"Instant Teen" Manga Review

Title: Instant Teen
Volume(s): 4
Creator(s): Haruka Fukushima
Publisher: Tokyopop
Genre(s): Comedy/Romance
Rated: Youth (10+)

Note: This review was originally published on The Comic Book more than ten years ago.  It is being republished here (in a slightly cleaned up format) for our new site!  As a result, it may not reflect the writers currently writing style (but time was spent on it anyway,so it'd be a shame to completely get rid of it)!

The catchphrase for this series is "Just Add Nuts." Considering how much this series drove me nuts reading it I think I'll pass on that suggestion. "Instant Teen" is one of those series that has a hopeless premise, hopeless characters, hopeless story narrative, and of course, the chance of finding any real entertainment is pretty much hopeless. How hopeless is this series? Well, let's just put it this way: I thought the cover to the book was way more interesting than the entire story that was INSIDE the cover! Yeah, not a good sign. However, unlike most series, this story isn't hopeless because of a slow pace, it's hopeless because of a ridiculously FAST pace that never pauses once! It's the kind of pace where you want to stop someone and ask them to tell you what is going on, but you can't pull someone over because everyone is moving too fast. In fact, considering how hyped up on sugar these characters seem to be, the covers for these books fit the series like a glove.

The story of "Instant Teen" revolves around a fifth-grader named Natsumi Kawashima, who is frustrated with life because she is so young, and she dreams of the day she can be older and have a beautiful-looking body. Natsumi's friend Asuma thinks she should stop worrying about how she looks and have fun while she's still young. However, Natsumi wants to have a grown-up body and look pretty... mainly because she has a crush on some flower shop guy. However, one day Natsumi is given some nuts to eat, and when she wakes up she discovers that she is now a beautiful woman instead of a ten-year-old child. Natsumi is thrilled, of course, but Asuma disapproves of the change because he likes the "real" Natsumi better (aren't little boy crushes cute?). And you know what the kicker is to all this? This all happens within the first TWENTY pages of the book! You heard me: TWENTY pages.

If you continue the story, you'll find out in the next five or so pages that the reason Natsumi is older is because she ate the nuts that scientists are working on to make people older (but honestly, life's short enough as it is). However, the scientists warn Natsumi that since the nuts are still being experimented with, she might not want to eat anymore, as there may be some possible unknown side effects if she continues. Natsumi wants to continue to take the nuts, but she realizes that she is, at heart, still a kid, and decides not to take the nuts anymore. However, not too long after she decides this, the scientists send her some more nuts, claiming that they have finished making these nuts, and that they are now safe to eat. This ultimately means the story can now continue and go places that we would rather not go (cue the supermodel-dream-coming-true story line). "Instant Teen" is a series that is exactly what the title says it is: It is instantly forgettable. Although, to some credit, that's probably the whole point. The pace of the story line is super-fast, never slowing down for a moment, and always trying to make sure something is always happening. The characters have no time to have ideas for themselves, their personalities never get fleshed out to their full potential, and as a result the characters are flat and lifeless. For all the things these characters do, you never quite feel like they are doing anything meaningful or useful in this series.

Not that the story is any better. Events in this series happen almost randomly, and the story goes from event to event without ever slowing down. Midway through this book, I was lost and felt like I needed a flowchart so that I could see the structure of the story better. Now the idea of a girl growing up before she's supposed to and learning that being an adult isn't as great as you'd think it would be is a story that has been done to death, but in the proper hands, this could have still been a series (and one that kids really should be told more often). However, the idea is not in capable hands, and the way this series presents the story idea just doesn't work. Not only does Natsumi come to this realization way too soon (and how she comes to this conclusion is beyond me thanks to the rapid pace of the story), but once she comes to this conclusion, she continues to eat the nuts and grow up as many times as she wants to, just so that she can do things like be a model (and most likely a singer in book two). If Natsumi has come to the discovery that she wants to be a kid as long as she can, then why drag this thing out after this realization has been made? I won't even go into things like why Natsumi goes out on these photo shoots and tours without her mom knowing she's left, as I believe that would be looking into this story WAY too much!

The artwork in this series is also overcrowded, making it hard to see exactly what is going on all the time due to all the stuff that is literally cramped into the pages. Like the narrative, the artwork is super-hyper, super-cute, and it just.  Won't. STOP! It's actually quite fitting that the covers for these books all feature Natsumi in front of bowls of sugar-coated cereal, as the only people who are likely to get anything from this series are young little girls who are gobbling down sugar-coated cereal (and maybe some teenagers who may be inhaling something stronger). "Instant Teen" is some cheap, instant entertainment for young girls but not much else... and I don't even recommend you get this for your little girls. I personally believe that if a child is to read something, they should read something that is worth reading and will leave them with something to think about. If you want to find a series that kids could read that would be more fulfilling for them, I recommend "Sailor Moon," "Spider-Girl," and "Cardcaptor Sakura" to start out with. But "Instant Teen" exists to make a quick buck and nothing else. Please don't support that notion.

Grade: F

Your Comic Book Guy - Kevin

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