Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tramps Like Us (manga, vol. 1) by Yayoi Ogawa

The original title for this series was Kimi wa Pet ("You're my pet") - that title gets the basic story across a little more clearly than Tramps Like Us. I can only guess that Tokyopop thought the original title might put some people off.

Synopsis:

Sumire Iwaya seems to have it all - a successful career, good looks, a good education, and a fiance. Unfortunately, she discovers that her fiance is cheating on her and gets demoted at work after punching her boss. Everywhere she goes, it seems like people are talking about her behind her back. They talk about how she's the "ice princess," too focused on her career to get and keep a man. Sumire is determined to find a new boyfriend for herself who is more educated, makes more money, and is more successful in his career than she is - maybe that kind of guy wouldn't feel as intimidated by her as her ex-fiance did.

On her way home one night, Sumire spots a large box she thinks is someone's garbage and is shocked to discover a young man passed out inside it. She takes him home with her, feeds him, and gives him a place to sleep. It's not supposed to be something permanent, but then, after another bad day at work, Sumire finds herself telling the young man that he can only continue to stay with her if he agrees to be her pet. Amazingly, he says yes, and she names him Momo, after a pet dog she once had, feeds him, washes his hair, and gives him a place to sleep. As a pet, he doesn't really do anything useful around the house, but the effect Momo has on Sumire's emotional well-being makes him invaluable to her. Although he has a life outside her home, he pretends to be helpless without her because he can tell that she needs him.

As long as it's just the two of them, there are no problems, but Sumire hasn't given up on finding a boyfriend. How is she supposed to explain Momo, though? She hiding him and lying about him, which doesn't always work so well. She ends up with a boyfriend who seems to be fairly decent, but he bores and exhausts her - she finds herself wanting someone like Momo, someone with whom she can just relax and be herself.

At any rate, her relationship with Momo starts to occupy her thoughts far more than work or her boyfriend. She worries about him when he's not around or when he's hurt, and she gets frustrated with him when he plays tricks on her in retaliation for her trying to bring a guy home. He's cute and she enjoys being around him. During a drunken moment she offers to let him sleep with her - he secretly loves her, but he doesn't take her up on the offer, because he's waiting for her to see him as a person and not as her pet Momo. She does have moments when she thinks of him as more than a pet, though. She thinks about him during less-than-exciting sex with her first post-breakup boyfriend, and at one point he kisses her. Later on, she worries that he's left her and goes looking for him. By that time, she has learned that he's a dancer and that his real name is Takeshi Gouda. While trying to find him, she learns a lot more about him - can she continue to think of him as just her pet now that she knows more about what he's like when he's not with her?

Commentary:

I'm pretty sure that my description of this first volume makes this series seem...very messed up. And weird. I mean, here's a grown woman with a young man as her pet. The only one who really knows about it is her best friend, who can't imagine why Sumire hasn't slept with Momo yet. Still, it doesn't seem quite so weird in context. Sumire's miserable, and she can't seem to relax and be herself around any of her boyfriends. Maybe it's because she (mostly) thinks of Momo as an adorable pet, but he helps her relieve all that pent-up tension. Plus, while their relationship has obvious benefits for Momo/Takeshi (free food, housing), there are hidden benefits that Ogawa only begins to reveal in this volume. Momo cares for Sumire, and she also serves as his inspiration in dance. I can't wait to find out more about him in future volumes, and see how Sumire and Momo's rather unorthodox relationship works out.

I have wanted to read this series for quite some time now. I wasn't sure, at first, how I felt about the artwork, but it grew on me quickly, and the story definitely got me hooked. Momo and Sumire's relationship works out really well when they're just mistress and pet - I wonder how things will go when Momo is no longer Sumire's pet, and she has to see him as an equal? At the very least, I hope she never acts with him like she does with her other boyfriends, always doing what she thinks they want or expect.

I don't often read manga in which most of the main characters aren't in high school (in fact, I think the only other series I'm reading right now with adult characters is Antique Bakery) - I guess I just haven't heard about those titles as much. It's interesting to try something like Tramps Like Us, because the problems Sumire has to deal with aren't quite like the problems characters in other manga I've read have to deal with. True, like all those high school girls, she has guy problems, but they're not really the warm/fuzzy/angsty guy problems of shojo manga. Her main problem, really, is figuring out how to both be herself and be with a guy.

Sumire's a bit of a workaholic, so she's also got to figure out how to balance work with everything else. From the sounds of things, before she began living with Momo, all she did was work. Momo loosens her up enough that even her coworkers, who know little to nothing about her, notice. Although she's got one female friend who pops up occasionally, I don't really get the feeling that they're very close. I'm sure they used to be closer at one time, but now Sumire is a career girl and her friend is married and has a kid - their worlds are a little different. Sumire's life is a little lonely, actually. All she's got in this first volume is Momo, and before Momo she didn't really have anything.

Ah well, enough with the rambling. I am definitely going to be reading more of this series. One thing I wish - I'd love to have a blown-up version of page 92. It's incredibly sweet.

Extras:

There isn't much in the way of extras, just a one-page comic about Ogawa and her editor, and a page of stuff drawn by Mariko Nagahara (I have no idea who this is, unfortunately).

Please excuse the skimpy read-alikes/watch-alikes list - I usually try to at least list three things, but this time I wimped out. I'll try to do better with future volumes - I need to do more research on this kind of story, since this is not the sort of thing I tend to read, whether in manga or novel form.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • The Aromatic Bitters (manga) by Erica Sakurazawa - Sayumi and Hide are two friends stuck in dead-end, long-term relationships with men who cheat on them. When they decide to go to Hide's country home for the summer, they end up learning a lot about life, love, and each other.
  • NANA (manga) by Ai Yazawa; NANA (anime TV series) - [There's also a live action movie, but I'm not sure if it goes far enough to really deal with all of the boyfriend storylines.] Two young women named Nana meet in Tokyo and end up becoming roommates. Nana Komatsu is a naive girl with a somewhat childish outlook on life. She frequently falls in love with guys she meets, but things don't always go well for her. Nana Osaki is the lead singer of the band Black Stones (Blast, for short). Both Nanas have to work through relationship problems - Nana O. has additional complications stemming from her past and the future she is trying to build for herself. Those who'd like another series with complex relationships and lots of drama might want to try this.

2 comments:

  1. have you tried watching the japanese drama?
    It was very sweet looking at Momo trying to please Sumire. I heard there's a korean movie version too.

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    Replies
    1. I watched part of one episode - I can't remember if it was Japanese or Korean. It was so long ago I honestly can't remember how I felt about it. Do you know a good site to go to to watch it? I know it's not available on the main streaming site I use, Crunchyroll.

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