Showing posts with label Single. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Single. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Manga Realness: "Doubt!!" by Kaneyoshi Izumi

Here we are guys; readers and friends of Comic Towel.  Manga enthusiasts and those curious enough to take my loved titles as recommendations, I present to you Manga Realness Number Two: Kaneyoshi Izumi’s Doubt!!.  But first, this is not based on Yoshiki Tonogai's manga series with the same name.  

The New Ai Maekawa
Coming from my loathsome sessions plodding through the Peach Girl manga series (which I bailed out on), Doubt!! did a good job dissolving the growing weariness I gathered from reading about Japanese schoolgirls who allowed her peers to run over her.  Translated as “bullying”, the Japanese term ijime describes this type of behavior seen in many school-based manga stories.  Now that’s not to say there wasn’t a supply of this in the five volumes that make up the complete series of Doubt!!.  After all, it wouldn’t be a shojo manga series without melodrama, plaid skirts, sharp-jawed boys, love triangles, depraved ijime, and the misunderstood tanned student with duck lips.  Nevertheless, the more or less distinct difference is that the protagonist in Doubt!! was (or at least started out) a little more on my temperamental level when it comes to not accepting crap from others.

Will So's past break his relationship with Ai?
A six volume shojo series crossing Romance and Slice of Life, Doubt!! tells the school life story of Ai Maekawa, an overlooked junior high teen who turns her image around to begin an acknowledged, new life in high school.  Armed with a new haircut and pimple cream, this transformation jumps off the series after a small prologue recounts her last embarrassing moment in junior high.  Feeling a lot more confident in her looks, Ai enters high school with the admiring eyes of her peers.  In turn, she suddenly finds herself in the mix of two of the school’s popular boys, So Ichinose and Yuichiro Kato.  A seemingly over flirtive (another word I made up) womanizer with a sketchy background related to his childhood, So Ichinose literally scoops Ai up and hangs off her backside during the first chapter of their meeting.  Why?  Because she is new, cute, and prospective-looking to his limbido.  Alternatively, his best friend, Yuichiro Kato, hangs back to admire Ai from afar, while berating So for his overzealous flirting.  The boys are two sides of the same coin, and as the placidly cool Yuichiro grows feelings for Ai, and Ai grows feelings for So, So tackles the difficult task of keeping his checkered past out of sight and from drawing a line between him and Ai.  Meanwhile, Ai has to battle her own past, as figures from then emerge to wreck her sudden popularity and budding relationship with the boys.  This all befits the web of drama that makes up Doubt!!.  And it only gets juicier as each of their secrets are revealed.

Now, what hooked me to this series…

Does Yuichiro stand a chance with Ai?
Some can say that the determination for Ai’s transformation reinforces how girls cater to a cultural obsession with looks and social popularity.  However, to me, Ai changing her looks installed in her that she is worth more than she believed before.  She didn’t think she was cute.  She didn’t think she would ever get a boyfriend.  She didn’t think too much of herself.  Then she decided to move away from that frame of thinking and make a change.  Granted, it can appear shallow for her to believe that looks is the beginning of this inner and outer transformation; nonetheless, her doing so sparked a fighting spirit inside of her.  I don't know about you, but I've always admired individuals who can make a change and take charge of their lives.  Seriously, how many people can wake up and decide to do battle with their issues instead of feeling sorry for themselves?  That's why I liked Ai and dedicated myself to reading her story. 

Still, her story doesn't stop there because soon she has to defend her new attitude--which kept me further invested in her story. 

Ai's ijime became jealousy-driven once she reached high school.  The girls who did not know of Ai’s past chose to bully her because she was pretty and gained the attention of the most popular boys in school.  However, driven by the torture she experienced in junior high, as well as her will to remain consistent in separating herself from those experiences emotionally, Ai did not back down from this new misconception that her bullies formed about her.  After all, the fight from her previous slew of misconceptions built enough character to combat the other.

At one point a student expressed: “Pretty girls get everything handed to them.  You don’t know what life is really like.”  Instead of succumbing like during her past insecurities, Ai chooses to stand up (quite violently I must add) for herself under the realization that the ijime she faced in junior high has only changed.  While she is somewhat thankful to be labeled "pretty", it did not come easy.  Therefore, she sure as hell wasn't willing to let someone taunt her about something they knew nothing about in regards to her emotional struggles.  So the best thing for her to do was to shut it down before it started.  And that's what she did when she fought back for her respect.  

This resonated with my experience adjusting from junior high to high school.  Like Ai, it was this adjustment that let me know that I didn’t have to take crap from anyone else anymore, and that I wasn‘t so unattractive that I needed to lay in my own darkness.  What I believed for myself was exactly what I had a right to pursue.  I didn’t have to lie in my shell any longer because there was nothing wrong with being confident, loud, and even obnoxiously cheerful.  So take control of your life when you find it necessary.  You’re going to come across opposition of some sort any way.  Might as well attempt to make the best of yourself in the process.  Feed confidence into your emotional diet even if that means changing your looks.  And most of all, stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Give yourself some credit for moving through life itself.

If you could go back to junior high or high school, what would you do differently?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Manga Realness: "Absolute Boyfriend" by Yuu Watase

I have a humble collection of manga, so this will be a modest series of posts (not really).  Nevertheless, my manga library was a lot larger in the past, but many of the titles that I decided not to venture pass book one (unless it was a one-shot) did not make it during years of moving and rearranging cluttered bookshelves.  In retrospect, I wish I kept many of them because I fume silently at the absence of my copy of Antique Bakery Volume 1.  Did I give it away?  Or did I misplace it in my mess?  It always seems to work that way: you grow out of certain phases then you tumble your way back in.  One year my manga library grows, the next year it’s stagnate, the following year it’s dwindled.  And on it goes.

Nonetheless, there are a few manga series and one-shots that I refuse to separate from.  Some of them I’ve completed and some of them I hold on to in the hopes of one day picking back up to complete.  Naturally, the other singular element that assists with my decision to hold on to a title is the artwork.  

So with all of that said, let’s get into Manga Realness Number One.  By the way these are not ranked; alphabetically arranged with each category, though.  With Sailor Moon completely out of the way (what manga series can beat that?), my first favorite completed manga series is Yuu Watase’s Absolute Boyfriend.

Absolute Boyfriend is about a withdrawn Japanese high school girl (she happens to live alone while her parts work overseas) named, Riiko Izawa, and like many shojo genre girls, Riiko is having romantic problems.  Well, Riiko’s problem is that she can’t seem to have a romantic problem.  Guys that she's interested in are never receptive to her.  When it finally appears that she will remain loveless throughout her school years, a strange set of circumstances, involving her returning a missing cell phone, sets Riiko on the path to finding love.  Or does it?  It is nowhere near as easy to determine.  The missing cell phone belongs to a mysterious stranger who, after listening to Riiko’s romantic woes, offers her a card and CD-ROM that directs her to a website called Kronos Heaven.  It is here that Riiko spends a late school night customizing what appears to be her perfect boyfriend, offered for order by Kronos Heaven.  While she approached much of this as a joke, the next day Riiko receives her wish in the form of the perfect, robotic boyfriend named, Night (he is part of the Nightly Lover android series).  Per the instructions, a kiss is required to activate Night.  With Riiko ready to comply, this is where the fun of the 6 volume manga series begins!

Riiko Izawa
Night is given to Riiko on a trial basis; he must be returned three days after purchase.  The mysterious cell phone stranger reveals this to Riiko during his service-appreciated visit.  The problem is that Riiko wasn’t aware of the statement, and is therefore stuck with Night and a one million dollar (or yen) bill.  With her first payment only days away, Riiko and Night quickly devise ways to earn money, including working in a hostess bar.  Night even disguises himself as a woman to assist Riiko; such a dedicated fellow him be.  Until Riiko is groped by a drunk patron does Night come out of his wig to protect her, subsequently leading to both of their terminations from the bar.  Leaving the bar broke, they run into the mysterious cell phone stranger.  Realizing her struggles, he offers Riiko a deal: the organization will waive her fee if she provides them with data concerning her relationship with Night.  This will assist the company in creating even better boyfriend models for future customers.  Gladly, Riiko agrees.  She is determined to teach Night everything about women.

It all makes for a great set-up, especially when you factor in the antics the two go through to keep their secret, as well as their comedic dialogue.  Other elements that unfold within the series includes the crush Riiko’s neighbor, Soshi, has on her.  This eventually forms a love triangle between the three where Night and Soshi battle it out for Riiko’s attention and affection.  Other characters join in on the adventures, including a miniature version of Night who assists Riiko during a time when Night requires repairs to his cyborg body.  Nevertheless, the main focus of the series revolves around Riiko’s maturity and choice.  With a sudden brew of romantic options, will she choose the robotic boyfriend, Night?  Or will she choose the moody and flawed human character, Soshi?

Night.  The robot mate.
Without a doubt, this manga series contains many of the elements that I love in manga.  That's one reason I loved it so much (other than the hilarious plot).  I read the volumes as each English adaptation was released (2006-2007), so it came along as a positive distraction from the mundane life I faced working my ass off to keep up with bills and rent in a city three hours away from home.  I can distinctly remember reading volume three while gassing up my car for a trip to Six Flags (needed that break).  So why was I so invested in the series?  Because Riiko was so terribly unsound when it came to figuring out her love life, and for good reason when you consider she resorted to a robot to try to fulfill that void.  I could relate to her in that aspect--not the robot nonsense.  I knew what it was like to wonder why certain tingling elements revolving around relationships and finding love did not seem to operate correctly in my own life.  I, too, like Riiko, spent a lot of time swallowing down the interest in place of accepting my solidarity.  But at the same time I longed for companionship.  You begin to adapt this armor where you stress to others that connections and relationships are not needed in your life, meanwhile you watch the relationships of others blossom and secretly ask yourself what is so wrong with you.  Now, I wouldn’t dare pay someone to be the “absolute mate”, but I know what it’s like to struggle in finding answers to your questions without endangering the integrity and self-respect that makes up yourself.  Even if those two things are the very things that get in your way.

Check out Absolute Boyfriend Volume 1 on and look out for Doubt!! by Kaneyoshi Izumi.

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