Having dispensed with its gender challenging drag subplot by the end of its first volume, shojo romance Venue Capriccio (CMX) starts out aimless in its follow-up book. You can see creator Mai Nishikata desperately testing new complications to toss at our central couple, tomboyish high school girl Takami and prickly young pianoboy Akira. Our heroine gets a job waitressing at a jazz bar, which worries Akira but doesn’t yield any real dramatic moments; the series’ piano school sees the return of a flirty older teacher, which also concerns Akira but similarly proves unpromising.
It isn’t until the volume’s fourth chapter — wherein our twosome enters the Aoba Piano Competition — that Capriccio lights up. Thoughts of the Richard Dreyfuss/Amy Irving flick, The Competition, come to mind, but in this case there’s no real question as to who will win the contest. The big concern here is what effect Takami’s growing proficiency will have on their still nascent romance (whereas, in the earlier movie, the issue was whether the duo’s budding relationship would color the contest itself). The difference in focus proves ultimately less gripping, but Nishikata’s couple remain distinct enough to keep shojo addicts reading. Even when it’s obvious that the manga artist is temporarily marking time, her commitment to her characters keeps you involved. Dunno how many volumes she can maintain this sleight of hand, though.