Friday, October 29, 2004

Here is Greenwood, better-known among tedious fanboys like yours truly as Koko wa Greenwood, is a pretty old manga. Most folks in the States know it by the highly amusing early-90s six-episode OAV series of the same name. Viz has started publishing the original manga, and I read the first volume yesterday. I looked at the original untranslated version a long time ago, when a roommate bought the set from a used-manga shop in Edgewater, but enough of the humor is verbal that it didn’t mean much to my Japanese-illiterate ignorance. The translated version made me laugh, repeatedly, in public.

It’s a boarding-school comedy, set at a famed all-boys academy in, of course, Tokyo. Our protagonist is a much-put-upon everyboy who’s living in student housing to avoid his insufferable older brother and his new wife, for whom our hero is holding a silly-school-boy torch - enough so that he was hospitalized for a month with a perforated ulcer. The manga starts more slowly than the anime did, but then, those six-episode OAV series were always, always distillations of the “high points” of their respective mangas, and thus generally came on like a freight train on fire.

The art-style is very much mid-Eighties shoujo, and looks similar to - oh, say, Please Save My Earth, another long-running shoujo manga from the same period, also given a distilled-six-episode-OAV treatment. There aren’t a lot of ziptones, but the backgrounds are well-populated, and this isn’t one of those spare-zen-whitespace affairs, or abstract-emotional-filler-background melodramas. You’ll have the occasional impressionistic arrangements of flowers in the backgrounds, but it’s not like the riot of folliage which Please Save My Earth’s mangaka is inclined to produce.

One of the distinctive qualities of Here is Greenwood is its portrayal of women as mildly predatory, and its teenaged boys as coquettish and aloof. Schoolgirls invade the boys’ dorm on daredevil raids, perform drive-by groping attacks, and chase them through streets to force chocolates on them for Valentine’s Day. Creepy older women appear, and attempt to bribe underage boys into dubious situations.

All in all, I had a lot of fun with it. I look forward to the next volume. If you can get past the slightly dated art style, there’s a lot of low-key amusement to be had.

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