By Yoshiki Nakamura. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.
So I've been going on for some time about this volume of Skip Beat!, and how I would be interested to see the reaction of the readers who had not been following it in Japanese. And, as it turns out, the reaction has generally been 'it's another volume of Skip Beat". Now I'm trying to look back and see *why* I had expectations of this volume being controversial, and why that didn't pan out.
First of all, it's not serialized. When Chapter 135 came out in Japanese, there was a 2-week wait before the next one. On the forums and fan message boards, therefore, there was a lot of speculation about what would be happening, and the majority of folks felt that Kyoko and Chiaki had "gone too far" and would somehow be punished for it. Obviously, this did not happen - the opposite, in fact. But here in mid-volume, we see the consequences immediately, so there isn't that sense of dread that you get when waiting for the next chapter, nor are we making up resolutions in our head.
Secondly, on a more personal note, I'm not a big fan of method acting. This is purely down to my own biases, of course, but I do have a drama degree, so I have dealt with it in my lifetime quite a bit. In general my opinion is similar to Laurence Olivier's in the apocryphal story of him telling Dustin Hoffman, who had been up for 5 nights and looked horrible in an attempt at realism, to "try acting". Much of this volume of Skip Beat! is about immersing yourself in a role, and trying to live the life of your character, something which Kyoko (and later Chiaki) prove that they excel at. But damn, they're torturing an actress! And yes, it is torture, going beyond bullying with the nail polish remover and lighter. We do see a bit of fallout, as the actress's manager reams the director out for not stopping it, but it gets defused when the actress in question wants to be as 'in the role' as Kyoko and Chiaki, and agrees to reproduce it in the take. That said, I feel something more should have been made of it, and it wasn't. Things got too dangerous.
Aside from that, this volume of Skip Beat was fantastic. I may have been uncomfortable with Natsu and Yumika in 135, but I suspect that was very deliberate, and the setup was beautiful. I particularly loved the reaction of the actress playing Kaori, who ended up feeling relieved and touched that Natsu did not consider her something to be "thrown away". Even though it was undercut immediately afterwards, the feelings were drawn beautifully. As for Chiaki, her arc essentially ends here, as she's able to put her past behind her and attempt to love acting once more. Not that it will be easy - she has no idea what she's in for in the "Love Me" section.
We also start up a Valentine's Day arc, which also seems to be around the same time as Ren's birthday... and leads to a nice cliffhanger, as Kyoko has forgotten it, and hasn't gotten him anything. To make matters worse, Reino has shown up again, and wants Kyoko to give him chocolates for Valentine's. This is possibly the funniest scene in the volume, as Reino tries everything he can to show Kyoko he's fallen for her (in his own jerkass way, of course), but gets nowhere as Kyoko's "love circuits" are still broken. Though it's also hard to top Lory's entrance as well - any time Lory shows up is a potential funny highlight in itself.
So Kyoko now has a handle on Natsu, has the support of the entire crew, and has finally worked things out with Chiaki. Good thing, too, as it looks like this next arc, which appears to focus on Ren's birthday and Valentine's Day, won't be very easy on her. Despite my misgivings about the 'method acting' bullying scene, this is still highly recommended.