With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Keiko Tobe, Volume 1: As I said over at GoodReads, I'm not too keen on this one.
Although this manga is ambitious and big-hearted, there were two things that put me off the narrative as the whole, and I wish the artist/writer had taken into stronger consideration:
1) The child and title of the character of the book, Hikaru, is never a real character; he's never anything except his illness, and while there are hints of his personality (he loves trains and blocks) he never progresses beyond simple, disabled child against whom the main character has to define herself.
2) Twice in this narrative, "experts" urge the characters (and therefore, readers) to talk to an autistic child, in the same way you would to a foreigner, with simple words and big gestures. This is pretty insulting on a variety of levels, and a former "gaijin" living in Japan, I can speak from personal experience that this is a really hurtful and condescending attitude. Furthermore, when foreign characters are introduced, they speak in fractured Japanese and, like the autistic child, serve solely to make the main character feel better about herself.
I don't think people should ignore or walk from this book if they're interested; I just wish these two points had been handled more sensitively. This book may read like a PSA, but when I was living in Japan (between 1998-2001, right when this first volume was published) very few people knew what autism was, and viewed any non-neurotypical behavior as shameful, something to be hidden away and not spoken of. If this work and others like it went any distance to making life better for families with autism in Japan, then that's great. However, this could have been a transcendent work, appealing to audiences in many countries, if not for the two points above. I don't think I'll be reading the rest of the series.
Behind the Scenes!!, by Bisco Hatori, Volume 1: Where to begin? This is more frenetic and sillier than Hatori's previous works (and after Ouran Host Club, that may sound a little hard to believe, I know, but it's true!) It's also a little harder to get a handle on, story-wise. Shy, artistic, and sensitive Ranmaru Kurisu is trying to navigate his way through his first year at art school with little success when suddenly he meets the Art Squad, a club that specializes in making props, set dressing, and costumes for the four other film clubs at the school. The Art Squad is full of unique/weird personalities, including Ryuji Goda, the Art Squad's president/leader/resident goofy idealist who always bites off more than the club can chew. (All of the characters are named after Hatori's favorite Western film directors, so Goda for Godard, Ruka for George Lucas, etc.) The four rival film clubs on campus all bicker with each other, and with the Art Squad, and most of the drama comes from one of two plot hooks:
1) Will the Art Squad be able to fulfill the production requirements of the other clubs in time?! and,
2) Will Ranmaru grow up and find his way in the world?!
Both of these are pretty good plot generators, but I guess I don't know whether to invest in Ranmaru or not; he's not much of character beyond "diamond in the rough" yet. It's clear that Hatori already has, though, and since she succeeded in winning me over before on numerous other occasions, I'm fully willing to give her the benefit of the (silly) doubt on this one. If there's going to be romantic tension between him and Ryuji, I really hope Hatori lampshades it immediately, the way she did in Ouran, because it was so damn funny. (