Otokomae! Beads Club: Gotta Have 'Em All

>> Thursday, October 6, 2011

I won't lie. I like the work Kyousuke Motomi, who also writes/draws Beast Master and Dengeki Daisy, one of my all time favorite mangas. If it took a bit to get used to her drawing style - and it did, I found her characters and dialog appealing from the beginning. I've even grown to find some of the art beautiful (though I seem improvements from the old to newer stuff, most notably Dengeki Daisy). I like that she has strong female characters, strong male characters who are also not without sensitivity. I like that she challenges many a stereotype and isn't afraid to laugh at her own media (manga). Unfortunately, Dengeki Daisy and Beast Master are the only of her works published in English.

And that's a real pity because some of her earlier stuff, if more crudely drawn, was still terrific. An excellent case in point is Otokomae! Beads Club (which means "handsome man" beads club according to Denshi Jisho).

When I read the premise for OBC, it was just the sort of quirky back-handed contrived nonsense tailor made for someone like me. I loved the idea and, I have to admit, I loved the manga. So, even though I literally can't get the books, I still want to have 'em all. I've certainly read 'em all in scanlations.

Anime? No Volumes of manga: One (and a story in a different volume) Status: Complete?

My rating: Gotta Have 'Em All

Age range/taboos: It's all pretty clean here. Minimal violence, no sex, at best some innuendos. I can't see any teenager coming to harm from this. There is one attempted rape, but it's cut off early.

Premise: A girl who grew up doing martial arts and scaring off boys with her physical power transfers to a new school where she intends to keep her aggressive talents her little secret and become girly girl so she can find a boyfriend. And she wants a manly man, thank you. Unfortunately, on the first day, her rather heroic rescue of a dog is witnessed by one of her new school mates, who completely approves. And is a little scary given he has pet crows. Turns out, our crow man is president of a club of misfits (every manga stereotype critter imaginable) who not only make beaded pretties, but also defend the school for justice.

What worked: If our main character (Oikawa Ibuki) is a bit misguided, wanting to be something she's not to get noticed, she is not without some level of self-awareness and a sense of humor. And, when push comes to shove, she can't help being herself, either. If with initial reluctance, she accepts her role in the club for justice and even her unnerving attraction for the spooky club president. The president, Takumi, is smug and self-assured, making no bones about his attraction to her and his confidence she'll come around to his way of thinking. And yes, he really beads well as well. Filling out the club is a girl who looks like a tart, the delinquent technogeek (precursor to Kurosaki, apparently), the big rough-looking otoman, the tiny cutesy girl who's really a male cross-dresser. How could I not love this?

The stories tended to be pedestrian, starting from the secretive nature of the "secret student council" which is like the bead clubs' alter ego (OK, yeah, that's pretty stupid) where they break up a club trying to find out their identity for revenge. It's a short manga (five real chapters), none of which are really tied to the others or involving extreme cleverness. It's not a cohesive whole, rather a series of vignettes, but it has charm and humor, particularly in the interaction between Ibuki and Takumi. If the story setups are weak, I have to hand it to the mangaka to push forward undaunted and take them to their convoluted conclusion as humorously as possible.

And that's the key. It's at least partly a satire, making fun of all the extremes one sees in shoujo manga, tongue planted firmly in cheek. That it does so without sacrificing the humanity and charm of its main characters is an added bonus.

Favorite Character: Takumi, of course. Unflappable, smug, just edging on lecherous, letting people mostly do their own thing without interfering (not to mention top of the class and a talented beader), yeah, he's my favorite. I even like the crows.


Takumi: These guys are idiots who like to bully people but Ibuki and I are the same...we like bullying weak idiots!

Takumi: To be honest, I have a bad feeling about something, like we missed something. So, no matter what, you have to be aware til the last second.
Ibuki: Understood. Whatever happens, I'll protect them with my own body. I won't let any girl get disfigured.
Takumi: No...you're a girl too...(you're saying manly things again). If something goes wrong, your face might...
Ibuki: I'll be fine.

Ibuki: I can get you whatever you like for a present! What do you want?
Takumi: Hmm, then...All of Ibuki.
Ibuki drops the bins of beads she's holding.

Takumi: Take a good rest. I'm going to get some medicine.
Ibuki: (Flushed and wearing a yukata) W-wait! Don't leave me alone! I'm scared! Please stay by my side, Takumi...
(At that moment, the crow had to battle his own evil thoughts until there was only little sense of himself left-)
What I didn't like: The drawing's quite a bit cruder than it is in her later work and, especially the side characters suffer for it. It also, as noted, has silly plots and fanciful storylines very much out of keeping with anything I know about high school. I would have liked to see these characters developed much like they were in Dengeki Daisy with some more development of the side characters.

And, sniff, I can't get it in English in book form.


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