengths Otaku are willing to go to get something related to their beloved anime series. In fact the whole pirate theme is the exaggerated step that these otakus' take to get their hand on that special piece of anime merchandise. But there are more than that, like for instance backing a rigid tipper loaded to the top with manga, plushies and action figures into a shop in order to exchange this for money to buy this pendant, and the amount of time's Carrie's character gets chucked off the boat for having small breasts. They both provided me with plenty of amusement.
Dock's rendition is the most artistically sound of the two pieces, and has a clean sharp and gritty look to it when compared to Carrie's rendition which is cuter, and full of exaggerated expression and emotion. That being said Carrie's art skills are not to be sniffed at; she has done a good job of her rendition. There are a few anatomical mistakes, but nothing so awful as to take anything away from the comic. The standard of Carrie's frame layouts, background management and inking are all totally on the level.
The quest for Chenezzar & The return of Chenezzar by Rik Nicol & Sonia Leong
In this story a dying King asks one of his Lords to go fourth on a quest to find his lost daughter. However his quest may be difficult, as not only could the girl/woman be hard to find but also because the man who will become king in the old kings' place is evil and wants to prevent the rightful heir from returning.
Rik's boys' version the story focuses on how the princess becomes lost and begins the quest to find her there is also a lot of action. Sonia's girls' version covers what happens after in a more shoujo fashion. Both stories are created with a serious atmosphere, and Rik's version starts very serious indeed, the whole design of Rik's comic is much much darker than Sonia's. The only problem is I just couldn't help laughing at it.
I mean come on, what sort of a Lord sends his jesters to assassinate people, I have a feeling this was probably done to take some of the dark edge of this story, and perhaps to ridicule their evil master somewhat.
Sonia's version is much lighter than Rik's, and focuses more on the characters and emotions and the search for the princess, rather than fighting and action, but it does have some of these shonen elements going on. So this story could have fitted in both anthologies well enough.
The artwork in both these comics is superb. Sonia's is about as good as you can get at present in UK manga, with superb line art, good anatomy, and expert toning. Storytelling comes through strong with excellent frame layouts and dialogue.
Rik's comic appears to have been painted, which makes his version of this look surreal. There is no line art or tone to comment on. The action is fierce with jesters galore wielding swords, daggers, and battle axes getting beaten out of the pages themselves with a generous helping of blood. The frame layouts aren't as good as Sonia's but they work. I'm too busy ducking Jesters to worry too much about it.
Unmade Melody by Sarah Burgess, inks by Laura Watton, Lettering and edits by Morag Lewis. & Unheard Harmony by Morag Lewis.
Unmade melody is about a boy called Alister; who was popular and had great talent at a number of things. He however suffers an accident which makes him deaf.
Unheard Harmony takes place a couple of years after this event and focuses on how he copes with this impairment. Both stories look at Alister from a third person perspective, through other peoples' eyes.
Both of these takes on this story could have gone in either anthology as both explore strong emotions such as jealousy, anger and remorse; although Unmade Melody has by far the most action of the two.
The artwork is reasonably in quality, with Unheard Harmony having the best artwork of the two overall. Drawn in Morag's typical line art versus tone methods, the line art is excellent; background detail is sparse but usually contains some pen stroke detail. The story is also easy to read and understand thanks to some good frame layouts.
Unmade melody artwork on the whole looks ok, and is much improved from Sarah's usual artwork. However it's not all Sarah's work; only the scripting and pencil work, of which only scripting of the story and the frame layouts remain, the story on a whole reads well thanks to Sarah and her storytelling ability, and the action scenes look very good, however, many of the small artistic details like excellent line art and toning are attributable to Laura Watton.
Angel's game: Steel Destrier, story by Mary Beaird; art by Hannah Saunders. & Angels Game: Other wings, story by Mary Beaird; art by Jacqueline Kwong.
This story operates from two points of view. In the boys version the story begins out in space where our hero and his gundam like mecha armour are out trying to defend man kind from the creatures of legend. Things like giant squids, and dragons. The Human in the suit however is also quite ignorant of what's really going on inside this prison; despite humanity supposedly overcoming it's shortcomings for logic and reason.
The girls' version happens inside the prison and looks in detail at the two characters inside the prison, their relationships with each other; their feeling and the reason they are inside.
Both stories look and read rather well. On one level you've got a romantic story, and on the other one about a gung-ho and slightly cynical mecha pilot who can't see past his ideals.
Art wise both versions of this plot look excellent; the styles are quite different but there is little difference in terms of overall quality. These artists are young at 17, both are good already and both are going to become brilliant in years to come. The only criticism I have that applies to both these comics is the use of tone, both these girls have nice line art and frame layouts are generally good, so there are no confusing moments..
But the comics would look even better if the tone was minimised somewhat, this applies to Hanna's comic in particular, Jacqueline just needs to use something other than similar medium to dark dotties, maybe a different pattern?
Otherwise good stuff from both.
Steaming; art by Laura Watton, story by Aleister Kelman and Laura Watton. & Brewing by Alister Kelman.
What kinds of things do men and women think about when they see each other?
Don't know but Laura seems to have got lads thoughts down to a fine art, it's a shame I'll never really know how women think, but I'm sure if Laura could guess right for boys then Keds can do so for girls, if he is right then girls think too much. ^_~
The Lads version is short and contemplating how foxy the lass is and little else. The girls' version is exactly the same lenght, and she only thinks about Sex for a few frames, before spending half the comic thinking about the dates and activities they may enjoy if they were together.
The art and design of these comics differs a lot. For a start the Boys version by Laura has lots of fanservice in the form of sexy thoughts, this is also where some of its humour comes from. There is also plenty of dialogue. Laura's artwork in general is much more lavish and detailed than Ked's version, with super attractive looking characters and backgrounds.
The girls' version by Keds has little dialogue at all, instead you just get a little icon in the speech bubble denoting what this person is saying, despite this it's very easy to figure out what the people are saying and thinking. The only words written in the whole story are "Hello". It feels experimental, but I think it works rather well.
You can also tell which frames are thoughts and which are reality just by looking at the shape. Thoughts have curved corners, reality is in straight corners.
The artwork in this is much simpler than Laura's version, but then Laura had to depict super attractive women in skimpy outfits, with Ked's girls' version then the story isn't so much about how things look, but what people are thinking.
Backgrounds and characters are simplified, but of high quality in terms of toning and inking.
The story telling in both comics is first rate, but Ked's can manage this without so much as a single word until the end of the story.
Rotten art by Stephanie Drewett, story by Fahed Said. & Hushed Notes art by Rebecca Burgess, story by Fahed Said.
Rotten and Hushed notes depicts the story of a man called William, and his obsession with a dream which plagues him. This dream drives him mad, and beings doing strange things like disappearing for years and selling all his worldly goods to purchase a piano just like the one in his dream...
It's a dark story as can be expected from the likes of Fahed Said AKA Fred. It is a little complicated to figure out. We all know that William is disturbed in some way, but that's about all I can be sure of.
The best thing I can come up with is that he his helpless against something, and can do nothing about it. The recurring dream he suffers from seems to bare that out. Either that or he is remembering something that he doesn't want to...
The girls' version and boys' version focus on the same story from similar point of view. The boy's version however focuses intensely on a few short moments; where as the girls' version seems to look back on events, it also looks at the immediate aftermath of current events in the story. The girls' version is also much less violent.
Art wise Stephanie has nailed this one in the boys' version. I really could never see her doing something like this; she usually draws happy stories with crazy fan girls. But this one is creepy as hell; her artwork is totally effective when applied to horror. The line art and anatomy are excellent; the frame layouts good also. No tone, I presume this comic has been painted or done with makers, it looks good though; particularly effective for this subject matter. It's amongst the best artwork in the anthology.
Rebecca Burgess has also done a good job on her artwork in the girls' version, and I have noticed a great deal of improvement from some of her previous comics. The biggest improvement I can see is the anatomy, particularly in areas like hands and characters bodies. The line art was done by Morag Lewis, but it's the only area which has been assisted with. The backgrounds look good too especially the piano. Most importantly of all Rebecca has managed to do a good job of putting together Fred's story in her comic; it reads well and that's Rebecca's greatest strength, storytelling; be it her own story or someone else's.
Super Brother by Selina Dean. & Magical girl by Wing yun man & Selina dean.
This story is about a girl who loves to play guitar with only one string strangely enough. She is 15 years old, and a bit different from most people, and she gets a bit of stick off pupils and teachers alike, but the feeling is mutual because she doesn't think too highly of them either.
The other main character in this story is a boy who is one of the people who speculate about Mitsuko and her strange ways. He however changes his opinions after his little visit to what I call Guitar Hero world. ^_~
Selina's boys' version looks at the lads' point of view, whilst Wing's girls' version looks at things from Mitsuko's point of view. They also interpret the events that happen in the story in different ways. For example in the boys version Mitsuko helps the lad out seemingly because she likes him, and in the girls version she helps him because she has to and views him as a bit of a prat.
You don't see any of that in the boys' version, that's because in the girls' version it's all about the girl and her feelings. You also get the magical girl transformation in the girls' version that you don't get in the boys. Alternatively the boys' version focuses more on how the boys see her rather than her feelings. Surprisingly it seems like Wings version has more action, although less bravado than Selina's. Unusual as it is for a shoujo piece, but then Sonia's comic mentioned earlier also has some shonen elements in it as well.
The art work in these comics is very good, despite being two different artists their styles are quite similar in some ways, and both work well. Both Wing and Selina are technically very good artists.
Selina this time departed from using her usual chibi style for this comic and it's nice to see something a little different from her, where as Wing has done what she normally does to good effect; wafer thin line art, pretty eyes, light toning and may I say some off the best toning, with some excellent backgrounds.
Selina's line art is stronger and her backgrounds less detailed but not as simplified as some of her more chibi comics, there is also some Clamp like character simplification as seen in Angelic Layer and similar comics by them. This character simplification adds a degree of mischievousness to the behaviour of some of the boys in her comic and indeed makes them look like a pack of little scamps, I found that amusing. Selina knows what works well in manga and it shows despite doing very few comics in this format.
Transmutation Story by Selina Dean; Artwork by Vanessa Wells & Metamorphosis Story by Selina Dean; Artwork by Niki Hunter.
These two comics are about a woman who wishes to become a beautiful butterfly and instead view themselves as ugly, despite being nothing of the sort.
In the boys version the woman literally gets her desire, and in the girls version she gets her wish in a different way.
To be honest with you I liked the girls' version best. The boys version has a much more Sci-Fi theme about it plus the woman looks proper snotty and not particularly likable. The woman from the girls' version is more like a girl than a sultry siren; she is rather cute if not in need of something to smile about.
Both these comics are very short, but they are very nice to look at art wise.
These comics are more about sumptuous artwork rather than emotion, although the characters personalities come through well enough.
Overall this is the best Sweatdrop anthology to date. I say anthology rather than anthologies because they should be viewed as one. They go together and it's much easier to understand a story when you have both points of view to look at.
It's also a testament to the members of Sweatdrop and how well they work together, we can even see new experiments going on, like Stephanie's Horror art, and Selina's non chibi artwork, even Aleister's comic without dialogue, all of which have worked rather well. We not only see artists collaborating on the anthology; but on the stories themselves, even areas of the artwork and the stories. It would have taken a fair amount of co-ordinating and communication to make these comics work. It's really quite an achievement.
ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF SWEATDROP STUDIOS.
Review by Wayne Hallows
All images and artwork are copyright of their respective owners, UKMANGAXL and all written reviews and are © Wayne Hallows 2006 - 2017