By Izumi Tsubaki
Viz, 208 pp.
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Chiaki Togu is a shy, quiet high school girl and an enthusiastic member of her school’s massage club, the Massage Research Society. Recently, she has become infatuated by the back of a male student she sees on the bus every morning whose tsubo (acupuncture points) cry out to her for massage. Unfortunately, the back belongs to Yosuke Moriizumi, the most popular boy in school. Though initially refusing Chiaki’s request to massage him, Yosuke eventually agrees to allow it, but only if Chiaki is able to make him fall in love with her. What Chiaki doesn’t know is that Yosuke’s real plan is to make her fall in love with him so that he can dump her, thus avenging his younger brother whose heart he believes was broken by Chiaki. What Yosuke doesn’t know is that the girl who really broke her brother’s heart was Chiaki’s twin sister, Sayaka, who has a habit of taking boys for all they’re worth and leaving Chiaki as the scapegoat.
The story works well enough, and the focus on massage is definitely something new, but what’s odd about The Magic Touch is that it continuously presents plot points that seem intended to provide conflict or suspense which are then resolved with little or no difficulty at all. For instance, Yosuke’s status as the owner of the alluring back is set up as a big mystery, only to be revealed just several pages into the volume. The mistaken-identity issue driving Yosuke’s intentions toward Chiaki is resolved less than halfway through the volume, with Yosuke immediately seeing through Sayaka’s sleazy maneuvers. And the arrangement between Yosuke and Chiaki, which initially appears to be the main point of the entire series, is over very quickly as Yosuke sincerely declares his love just a few chapters in. On one hand, all this makes the story less predictable than might be expected, but on the other, it’s difficult to see where it has left to go with all its major conflicts resolved so early on.
One of the highlights of The Magic Touch is a mid-volume side story, “Teach Me, Prince,” in which an older member of the massage club, Takeshi (who is actually Chiaki’s brother), asks first-year Yuna to teach him how to court a girl. This story actually is pretty predictable, but it’s funny and fun, and possibly more romantic than the primary story in some ways. Takeshi and Yuna are also two of the most interesting characters in the book, overshadowing some of the leads. Yosuke is clever and good-looking, but doesn’t really start to show any character until late in the volume. Sayaka is ludicrously cruel, to the point of being unbelievable. Fortunately, the most interesting character is the heroine, Chiaki, whose obsession with massage is responsible for the best moment in the entire manga, in which she takes down a group of Sayaka’s thugs, declaring, “Tsubo points don’t always make people feel better.”
Izumi Tsubaki’s art is serviceable, but nothing special. None of her characters are visually distinctive (though they all look pleasant) and the panel layouts are occasionally awkward. Her best moments are humorous ones, which may explain why Yuna (who is mainly utilized in those moments) is drawn more expressively than most of the other characters. A note from the author reveals that this is her first manga, so perhaps the next volume will offer more both visually and otherwise.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at PopCultureShock.