Tokyo Crazy Paradise: Gotta Learn Japanese (Part 1)

>> 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

16 comments:

  • Jeff King
     

    Nice post sounds like a great read... can't wait for the follow up.

    $50 bucks a pop: thats steep, I hope you get them soon!

  • merrylass
     

    Tokyo Crazy Paradise is one of my favourite mangas as well and I agree that it is worth learning Japanese ... and I am inspired to do so by your writeup. I also enjoy Skip Beat! but the manga that first captured my interest is "Anatolia Story" (aka Red River) ... if you haven't already read it, you should!

    Thanks for your fanfiction -- they are well written and very enjoyable. I hope you write more about Ryuuji and Tsukasa

  • Stephanie Barr
     

    Thank you, merrylass. I enjoyed writing them though it's not what I normally write.

    Still, the characters: what fun! I'd love to see Nakamura-sensei revisit our intrepid pair, wouldn't you? I'll see if I can find the manga you mentioned and add it to my "manga to try" list. Thanks!

  • Anonymous
     

    Un unlikelier otaku than myself... only because of the rocket science that beats my older age. I'm really delighted to find somebody over 40 that has comments (not to mention fanfiction!!), I don't have kids and my husband thinks I'm crazy (but accepts it stoically) so I don't have anybody to share this love with ... except for a 17 yr old girl I met in Japan who, when I confessed my love for Tokyo Crazy Paradise, put me onto Skip Beat. I would actually never have read either of them because of the totally random names (teach me to judge a book by the cover).
    I actually decided to learn japanese before I started reading mangas, but I couldn't go to Japan back then (I only had the book "remembering the Kanji"... it was before computers)but finally for my 49th B-day I went and by that time I was a hardcore otaku. I still intend to take more classes in Japan but I don't think conquering the kanji is going to be happening in this lifetime. But it doesn't matter because I do it for LOVE, not for business. And more importantly, I've made friends with japanese people who speak english and have been able to tell me so much, so my love for japanese culture is being fed even if I can't speak it (yet).

    I also read the Anatolia Story, and loved it, although it was way before I ran into TCP. It's more old-fashioned in a way.

    It's nice to meet you, I hope to stay in touch...
    patty

  • Stephanie Barr
     

    Feel free to share all your otaku-ness with me. It's one reason I started this blog. My daughter, (seventeen), though she started me on this, now rolls her eyes and thinks I'm crazy. I'm obsessed.

    But I love the stories and the characters and the sweetness in so much of this. I love the interaction of people and characters (and Skip Beat! and TCP are both over the top on that).

    I did read Anatolia's Story, by the way, and liked it though not quite as much as these, so, if you have other suggestions, let me know.

  • SilverMuse603
     

    Le sigh... Now I have yet another manga to add to my "To Read" list (which is monstrously long, btw). So much manga, so little time.

  • Jade Pomme
     

    Are you still looking for the other volumes for a reasonable price? I've had some luck purchasing from third party seller's on Amazon.jp? Buying direct from Amazon.jp is ridiculously expensive due to the express shipping but if you choose from the new/used listings, you can get it for a better price though shipping may take up to a month. You need to use enter the title in Japanese (which you can cut and paste from Wikipedia or Anime News Network) and then find a vendor that will ship overseas (this is the bigger challenge). Google translate usually helps me get by enough with navigating through Amazon.jp. Good luck.

  • Stephanie Barr
     

    I'm only short two volumes, now, but that's a great idea. I'll see what I can manage on the last two volumes. That's a good idea and I didn't think of it.

    Do you need it in the Japanese characters? Let me give it a try.

    I found them! Cheap! And shipping for both adds up to less than the cost for one! I officially love you! You're my hero of the day!

  • Jade Pomme
     

    ☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆
    Glad I can help. Btw, have you read Hana no Kishi (Flower's Knight)? It's also need to know Japanese. After having Tokyo Crazy Paradise withdraw, I stumbled on this and loved it. It features two strong female characters (the feminine female/masculine female - the cross dressing female) who work as a strong team rather than opposing each other which is the typical story line with these archetypes.

  • Stephanie Barr
     

    I'll put it on my list to check out. Thanks!

  • Anonymous
     

    there is another book from this author called blue wars :D i dont think its done yet but so far it is adorable <3 its kinda the opposite of tcp ;) its about a boy who has been trained by his father to become a man among men! but of course thats not what the guy wants at all! he's a very, very feminine man (he knits, cooks and grows flowers)and he's in love with the rivaling gang leader <3 but as he tends to his garden a flower fairy appears and tells him she will grant his wish and he wishes to become the perfect girl <3 it is very cute!! and with all the humor that follows a Nakamura Yoshiki manga :)

  • Stephanie Barr
     

    I liked it, too. I just wish I could I find the rest of it, even in Japanese.

  • buzzing bee
     

    I think it's a two volume series that was completed in the 1990s. It's still available through amazon.jp and several alternate sellers have it avaliable for 1 yen; of course its the shipping that jacks up the price.

  • Stephanie Barr
     

    That's a notion.

  • EllaEnigma
     

    I just wanted to ask if you have read both volumes, I know its not available in english, but, if you hadn't http://www.dm5.com/manhua-chunqingmengnan/ this is the link to both of them in chinese I think, you might be able to tell a little what happened or how it ends by the pictures :D

  • Stephanie Barr
     

    I have not "read" both volumes but I followed buzzing bee's advice and bought them (both) in Japanese from amazon.jp.

    Once I learn Japanese, I'm set. But thanks for the link. Someone else can probably use that information.

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