This is a fun, unusual manga in the vein of television shows like Veronica Mars. Nico Hayashi is a 14-year-old girl who masquerades as a dating service/phone sex operator just for the anthropological fun of it. She winds up getting embroiled in a scheme working for a kindly, aging gangster to find a kidnapped boy. After her initial success, the gangster keeps her on as an investigator on cases ranging from mysterious telephone pranks to strange soccer shenanigans. Along the way, Nico picks up an older, nerdy man-dubbed Robo for his love of robot action figures-and he becomes both a somewhat grouchy sidekick and comic foil. The 13 excellent short stories stand alone but also contain ongoing themes and subplots. Kuroda writes funny, convincing dialogue to complement his suspenseful, mystery-of-the-week yarns. Working in a naturalist style, with broad brush strokes and evocative backgrounds and layouts, Kuroda is clearly influenced by such American indie cartoonists as Paul Pope and Gilbert Hernandez. Nico is an engaging protagonist, making this a rare comic that offers as much to older teens as to adults. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.