A collection of stories about teenagers finding out about life and love...
Another example of an almost neverending series, the Boys Be... manga ran almost ten years from 1991 until recently in the weekly manga anthology Shonen Jump. There were three distinct series (or seasons, as they were called). The manga was created in collaboration by Tamakoshi Hiroyuki (art) and Itabashi Masahiro (story). The stories are nice, slowly paced and very cute, as is the artwork.
Boys be..., First Season:
The first 32 volumes comprise the "first season" of Boys Be... . Every book contains an independent love story, with new characters and situations in every story. They are loveable, cute and not too ecchi, in fact, it is rather tame, compared with some shonen titles. Nice romantic and funny stories, not too deep, but a good read. Although offcially labelled shonen, it appeals to male and female readers alike.
Boys be..., Second Season:
The next season of Boys Be, 20 volumes in all, is somewhat more directed at the young male audience, with slightly more ecchi content, and the lead characters thinking about "it" more often and explicit than in the first season. Once more, there are new characters, stories and situations in every volume.
Boys be... L CO-OP
The third series, six volumes in all, changed the concept of the series, by lightly connectiong the stories of the single volumes. The three leading characters, having formed a club they call the Love Affair Cooperative, help each other in their efforts to find love, acting as cupids for their friends and others. As the second season, it is targeted at older audiences, as the content is somewhat ecchi. The stories are the best of the series, as the wrting and art styles have definitely improved over the course of the years.
The TV Series:
In September 2000, the Japanese satellite pay-TV station WOWOW aired a 13 episode anime series based upon the manga. The series was directed by Shimoda Masami, who also directed Saber Marionette J, but there are no similarities between the two series. The animation quality is excellent, as is the music, and each episode feels like it could have been made into a whole series on it's own, but it never feels rushed. The anime revolves around a group of 6 High School students experiencing love for the first time, or trying to find it. It remains very realist all the way, relying just on the feelings of the characters and common human emotions to build the stories.
The anime, though true to the manga in its conception an feel, does not follow a storyline from the manga, but is mostly independant, taking only some of the manga's concept and narrative. It is, in effect, like a fourth season of the manga. Although each self-contained episode tells a seperate story, the episodes are connected by the main characters and the flow of time. Each episode is set a little later, so that after the 13 episodes all the seasons of the year have passed and the characters have become more mature.
The anime is beautifully done, both artistically and as far as the stories are concerned, having a romantic and nostalgic air to it. After seeing the first episode, I loved the series deeply, and had to go out and buy the rest. In fact, the TV series was my first exposure to Boys Be..., and I only bought the manga after seeing all of the anime and wanting more. There is not a lot of action, but plenty of emotions, never overdone, never mushy, as everything just flows past. It all just feels right to me. Well, maybe I am just too romantic, but if so, this series prooves that there are more of us out there...
Life is like a river, a journey through time, ever onward, never back...