Stepping On Roses volume 8
Author: Rinko Ueda
Viz Media/Shojo Beat
Author: Rinko Ueda
Viz Media/Shojo Beat
Sumi asks Nozomu to stop buying the land where she and Soichiro currently reside, and he agrees on one condition—Sumi has to leave Soichiro and become his wife instead! Faced with the possibility of eviction, Sumi must decide whether she’ll live in poverty with Soichiro or take Nozomu up on his offer… (Source: Goodreads/Viz Media)
It should come to no surprise that this blog would eventual review the latest volume of Stepping On Roses, the most recent shojo manga series by Rinko Ueda to be released in English (her previous work including the ninja-centric Tail Of The Moon). There's just something about the Edo-era melodramatics and soap opera style plot twists that have kept me glued to each volume. It also helps that Ueda's artwork is lush and inviting to the eye, and she doesn't skimp on the period-appropriate costumes. Yeah, it's that kind of manga - and if that kind of manga is your kind of manga, Stepping On Roses' latest release will not let you down.
Volume eight - the volume before the series finale - shows many of the series' plot threads coming together to what should be a dramatic and emotional end, especially for Sumi and Soichiro, the most unlikely of all couples that have become the series' team to root for. They've evolved into a couple that relies on each other for strength and support, which becomes especially evident in this volume when Sumi goes into overdrive to save Soichiro and take back what is theirs.
Against them stands the indisputable villain Nozomu, who would not look amiss tying poor girls to railroad tracks while cackling and twirling a devious-looking mustache. He has always been a class act of a douchebag and this recent volume doesn't make him look any bit sympathetic. Ueda has written up a despicable romantic rival for Soichiro that easily deserves all the hate he gets from fans, so it will be nice to see him get some comeuppance in the series finale.
In this current arc, Sumi and Soichiro are living in absolute squalor when Nozomu makes Sumi a proposition: marry him and get enough money to live properly or live with Soichiro in poverty and watch as Nozomu's company buys out the land they are living on, sending them into homelessness. Add to the fact that Nozomu is still swinging real hard to make Sumi fall in love with him, and that Soichiro is working to become a respectable businessman again to support his wife, and you can see that Sumi's decision won't be an easy one.
Naturally, a lot of the drama stems from the decision Sumi has to make and the repercussions that come from it. I won't explicitly spoil it but let's be real, it'll always be the decision that leads to the most drama. I don't even blame Sumi for doing it, considering how she'd been living before the series started. Who would ever willing go back to that?
I'm glad to see that Miu, Nozomu's legal wife, has not been forgotten. I actually think Miu and Sumi could be good friends if they spent more time together. I also feel sorry for Miu; she legitimately loved Nozomu, but Nozomu has been so consumed with lust for Sumi that his indifference for Miu turned into flat-out malice. She deserves so much better.
Compared to other volumes, book eight is a lot of drama and build-up to the final act in volume nine – but it's entertaining build-up and a good chance for Sumi to develop herself as someone who can fight for what she wants and make difficult decisions in the name of her loved ones. Add to the fact that Nozomu is as villainous and Soichiro is as stubbornly admirable as ever, and you've got a book that will please long-term fans of the series. But you know what does suck? Waiting until February 2013 for the last book. I want it now! I can't wait to see Sumi and Soichiro hopefully own Nozomu and take back Ashida Products once and for all.