Article first published as Manga Review: Songs to Make You Smile by Natsuki Takaya on Blogcritics.
Songs to Make You Smile is a compilation of one-shot manga written and illustrated by Natsuki Takaya, the creator of the popular Fruits Basket shojo manga series. This compilation was published in North America by Tokyopop in 2010. Songs to Make You Smile is rated “T” for teens; after reading this manga, I would agree with this rating.
There are four one-shot stories in this release, as well as a bonus chapter for Tsubasa: Those With Wings (which is another manga series by Natsuki Takaya). All four of the one-shot stories share a theme; they all deal with misunderstanding other people.
The first story is the “title story” for this compilation. A high school boy named Atsushi is misunderstood by his peers, because his face naturally has a mean look to it. A girl named Anzu has been teased since middle school, because the other girls though she looked spacey on purpose in order to attract guys. Atsushi, who is a vocalist and songwriter for a band, knows that Anzu is a fan on their music. He makes it his goal to write a song that will make Anzu smile.
The next story is “Ding Dong.” A teenage girl named Chisato is dealing with her father passing away in a car accident, and is living with the woman who became her stepmother three months before her father’s death. Chisato’s mother died when she was very young, and her father tried raising Chisato by himself. Chisato believes that neither her father nor her stepmother truly loved her.
“Voice of Mine” is the third story in the compilation. A teenager named Shu attends a music school, and is also the son of famous musicians. While Shu is succeeding on his own talents, many of the students believe he rides on his parents’ coattails and has pulled strings in order to get the attention that he does. One day, Shu meets Futaba, a viola student who is being bullied by her upperclassmen. The two of them support each other in their situations.
The final story is “Double Flower,” which focuses on a young man named Suguru who enjoys sewing and has made a career out of it. Suguru has been in love with Makoto, the daughter of the shop that purchases what he makes; however, he has never told her his feelings, because she’s im love with someone else. Suguru’s stepniece Aya comes over because she has run away from home, and it’s through her being around that Suguru starts thinking about his life.
The side story for Tsubasa: Those With Wings essentially takes elements from the Snow White fairytale and turn them on their head. Of the pieces included in this volume, this was my least favorite. While I have read the first volume of Tsubasa: Those With Wings and know that there is humor involved in that series, I thought this particular story just didn’t quite fit in with what I’ve read from this manga series.
When it comes to the other four stories, I thought Takaya did a fantastic job portraying each story in one chapter. I don’t know if she had intentionally included stories with a similar theme in this volume or not, but I really appreciate the fact that this compilation doesn’t simply feel like several unrelated stories thrown together that don’t have a theme to tie them together. The only exception was the Tsubasa: Those With Wings side story; that one does feel like it was simply tacked on to the end of the volume to add some more pages.
If you’re familiar with the Fruits Basket series, then you will definitely recognize Takaya’s art style in this volume. That’s not to say that she simply uses the exact same art style in all of her work, but there are definite characteristics in how she draws her characters that make her style recognizable.
If you’re a fan of Fruits Basket or any other of Natsuki Takaya’s work, I think you will also enjoy reading Songs to Make You Smile.
I wrote this review after reading a copy of Songs to Make You Smile that I checked out through the King County Library System.