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The monthly comics anthology Nakayoshi is the oldest of Japan’s big three girls manga magazines, debuting months before rival Ribon and decades ahead of Ciao. Most of Nakayoshi’s readers are elementary and junior high school girls, but with over 50 years in circulation, there are generations of adult women who grew up reading its titles such as Princess Knight, Sailor Moon, and Cardcaptor Sakura.

One such former Nakayoshi kid is our Japanese correspondent Anji. While Anji’s a little older than the magazine’s target market, she was recently enticed into buying her first issue in years by the freebie included with Nakayoshi’s March issue: a perfume set that allows you to mix your own fragrances.

That cool giveaway wouldn’t be the only thing that surprised her about the magazine she used to know, however.

Over the last few years, Japanese fashion magazines have entered into an escalating war to see who can provide the nicest swag for readers, whether in the form of pouches, slippers, or day planners. This marketing tactic has eventually trickled down to manga magazines, which brings us to the perfume mixing set Nakayoshi is bundling with the latest installment of their magazine.

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The perfume set comes in an extremely girlish box, covered with sparky stickers and even a few plastic jewels you can add to customize yours. The words “Sweet Perfume” are emblazoned on the lid. They’re not kidding either, as many of the eight varieties inside sound more like a dessert menu than a fragrance list, with names like Milky Berry, Marshmallow Vanilla, Tropical Sunshine, Fresh Blueberry, and Melon Sherbet. Relax Floral and Sweet Bouquet sound more like cosmetics than ice cream flavors, although the last scent, Bubble Bouquet, seems better suited for a brand of shampoo.

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They sure look pretty though, with the sort of vivid hues you’d expect from their colorful names. Interestingly, the perfumes aren’t in liquid form, but rather come as small tubs of putty that you rub into your skin. There’s even a fancy little spoon to scoop them out with.

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While there’s nothing stopping you from using the fragrances as is, the real fun to be had is in mixing different types together to create your own signature scent. The malleable consistency of the putties makes kneading them together a snap.

It’s an impressive amount of variety considering Nakayoshi’s March issue doesn’t cost any more than its usual price of 580 yen.(US $5.60). Still, the fact is you get what you pay for, and Anji’s evaluation was that most of these scents reminded her of air fresheners or cheap candies. The only one which seemed like a bona fide perfume was Relax Floral.

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Still, the scents are long-lasting, with just a dab being enough to last the whole day. Besides, considering Nakayoshi’s core readers aren’t even in high school yet, the level of quality is more than acceptable. After all, at that age kids aren’t that concerned about their appearance and grooming, right? At least that’s what Anji thought until she took another look at some of the advertising copy for the perfume set splashed across the magazine’s cover.

▼ This spring, things are just a little more grown-up♪
From today, let’s be good smelling girls❤

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▼ Every fashionable girl has them❤
The perfume creams everyone wants!

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Huh? It may have been a while since she’d read the magazine, but Anji didn’t recall these kind of pressure tactics when she was a kid. Flipping through the issue, though, turned up more of the same, with special features on using creams and balms to keep your hands and lips smooth, carrying drops to keep your eyes looking their best, and the importance of checking to make sure your teeth are pearly white.

Granted, that last one is as much a health and hygiene issue as a style and beauty one, but still, just when the magazine’s non-manga content switch over to this heavy focus on being good-looking and popular?

In Nakayoshi’s defense, in Japan, junior high, and thus the anthology’s target market, goes up to the ninth grade. Nonetheless, a sizeable portion of the readership still has a single-digit age. We realize kids grow up fast these days, but we can’t help wishing they could stay little just a bit longer.

A pleasant smell is an aspiration we can always get behind. We just wish Nakayoshi’s could encourage it without resorting to lines like “Startle the boys with your nice fragrance.” That’s a lot of pressure to put on a girl, especially when she’s still at an age where her male classmates aren’t entirely convinced she doesn’t have cooties.

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Photos: RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]