Skip Beat: Kyoko and the Search for Meaningful Relationships

Skip Beat is a shojo manga about Kyoko Mogami who was the childhood friend of Sho Fuwa. He asks her to come with him to Tokyo in his pursuit to become a star. Kyoko follows her only friend, and crush, and supports him financially as he pursues his dream. He then dumps her when he’s pretty secure. Kyoko vows vengeance by becoming a bigger star. Also she’s sixteen and a high school drop out who worked 3 jobs for his ungrateful ass. Anyway Kyoko strong arms a Talent Agency Supervisor of LME into giving her a chance at an audition. Despite flunking out her personality catches the attention of the company president and he gives her a chance. Soon Kyoko starts working behind the scenes and then debuts as an actress.

Now one of the major aspects about Skip Beat is the “will she end up with Ren or Sho” question. Shojo romance non sense. Both are childhood friends who became stars except Sho wants her now that he has seen a new side of her and Ren… Well, he was a boy she knew very briefly who is now Japans biggest star. For some idiotic reason he doesn’t tell her he was that young boy who gave her her most beloved possession. Honestly, I could care less. The Taiwanese adaptation convinced me that the only person really good enough for her is Kanae Kotonami (or Jiang Nan Qin in the Taiwanese adaption. Played by Bianca Bai. Her and lead actress Ivy Chen were amazing together). What I find most fascinating about this series is Kyoko and the friendships she makes. Her search for parental figures.

First we start with her troubled childhood. Its obvious that Kyoko lost her father real early as we never see him in any flashbacks and she mentions a couple times he’s gone. Then there is her mother, a figure who loomed in the background. briefly seen in flashbacks ignoring her child, making her child cry, and scolding her child for not being a perfect student. Then eventually dumping her with Sho’s parents. Kyoko couldn’t be more than six or seven in these flashbacks. As the series progressed we know Kyoko has strong feelings of neglect and pain but as a reader we never learn much about her mother, Saena. She only recently appeared in the manga this year. Around chapter 220. She’s shown as pretty cold and, while on some TV program, states she doe snot have a daughter. Saena is a workaholic lawyer and apparently has no interest in her daughter or even the fact that her daughter has become a pretty successful actress.

It makes sense that Kyoko in part looks for parental figures. First it was Sho’s parents who raise her in their Inn. When I say Inn I mean fancy Japanese Inn. Kyoko learns all about the business. Sho’s father teachers her to cook and Sho’s mom teaches her to be the proper hostess. They value Kyoko and even see her as the right woman for their son. In an early arc, while Kyoko was competing against a rather bratty popstar turned actress, Kyoko is actually hit by the realization that Sho’s mother taught her tea ceremony as a bridal preparation rather than to actually use in the Inn. Kyoko, for them, was the perfect woman for their rebellious son. In a way, they were right because she supported his bitch ass after he ran off.

Kyoko finds other parental figures in three other people. There is the couple who own the restaurant Darumaya. Kyoko worked for them when she was nailing three jobs to lease a nice place. When she gave up her old life they allowed her to move in with them. She worked for them when not working various jobs for LME and still lives in their home even as she’s become a known actress. Taisho, the cook/boss, actually lent her his trusted blade for use when she was in the audition showing off her Japanese cooking technique. Taisho and his wife (they’re really not given names) believe and support her. They provide a certain stability she longs for.

Then there is the President of LME, Lory Takada. Luo Li in the Taiwanese adaptation and played pretty well by Allen Chao. He looks the age he should in the TV show because in the manga he looks in his thirties but has a granddaughter who is around seven. Lory is all about extravagance and style. Loves dressing up. He has a very romantic view of acting. They have to have love in their hearts and love for their fans. He sees Kyoto originally as an odd duckling, wanting revenge and being very honest about her feelings of love. She thinks it is a set up for despair. He thinks she has a uniqueness and he builds a department around her (and Kanae) to help develop them into future stars. As he gets to know Kyoko he starts working hard to help her. He helps her get back into school, take proper acting class, and starts to personally deal with Kyoko’s mother. In fact the current chapter out as a sit down between the two (waiting on translations). He is concerned for her happiness and wants her to become a star. He wants her to know love again.

One reason I look at Lory as a parental figure for Kyoko is because of his granddaughter Maria’s feelings for her. Kyoko finds herself in a big sister role to the Presidents granddaughter. She gives the young girl some advice-or rather doesn’t treat her like a child-and Maria responds pleasantly to that. She finds herself helping Maria through her own troubles-she lost her mother in a plane crash (on her birthday no less) and fears her dad blames her. Maria is very concerned about Kyoko and its through the pairs talking about Kyoko’s own situation that makes Lory start to understand this strange teenage girl. I’m currently rereading the series but I remember an arc when Maria and Kyoko stage a huge party at Lory’s estate. Its a very sweet story. They need to do more with these two. Common theme, creator Yoshiki Nakamura needs to do more Kyoko with (insert character here) stories.

If parental standouts was not enough there is her issues with finding friends. Blame Sho… Apparently being cute and from a family with a big business made him the object of much girls growing up. Typical romance/shojo BS. The idea of a boy being friends with a girl making other girls angry. Realistically Kyoko should have at least been friends with some of the less popular girls but no. So basically she is shunned growing up so her list of female friends is limited. her best friend in the series is Kanae who starts as a sort of rival. Kanae is mean and motivated. She is very dismissive of Kyoko but when they are partnered up in LME’s Love Me Section (basically gophers) the pair start to slowly bond. Specifically when they dawn their hideous uniforms for an audition and Kanae has to deal with a classmate bitch who has screwed her over countless times. A rich girl who stopped her from doing drama in schools and bribes her way into roles. Kyoko helps her overcome her fear and the pair actually land the commercial. One of my main complaints with this series is the lack of Kyoko/Kanae scenes currently. I can buy that work has made it hard to hang out but why the hell does Kyoko keep running into Ren then? Kanae is a bit of Kyoko’s opposite and the two work so well together.

Then there is Ren and Sho. Really the two characters who are starting to wear down the series in my opinion. Still, they are important. Sho, for being an asshole, was Kyoko’s only friend growing up. He does know her pretty well-likes and dislikes. Her dreams and obsessions. While it took her new attitude for him to want her I will give him credit for concerning himself with Kyoko’s problems with her mom. He may have never said the right thing to help her as a child in her situation, but he does feel bad about how she was treated. Even rushing out to see Kyoko after hearing what Saena says on the TV program. Trying to protect her from a rival musician does sort of sccore him some points. If Sho was not such a mass jerk who believes that deep down she is his alone I’d be more or less fine with him. Their childhood friendship is the cornerstone for the series, so its important. Not just for what he meant to her, but how he changed her ability to trust and love.

Ren is strange. The whole thing about him knowing Kyoko briefly as kids (under the name Corn) is bothersome. Not just cause he doesn’t tell her but Kyoko encounters a grown up Corn. Leads to a harder to stomach arc which was almost bad enough for me to give up. Thank God they brought in Kyokos mom to give the series some much needed weight. Ren’s feelings towards her is mixed. He likes her but is disappointed with her sometimes. He helps her better herself as an actress. Sometimes he’s cold and sometimes he is supportive. He seeme dlike aicer individual as a kid in the flashbacks. One of the downhill arcs involved Ren pretending to be someone else for a role (can’t even explain) and Kyoko was hired on as his “sister” to help sell the disguises. I don’t know. Looking back I can see why some people like Sho better because Ren is frustrating. Plus Ren is 4 years older than her so that would be problematic by US standards (though in Japan her being sixteen makes it okay). You kind of root for him but eventually its like “whatever.” His friendship with Kyoko is important, not toxic or anything, but not a highlight in the series for me.

I’d like to dial it back on a note about the party that Maria and Kyoko set up (writing this on and off while rereading) which is a stand out arc. So the 24th of December is fast approaching which is Marias birthday and she’s dreading it (along with Christmas because its not a Japanese Holiday but one they now celebrate) so Kyoko wants to help her out. She proposes a Thank You Party of sorts. Inviting people that have been important to them in the previous year. Maria gets behind this idea and as they start to plan the President wants to help. They try to do it themselves but Lory does provide help letting them use his Guest House and, “disguised” as Daddy Longlegs, money and service help. They create the set up with Maria playing hostess and Kyoko working as head chef. The whole festival is cute with maria, Kyoko and President Lory inviting many people. Lory pulls out a magic performance which he unveils Maria’s father. She did not invite her dad because 1)She did not want to interfere with his work overseas and 2)Fear of the same tragedy facing him that happened to her mother. While the death of Maria’s mother put a strain on their relationship the reunion is a tearful happy one. Kyoko of course breaks down during it only for the clock to strikes 12 midnight and its official her birthday (and Christmas). Ren whips out a red rose and wishes her a happy 17th. One of Rens best moments. Soon Kanae gets between him and her, upset Kyoko didn’t tell her. Luckily Kanae had a selfless moment and bought her a thank you fight of make up, instantly throwing shade on Rens gift. Taisho and his wife (they really need names) also present her with a present. Then the devious president Lory stages a a big surprise with a giant cake and everyone singing Happy Birthday. Beautiful.

Other notable friendships include Rens manager Yashiro is cool and a good friend and supporter of Kyoko. I like him. Also Sho’s producer friend Ms. Asami, while not a friend of Kyoko, likes her work enough to recommend her for a major gig. I’d like to see Kyoko and Ms. Asami interact more. Sho’s manager, Shotoko Aki is kind to her. Plus the lead actress on Kyoko’s first drama, Ms. Momose, is very nice to her and extremely complimentary in regard to her skill. I also liked Kizuri Kuu (Rens dad who doesn’t look anything like he should be the father of a 20 year old). At first a bit cold to Kyoko he gives her major acting advice and an acting lesson. Letting her pretend to be his son as practice for developing identity in a role. He compliments her talent and in the practice presents a temporary father figure. Kyoko has an emotional moment when Kuu does not respond to a mistake she made the same way her mother would have.

Skip Beat is fun, though plotting and story arcs sometimes make you roll your eyes and shake your head from time to time. Kyoko is such a deep and unique character. You root for her through out. Though there are times she’s written dumb you can’t help but love her and want the best for her. Root for her to find the love and friendship in her life she so deserves.

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About CM Towns

I like comics, wrestling, and other junk.
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