Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wild Ones (manga, vol. 3) by Kiyo Fujiwara

There are a few spoilers in this post, but I don't think they're too major.

Synopsis:

This volume starts off silly and perhaps a little creepily, with a panty thief storyline. A couple of the yakuza guys find sexy underwear lying on the floor in the house and immediately assume they are Sachie's. Rather than give them to her or pretend they didn't see them and somehow arrange for her to find them, the guys pick them up and then have to find a way to get them back into her underwear drawer. Meanwhile, a panty thief is on the loose, but who would be so stupid as to break into a yakuza household?

In the next part of the volume, Sachie wins two free tickets to a hot spring, but in the end everyone goes with her because she can't possibly ask only one person to go. While there, Rakuto has a period of emotional instability after he overhears Sachie's grandfather saying, "I want Sachie to be with an honest, good man. Not yakuza like us..." Then Sachie is kidnapped by a man from Rakuto's (and Sachie's mother's!) past. On the kidnapper's orders, Rakuto must get to Sachie in time, all on his own.

In the final part of the volume, Sachie decides to cheer for Rakuto at one of his kendo matches and asks him if he'd like her to give him anything. He asks for a bento box. Unfortunately, the bento box she puts together gets a bit messed up after an encounter with a rude little boy, but Rakuto happily accepts and eats it anyway. The rude little boy, Koh, turns out to be the spoiled, lonely son of an important yakuza guest of Sachie's grandfather's. Sachie and Rakuto do their best to treat Koh more nicely than he deserves, but when Sachie tries to help him out and he knocks a bunch of food to the floor, she can't take it anymore. Surprisingly, Koh's indulgent father is impressed by Sachie's behavior towards his son...so much so that he asks her to be Koh's bride.

Review:

The panty thief thing was not a strong beginning for this volume. It had its funny moments (I loved the image of Sachie's grandfather freaking out over needing to get girls' underwear, and it's worth a giggle to see the usually perfect Rakuto get embarrassed), but a lot of it just emphasized how...not very bright...the people in Sachie's grandfather's gang are. It makes me wonder if they're maybe the poorest yakuza in all of Japan - I can't imagine most of them are successful at anything more than being thugs. And yet, they can somehow scrape together the money to send everyone to a hot spring in the next part of the volume.

So, in the next part, Sachie and Rakuto once again teeter just on the edge of acknowledging that they would like to be a couple. Once again, Fujiwara tries to turn status into a good romantic obstacle (Rakuto is just another member of the gang and Sachie's servant, and Sachie is the boss's daughter), and once again it doesn't quite fly with me. Fujiwara hasn't revealed much about Sachie's mother's relationship with her former caretaker yet, but I'm not entirely sure their situation was like Rakuto and Sachie's, so Fujiwara's attempt to link the situations of the two pairs of characters seemed like a bit of a stretch. All this part and its few revelations did was make me wonder who Sachie's father is, since it didn't look like her father was her mother's caretaker - I'm thinking any feelings he had for Sachie's mother were one-sided, although it did seem as though she at least felt affection for him.

In addition to status, the "I'm yakuza, so I'm not a good match for her" issue comes up. Sachie's grandfather says that he would prefer for Sachie to be with an "honest, good man" and not yakuza, but that's just something Rakuto overhears. I have a feeling that, had Rakuto actually talked to Sachie's grandfather about this, Sachie's grandfather probably would have told him that he would be an acceptable person for Sachie to be with.

Difference in status and being yakuza both still work better as romantic obstacles than Azuma, however. In this volume, he continues to fail as a rival for Sachie's affections - there's no sign that I could see that Sachie even notices him as anything more than a friend. At best, all he managed in this volume (besides providing a little bit extra fanservice...which Sachie didn't even notice) was to emphasize Sachie's interest in Rakuto - at one point, Azuma witnesses Sachie in a moment of starry-eyed awe as she watches Rakuto do what I'm guessing was some kind of traditional dance

With Azuma not really working out, Fujiwara throws another wrench in the works: Koh. I have a feeling this is going to be a pretty short-lived complication. On the one hand, Sachie's grandfather's gang doesn't appear to be particularly powerful or wealthy, so some good, solid connections might work, and a politically motivated marriage would be one way to accomplish that. On the other hand, I don't see Sachie's grandfather as the sort of guy who'd arrange a marriage between his beloved granddaughter and a child - I would think he'd do whatever was necessary to make sure she could marry for love, instead.

I think the series' humor is still going fairly strong, although I've kind of given up on the idea that Fujiwara will find a good, solid obstacle that's keeping Rakuto and Sachie apart. Everything she comes up with seems a bit weak to me. Even so, I still like this series, primarily because I like the humor and Sachie (even if her yakuza mode seems a bit at odds with her usual self, like an alternate personality with an on/off switch) and Rakuto.

Extras:

The extras are the same as those in the previous volumes, only less. There are short, extra Wild Ones comics, but not very many (although I do like the one on the title page). There are author sidebars, but not very many. There are cultural notes, but only one page worth, and several things that I thought should have been mentioned in the cultural notes weren't.

This read-alikes/watch-alikes list is almost the same as the one I used for the last two volumes, but this time I added Special A - both Special A and this volume of Wild Ones have rude, lonely young boys.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • The Wallflower (manga) by Tomoko Hayakawa - If you thought Sachie's horror when faced with some of the less ideal aspects of her new life was hilarious, and if you loved her reaction to Rakuto's over-the-top flirtiness, you might want to try this series. Be warned, though - I haven't read this whole series, but I suspect the romance will ever get any kind of conclusion. This series stars a girl named Sunako, who loves scary and horrific things. Sunako's aunt tells a group of gorgeous guys that they can live at her mansion rent-free...but only if they can turn Sunako into a lady. It's a funny series with a hint of romance.
  • Marrying the Mafia (live action movie) - I loved my grad school library - it had an excellent selection of movies, one of which was this one, a Korean romantic comedy. In this movie, a straight-laced businessman and mousy lab tech wake up in bed together with no recollection of how they ended up there. They part ways, but then the woman's three brothers visit the business exec and inform him that she is the daughter of a powerful mob family. They tell him he must pursue a relationship with her, or else. Those who'd like another romantic comedy featuring organized crime might want to try this. I remember it being surprisingly cute.
  • The Gokusen (anime TV series) - I think this started off as a manga series, but it doesn't look like the manga is available in the US. Those who'd like another comedy featuring yakuza characters might want to try this. The main character is a woman who becomes the homeroom teacher for a class filled with delinquents. She manages to win her class's respect, but what the school doesn't realize is that she is the heir to the Oedo Group, a powerful yakuza clan. If her secret gets out, her career as a teacher is over.
  • Ouran High School Host Club (manga) by Bisco Hatori; Ouran High School Host Club (anime TV series) - Those who'd like another light romantic comedy starring lots of flirty guys might want to try this. In addition, there is a minor character (in the anime, anyway - I don't know if he shows up in the manga) who is the son of a yakuza boss. In this series, Haruhi, the only scholarship student at an elite high school intended primarily for the children of people who are rich or have a lot of influence, ends up becoming part of the Ouran High School Host Club. Haruhi breaks a vase that belonged to the club and can't afford to pay them back, so becoming a club member is the only other option. The guys all later figure out that Haruhi is actually a girl. If Haruhi's secret gets out, she'll no longer be able to be in the club. I butchered the description of it, but this is actually a really funny series. Those primarily interested in the series' romantic aspects may be a bit disappointed, however, since Haruhi seems mostly uninterested in romance, from what I've seen.
  • Kare Kano (manga) by Masami Tsuda; His and Her Circumstances (anime TV series) - Those who'd like another series with a tightly controlled main male character who has a tendency to mask how he really feels might want to try this. As far as most people know, Yukino is perfect in every way - gracious, good-looking, a good student who is liked by everyone. What no one but her family knows is that her perfection is a mask that she wears in her quest for others' praise. One day, Yukino's rival, Arima, who also seems perfect in every way and who, to her horror, has confessed his love for her, learns her secret.
  • Fruits Basket (manga) by Natsuki Takaya; Fruits Basket (anime TV series) - Like Wild Ones, the main character of this series, Tohru, is on her own after her mother dies. Tohru ends up living with the Sohmas, a strange family suffering from a curse that causes some of their members to turn into an animal from the Chinese zodiac when they become weak or are hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Tohru's mother used to be a yankee (a delinquent, member of a bike gang) - she and Sachie's mother seem very similar. Those who'd like another shoujo romance series with similar story elements and a similar overall feel might want to try this.
  • Special A (manga) by Maki Minami; Special A (anime TV series) - Hikari has considered Kei her rival ever since they were children. Her desire to beat him in something, anything, got her into Special A, an exclusive group composed entirely of the 7 most academically gifted students at Hikari and Kei's high school. Unfortunately, Hikari is still only in the number two spot, while Kei is number one. What Hikari doesn't realize, as focused as she is on their rivalry, is that Kei is actually in love with her. I've only seen the anime, but I've heard the manga is pretty similar. Like this volume of Wild Ones, Special A has a couple rude children who turn out to actually be lonely. The series also has romance and a similar mix of humor and drama.

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