Beauty Pop Volume One is a manga by Kiyoko Arai, and it was published in North America by Viz Media’s Shojo Beat imprint in 2006. The series is rated “T” for Teen. After reading the first volume of this series, I would agree with this rating.
The main character of Beauty Pop is a high school freshman named Kiri Koshiba. She has a talent for being a beautician and giving girls makeovers, but she will only use these talents if she’s in disguise. Meanwhile, there are three popular boys who are known as the “Scissors Project” that will randomly give girls at their high school makeovers if they feel the girl has potential. These boys are Shogo Narumi (heir to the Salon De Narumi), Kei Minami (who does nail art), and Kazuhiko Ochiai (the consultant for overall beauty).
Kiri’s friend, Kanako Aoyama, has a crush on Kazuhiko. She presents him with a book cover as a way to confess her love, but Kazuhiko interprets this as a bribe to be chosen for the next Scissors Project makeover. Kazuhiko tells Kanako that she would never be chosen, because her “overall beauty factor is too unbalanced.” Kiri gives Kanako a makeover to prove Kazuhiko wrong, but she doesn’t let on that she’s the one who did the makeover. As the volume continues, Kiri tries to quietly help others out, but Kazuhiko starts suspecting she’s the one doing these makeovers.
Shogo is very driven to become the top beautician in Japan and is very displeased by the fact that there’s someone else giving makeovers at the school. Shogo won every junior hair art contest except for one in the fourth grade, where he lost to a girl that was a year younger than him; this loss has driven him to become as obsessed with his work as he has.
When it comes to the story of this manga, I’m really having a hard time taking this seriously. While I can potentially believe that the boys in the “Scissors Project” would be popular with the girls, I have a hard time believing the portrayal of these boys being popular with their male peers. In the real world, many of their male peers would be making fun of them.
I also found many of the plot points in this manga volume to be rather predictable; perhaps this is due in part to the fact that I’m older than this manga series’ target audience. I would normally laugh at the idea of competitive makeovers, but after hearing about manga series that involve other ludicrous competitions, such as competitive bread making, I’ve come to realize that almost anything can be made competitive in order to become the basis of a manga series.
The art in Beauty Pop relies very heavily on shojo tropes and stereotypes. Shogo, the lead male, has been given a bishonen (“beautiful boy”) look, Kei is depicted as the lazy idiot who likes to eat, and Kazuhiko has a studious look that includes wearing glasses. Many of the panels in the volume also flowers, lines, circles, and other pictures as their backgrounds; this is especially true of many of the panels that feature the members of the “Scissors Project.” Overall, there’s not much to make this art stand out from other shojo manga series on the market.
While I may not be personally interested in Beauty Pop, I could see this series having a strong appeal for teenage girls. I would recommend this series to female manga readers who are thirteen or fourteen years of age and older.