>> Tuesday, August 2, 2011
So, if this Tokyo Crazy Paradise is so good, why isn't it published here? The author is successful here (Skip Beat! by the same author is quite popular). Heck, Viz media, which publishes Skip Beat!, proclaims she's the author of Tokyo Crazy Paradise on the back of every volume. But they don't publish Tokyo Crazy Paradise.
I've heard several reasons: it's already on scanlations. Well, I'm not sure that's going to fly. I've read a number of mangas on-line that are still being published, even though they are complete (or have several additional volumes) already on-line. Although I'm sure there are people who are happy to read on-line and don't buy books, I know I'm not the only one who has bought more mangas because I read them on line than I would otherwise have done.
There's a lot of violence. True, but it's pretty benign compared to many shonen mangas that are desperately popular, so I'm not buying that. There is nudity, but, again, it's hardly pervasive and I've seen mangas, for older teens, with as much nudity or more, so I'm not sure I find that compelling. It has a good bit of sexual tension and some sexual harassment, but considerably less than a manga like Black Bird (which is rated "Older Teen"). Selling books that show yakuza in a favorable light is being cracked down on in Japan, but that should hardly be an issue here where we still embrace all kinds of criminal elements in our media.
So what is it?
I think it's simple, not only a simple answer but a simple fix. The protagonists are too young. For some reason, Nakamura-Sensei made them both fourteen and still in middle school. In Japan, the age of consent is thirteen. Admittedly, our young protagonists don't have sex during the course of the manga, but Tsukasa ends up losing her top several times and Ryuuji's overt sexual interest in her is hard to miss. I think, for people taking it at face value in this country, it's disturbing (and you can put whatever spin you want on that statement). I don't think of them as fourteen so I'm not even slightly bothered. More on that in a minute.
Sounds like a tough problem, doesn't it? Except, I don't think it is for the same reason their age doesn't bother me (despite the fact I'm not a proponent for underage sex): I just don't see them as fourteen years old. They don't look fourteen. They don't act fourteen (mostly, not so much I couldn't buy them being 2-3 years older). There's no overt reason I can identify that the school they're going to is a middle school rather than a high school. The fact they're "brats" is a big deal in the yakuza organization, but I have a hard time thinking a bunch of middle-aged ruffians are going to regard a 16/17 year old leader desperately differently than they'd see a 14 year old. Both are likely to look like "brats." I mean, look at them!
(Especially noting these from Skip Beat!: Kyoko at 16 and Ren at 20)
In fact, I'd ask the author to OK a text-only change, change the year to 2022 or 2023 and go from there. As far as I can tell, there's nothing to lose. There's not a single drawing that I think needs to be reworked. The school trip they go through is a staple of second year high schoolers, too. The uniforms could be high school as easily as middle school (and dropping out, as Ryuuji contemplates, makes more sense since only middle school is compulsory in Japan - not that that's really going to bother a gangster). Shiva and Shiki could be as readily in their late twenties as their mid twenties. It's not less of a sacrifice for Tsukasa's older brother to drop out of university than it is high school.
What's more, some of the plot points that were a bit hard to swallow at their current ages actually make more sense. For instance, Ryuuji discovered Tsukasa's gender saving her from drowning three years before by discovering breasts. Well, I have to say 13/14-year-old breasts are much more noticeable than 11-year-old so it makes the discovery more plausible, rather than less. Ditto the pervasive rush to get Ryuuji married. Admittedly, without an heir, there would be pressure on Ryuuji to produce one, but one would hardly need to push marriage (particularly when one can't legally marry at fourteen), yet the push to get formally engaged/effectively married is hits like a hammer as soon as Asago turns fourteen. If she's turning sixteen (where one can legally get married with a parent's permission) that makes a lot more sense.
I don't think of them as 14 year olds, actually. I think of them as youthful adults, with real responsibilities and real adult issues to contend with. A little text tweaking without losing any of the impact or charm of the original, and I truly believe this could be a very successful title here in the states. Are you listening, Viz Media?
But, either way, I love it.
Next, I'm going to go into the characters a bit and then I'll let the review go...but I have fanfiction for this manga, too.