Seeing Vertical get into shojo was a bit of a surprise. Princess Knight, a Tezuka classic, was a highly demanded piece of work from the Tezuka fan-base that Vertical has cultured, so it wasn’t a surprise to see that published, but Limit is arguably their first attempt to break into a vampires, glitter, and flowers market (I say this endearingly, since the majority of manga I read is shojo).
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Despite the genre it has been lumped into, Limit certainly follows Vertical‘s edgy, indie ethos. The story follows Mizuki Konno, a self-described “popular girl” who hangs with the right people in school and does the right things to stay popular. On the outside, she is bubbly, careless, but cute, hiding a calculating and stone-cold personality. Her clique picks on a few people, but none more than Morishige, a tarot otaku, making her the brunt of jokes and putting her in situations that embarrass her. The beginning of the book is very Mean Girls, but things suddenly change when the school trip to a week-long camp-out crashes deep into the Japanese forest. Suddenly, the matriarch of Konno’s clan is dead, and the girl at the bottom of the heap, Morishge, now controls the group of survivors with social manipulation and by wielding a scythe (a “tool” brought a long to the camp to cut long grass).
The power twist and destruction of social order in Limit is very reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. Controlling the one weapon gives Morishige all the power, and her rage at being tormented by her peers corrupts her decision-making. There are survival things going on here too, like catching fish and collecting other food, but the real action is Morishige’s maniacal leadership. Seeing how Konno and the other girls in the group react to Morishige is the strength of Limit, and its real draw for me in future volumes (plus a major plot twist I won’t reveal here at the end of volume 2).
Keiko Suenobu has had another piece of work published in the USA (Life, which was published in 2006 by TOKYOPOP) and her art seems to have improved substantially since that time. Limit is gorgeous. Great shading, dynamic panels, and some of the best power and action lines I’ve seen in shojo manga (or any manga for that matter) to date. Suenobu’s characters are well drawn and well conceived. Morishige as a tarot otaku is a great touch in the middle of volume one; the creepiness of the girl sitting in the middle of a pentagram performing tarot ritual is almost unbearable after seeing some of the proceeding scenes.
One thing that I don’t understand about Limit is its proposed audience. While Vertical claims it is a shojo manga (Limit was published in Bessatsu Friend a manga anthology for teenage girls, and the original publication place of The Wallflower, My Heavenly Hockey Club, Othello, and Mars) it doesn’t seem to fall in line with any of the shojo trends that are currently popular. This doesn’t mean it’s not good manga, just that I find it hard to accept that the target age group is going to really dig Limit. I expect that Limit is more likely to be read by horror fans, josei/seinen fans, and less by those looking for a standard rom-com.
For my money, Limit is one of the better series released in 2012. It has amazing art, really interesting social power interactions, and a riveting storyline. 2013 is going to be a great year of manga because of Limit.
For Fans Of: The Lord of the Flies, Mean Girls, revenge thrillers, any survival story ever
Final Verdict: Highly Recommended
Limit, Vols. 1-2
Written and Illustrated by Keiko Suenobu
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
176 pages | $10.95 US, $11.95 CND
ISBN-13: 978-1935654568 (vol. 1)
ISBN-13: 978-1935654575 (vol. 2)