Friday, January 18, 2008

Nothing much going on in my world. I've been reading some new manga.

Suppli is a pretty-looking, well-put-together working-single manga, slice-of-life stuff. I'm not really clear on why it was shrink-wrapped and emblazoned with an "adult content" label, as I can't even remember if there was any nudity in it, let alone anything more racy. Red River, for an alternate example, had the usual bodice-ripping, and since our protagonist has been raped away to Middle Kingdom-era Egypt, there's acres of exposed breasts on every other page-layout. Anyways, Suppli: pretty good manga, at least for the first volume. Nothing much going on - it's just about a girl in her late twenties trying to figure out what happened and when it was that she stopped having a life outside of work - but it's a very lush, aesthetic sort of nothing. There isn't any fancy hook like Tramps Like Us had, no racy "keeping boys as pets" to catch the casual reader's attention. I'll give it another volume or two before I decide whether it's better or worse than Tramps Like Us, but for now it's pretty much on the same wavelength.

Wild Ones, on the other hand, is all high-concept, little execution. The hook is that our protagonist has just been orphaned, with no close relatives; she finds out that the reason she didn't have any close relatives was because her maternal grandfather is a yakuza don and her mother had cut all ties. She gets adopted into a compound of stereotypical yakuza males and wackiness is expected to ensue. Sadly, not nearly as much wackiness as one might have hoped - this is no Gakusen, and of course somebody decided that our yakuza princess needed an age-appropriate beau to play kishi to her hime - or ojou as the case might be. Eh, it's not terrible, and maybe it'll get better in later volumes.

SA is one where it *better* improve in later volumes, because the first volume is horrifically repetitive and the art frankly sucks. The plot is pretty much Kare Kano crossed with Ouran High School Host Club - a pathologically competitive heroine struggling to beat her ice-king love-interest within the context of a high school elite called "SA" or "Special A", in reference to the Japanese habit of segregating their classes by A-B-C-D-E cadres. It's got some spark of entertainment, and it livened up a slow evening the other day, but the mangaka can only repeat the same two-page rote introduction of the same caste of characters before I wind up for a quick cast of the book 'gainst the nearest flat surface. Also? if you're going to build up an accomplishment-gradient for your class structure, if you want *any* sort of suspense or tension - show some movement. Class isn't caste, and if you're going to fill a book with elite children of company presidents, I want to see one of those companies go down in flames and take the smug elite brat with it. Movement makes for drama - it's a character arc, not a line for the love of pete.

The manga for Welcome to the NHK is up to its fifth volume, and I'm now officially out of my comfort area. You can only do so many things to a character or set of characters before I get freaked out, and the protagonist's stubborn insistence on finding rock-bottom and then breaking out dynamite & blasting caps to see if he can get any lower - the scenes with him back at home with the folks - that, my friends, has helped me find my inner freakout. I think I've had enough of Welcome to the NHK and hikkikomori in general. It just isn't a good subject for fiction.

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