Well I had a rather charming surprise at my new local library, they have quite a bit of manga! I'm starting to think that my local library was a bit crap for having so little (that or it was so throughly spread out between the branch libraries I never got a chance to see what they really had) and this library not only has manga but it has quite a few longer running series that I had always wanted to try and some older books like this one. I didn't think I'd have a chance to read this one any time soon since, to the best of my knowledge, Chromatic Press hasn't started selling new copies yet and I'd have to wait for those to trickle down into the libraries. I will note however that for some reason this particular book was missing some pages, I don't think I missed anything terribly important story wise, I wouldn't be reviewing it if I had, but if it seems like I did feel free to chime in in the comments!
Off*beat (volume two) by Jen Lee Quick
Summary: Tory continues to try and get closer to his neighbor and classmate Colin in order to figure out what exactly is going on in Colin's sometimes mysterious life.
The Good: In the effort of full disclosure, I'm having a bit of trouble remembering where volume one ended and volume two began which in one way is a good thing, it shows just how cleanly this story flows, but does mean this is going to be a shorter review. I'll admit that I liked this volume a bit less since it felt more like build-up, being able to read chapters from volume 3 immediately afterwards was a relief especially since it showed that Quick really does have a well plotted out story in mind. One thing I do remember liking a lot about this volume is how even though Tory is absolutely convinced that Colin is part of a secret government project the story presents it in such a way that as a reader I was never sure if he was right or completely crazy. I think that presentation was on purpose and that's something that's quite tricky to pull off correctly and I thought it gave the story an extra level of interest.
The Bad: I'm so happy I don't have to say "and then it ends forever so we have no conclusion!" since that would be a pretty big negative against the series. The third series is already being serialized in Sparkler Monthly and picks up immediately from where the second volume ends and honestly that takes care of both my biggest problem with the series and that also starts rounding out the characters a bit more which was my other large complaint about the series. People will probably disagree with me but I just found Tory and Colin a bit too flat, Colin spent the first volume barely interacting so it was hard to see what his actual personality was (other than "quiet" and "a bit sullen") and Tory is so obsessive with his stalking that it's as if that one quirk defines his entire personality. Like I said, the third volume is definitely the start of the final act so both of those problems start to fade and that leaves me with no real issues with the series at the moment.
The Art: No big changes here from the first volume, Quick continues to draw in a style that looks a little rough but grew on me over time. I also feel a bit weird critiquing it since I started out reading her later work (Witch's Quarry) so I know that all the problems I have with this work (faces are a bit too similar, backgrounds can get rather simplistic and overly reliant on screentones) are improved upon in her other works yet I hope the art for the last volume isn't too different since a radical style change would be even worse. And, in writing this review, I just realized that the CP editions have new covers and just wanted to quickly mention that I like the new ones (with new logo) better than the old TokyoPop ones, much more focused composition.
So, if you enjoyed the first volume of Off*Beat you'll enjoy this one even more and then should run over to Sparkler Monthly to read the rest. Otherwise, if you're a fan of lite-BL stories where the relationship isn't the main focus then you should give this series a shot, I was pleasently surprised to see that it was as good as I had been told anyway.