Joy Kim

Librarian. Book Reviewer. Coffee Addict.

Scene stealers in manga

silverdiamond5.jpgThis week marked the return of Shiho Sugiura’s Silver Diamond to Tokyopop’s publication schedule, and that is a reason for much rejoicing. It has been almost a full year since US readers got a new volume of this underappreciated shōjo gem, which combines an interesting fantasy premise with warm, funny character moments. I wrote a review of volume 3 for Manga Life a while back; pretty much everything I said there applies to this volume as well, so I will skip writing up a full review.

One of my favorite things about Silver Diamond is Koh, the talking snake who is also sometimes a sword. (It’s sort of a long story.) Koh manages to steal the scene almost every time he shows upon the page. I laughed out loud a lot while reading volume 5 of Silver Diamond, and much of that was because of Koh. He’s even funny when he is being a mostly inanimate sword. (The flinch!)

Anyway, it occurred to me that several of my favorite manga series have supporting characters who tend to run away with any scene they appear in. Here are a few of the best that I’ve encountered:

(Note: I generally don’t think of main characters as scene stealers: they’re supposed to attract your attention. For example, Yuko in xxxHOLiC is pretty hard to resist, but that’s only fitting for such a central character. In contrast, Koh is not a main character in Silver Diamond. He is part of the main ensemble, yes, but the overall story focuses most on Rakan and Rakan’s odd relationship with Chigusa.)

  • Mamoru in Hidaka Banri’s V. B. Rose – One of the saving graces of shōjo manga is that occasionally our sweet but dim heroines have much sharper friends. Case in point: Mamoru Sakashita of V. B. Rose. She is smart, loyal, and completely devious. She loves to tease, and when she does, it provides endless entertainment for Hidaka’s readers. It is very telling that Mamoru’s equally scheming younger brother figures out that she is romantically interested in one of her male classmates because said classmate is the type who is fun to pick on. It’s a wonder that the Sakashita siblings don’t run off with the entire story more often than they do. See also: Hanajima in Fruits Basket.
  • Shin in Yazawa Ai’s NANA – Shin is one of those characters who sneaks up on you. I hardly noticed him when he was first introduced: his recruitment into the Black Stones seemed like a distraction from the main characters and their stories. But then Shin turned out to be a smart-mouthed kid who is capable of being wise beyond his years and of acting entirely his age. Many of the characters in NANA have a knack for both making you laugh and breaking your heart, but that’s especially true of Shin.
  • General Armstrong in Arakawa Hiromu’s Fullmetal Alchemist – I am reluctant to go into too much detail about why exactly General Armstrong is on this list, because it seems wrong to spoil the surprise for any readers who are not caught up on the series. That said, even in a series where many characters have strong personalities and unusual powers, General Armstrong is a person who regularly makes those nearby cower in terror or bow down in homage. It’s sort of wonderful.
  • Kanzeon Bosatsu in Minekura Kazuya’s Saiyuki and Saiyuki Reload – I feel coffeeandink said it all when she described Kanzeon as “the reinterpretation of the Goddess of Mercy as the best gorgeous, smart-mouthed hermaphrodite authorial-insert Mary anyone could ever want to Sue herself into.” So true! Close runner-up from the Saiyuki-verse: Koumyou Sanzo.

Who are your favorite scene stealers in manga? Share in the comments, though do try to avoid giving away entire plots. (If you must include spoilers, please use rot13 to hide them.)


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  2. The one that comes to my mind is Hanajima Saki in Fruits Basket – Protective of Tohru and scary in the eyes of others, Hanajima steals many a scene, particularly in her starring turn as Cinderella in the school play.

    I also really like Ryoma’s dad, Nanjirou, in Prince of Tennis, and his cat, Karupin (or Kalpin, in VIZ’s translation).

  3. @Michelle – I found Ryoma’s dad a little too annoying to think of him as a scene stealer, but I agree about Kalpin!

    And yes to Hanajima! She and Mamoru of VB Rose are very much the same character type.

  4. I think Saito in Rurouni Kenshin probably counts, too. He’s is unrelentingly cool, and I was always happy when he appeared. During the “Kyoto” arc he’s part of a team with the regulars and definitely stole some scenes.

  5. @Michelle – I like Saito a lot too, though I think the biggest scene stealer in _Kenshin_ is probably Kenshin’s teacher. Mentors, like pets, seem to have a tendency to be unfairly cool or amusing. See also: Izumi Curtis in FMA.

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