>> Monday, July 25, 2011
The more observant of my readers may have noticed that my manga list sidebar includes a "new" category called "Gotta Learn Japanese." I can't remember if I've explained what that means before but it's time to because I'm going to review my all time favorite (so far) manga. What it means is that (a) I loved the manga so much I want to read it in the original Japanese badly enough I'm going to teach myself the language. Nor am I exaggerating. I've just about licked the two phonetic written languages of Japan (Katakana and Hiragana), I have several thought provoking resource books, including a few grammars and dictionaries, some audio language courses I can run on my computer and will be starting on trying to teach this old brain Kanji this week. It's been more fun than I imagined.
And yes, this was prompted by a single compelling manga which is not available in English in book form, though kind fans provided a scanned translated versions on-line, bless them. I love this manga so much, I have bought 15 of the 19 volumes in Japanese and doing so costs me almost as much as all the rest of my mangas put together. And I don't begrudge a penny (though I haven't convinced myself to buy the last four yet at $50 each).
The manga is Tokyo Crazy Paradise by Nakamura Yoshiki (who also wrote Skip Beat!) and I can't think about it or talk about it without wanting to read it again. Nakamura-Sensei apparently specializes in writing compelling, character-driven mangas that I absolutely cannot resist despite the fact they're written on topics that hold absolutely no interest for me, at least until I read them.
I can give you half a dozen reasons (if not more) why it shouldn't have ever appealed to me in the slightest but I won't because none of those reasons make a damn bit of difference. I love this manga. You know that old cliché: "I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me." It applies in spades here and, though I've read it probably a dozen times (and will read it again), I still laugh all through it, still catch my breath, still weep copiously when reading volume 16 (and the last chapter of 15). This manga gives me everything I'm looking for in a story (how often does that happen?) and leaves me feeling satisfied with an ending that answers my most pressing questions in a way I can live with without twisting the characters into something they're not.
I can give you three very compelling reasons why this works for me: Kozuki Tsukasa (the cross-dressing heroine), Shirogami Ryuuji (the youthful but serious head of Kanto's biggest crime syndicate) and Kamojima Toshiyuki, Ryuuji's middle-aged bodyguard who effectively raised him. Tsukasa or Ryuuji alone could have carried this series for me, but, with both of them, I'm completely enrapt. I've written a post specifically about them here.
I can give you another very compelling reason why this manga completely works for me, something rather personal. My first novel, which will probably never see the light of day, has characters almost frightening like these characters, except the serious relatively humorless badass driven by honor and tradition is my female lead, Layla. And the easy-going, good-natured fighter who constantly finds new depths and layers to his abilities to fit the occasion is my male lead. In this manga, the roles are a bit more traditional, and yet... Actually, I think this manga may mean that I'll never really be happy with my first novel. There are many similarities, but my novel is all about the established couple (completely different premise and plot) while this is about the building of that relationship. In many ways, I find so many things I could have worked into my novel but didn't because of where they started it (not to mention the genius of this mangaku), that I will never now be satisfied with my novel.
In my opinion, this manga has a great deal to offer both male and female readers (something I don't often say), with action and humor and romance and pathos and drama. And yes, it's going to take me more than one post to tell you even those reasons I've identified why I like it. Truth is, I can't entirely explain why it completely charms me, but it does.
Anime? No Volumes of manga: 19 (in Japanese) Status: Complete
My rating: Gotta learn Japanese
Age range: Older teen, one who's had the sex talk, because sex and rape are alluded to frequently. There is some nudity and considerable violence. Some might argue for an adult rating, but I found it far less overt than Butterflies, Flowers (as well as less stupid) and actually recommended it to my sixteen year old.
Taboos and "warnings": Violence, a good bit of it, crime, drug use (not among our protagonists), underage smoking (including one protagonist), sexual innuendo (and a bit more here and there), nudity, several attempted rape scenes (NOT by the protagonist). There is some December-May going on and, since our protagonists are ostensibly fourteen, some discussion of underage sex. Note also, there's unabashed sexual harassment (from a protagonist), enough to set a feminist screaming into the night; it doesn't bother me for a number of reasons I'll go into later and is complicated by the personal relationship existing between the two individuals. If you were going for a sweetness and light manga, this is probably not your best bet.
Premise: In 2020 Tokyo, lawlessness and self-absorption rules the day, with citizens looking the other way when crimes are committed and cops often doing the same. The Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) holds considerable power. In this world, four brothers, sons of recently killed cops, are left penniless and homeless on these mean streets. Tsukasa, who's really a cross-dressing girl, hits on the idea of wheedling a free meal from her rich but reticent classmate (Ryuuji) who happens to be the recently orphaned head of a large and powerful syndicate. Tsukasa, the sister, pretends to know who killed Ryuuji's father (though she doesn't). Ryuuji hires her as another bodyguard to try to spot the assassins, threatening her brothers to make sure she tries hard. They manage to catch said assassins (who incidently killed Tsukasa's parents as well), but the imprisoned brothers have run up an impressive debt that Tsukasa is forced to try to pay off by continuing as a bodyguard. And it turns out Ryuuji knows all about her gender. That's just the first chapter; there are many adventures to come.
What works: This will likely a take a while. Better save it for next time.
Update 1/03/2012: Apparently, there's...
"A petition to get Tokyo Crazy Paradise by Yoshiki Nakamura licensed in English" http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/tcp_licensed/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=system&utm_campaign=Send%2Bto%2BFriend