One of the fastest-growing divisions of Japanese manga, that vast universe of Japanese comics that's forever reinventing itself, is shojo, comic books aimed at a young female audience, which typically combine light romance with a few traditional action sequences. A prime example of this genre is the new Saikano: The Last Love Song on This Little Planet, by Shin Takahashi. What seems at first like a simple high-school love story becomes much more: Shuji, an awkward but adoring guy, falls for the shy, apologetic Chise. Just as they've begun to overcome the hurdles of normal adolescent relationships, Chise confesses that she's been engineered by a foreign army to be "the ultimate weapon." This news might come as quite a blow to the average high-school boyfriend, but the two lovebirds are determined to stick together and work through it.

Becky Ohlsen writes from Portland, Oregon.

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