Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
I’ve always liked the concept of “love gone wrong,” since it can imply anything from a simple messy and dramatic breakup to something like a kingdom-destroying war. Below I present to you three romance manga (which all happen to be for the teenage boy demographic in Japan) that offer… three somewhat difficult relationships. To put it mildly.
Midori Days – Kazurou Inoue (8 volumes)
One day tough, manly teen Seiji wakes up with a girl named Midori instead of a right hand. Turns out that Midori is a junior high-aged girl who liked Seiji so much she went to bed one night wishing she could be a part of him, and woke up as his right hand (from the waist up, Midori has no legs). Midori’s real body is in a coma, and Seiji and Midori are at somewhat of a loss as to how to get them back together (one theory is that Seiji needs to touch her body with hand-Midori, but her mom thinks he’s molesting her comatose daughter and it goes badly). It’s a comedy, full of every type of joke you can think of about a teenage boy with a girl for a right hand. There’s a scene where he complains about how hard it is to pee with his left hand, so Midori shyly offers to help (she doesn’t). At one point, he has to wait for Midori to go to sleep so he can make use of some… gentlemanly material loaned to him by a friend. A scientist explains how Midori’s biological functions work in tandem with Seiji’s. She tries to help in every way she can, like cooking and cheering him up, et cetera. So he doesn’t have to explain her to others, he constantly wears a bandage over her, and people simply assume he was in fights because of his tough guy nature. I’ve only read a little bit of Midori Days, but it’s amazing the… rich comedic depths this writer finds for this premise (most of the chapters are one-shots). Midori Days was fully translated several years ago, but most volumes are out of print. Some of them have price creep. I don’t know that they’re worth it.
Pretty Face – Yasuhiro Kano (6 volumes)
Rando is a tough guy high school student with a huge crush on classmate Rina. Unfortunately, he’s too shy and self-conscious to ask her out. One day, he’s involved in a horrible bus accident and is badly burned and falls comatose for a year. When he wakes up, he finds that a plastic surgeon has reconstructed his face based on a photo he had on him – Rina. Rando’s tough guy body has also atrophied, so he basically looks like a girl, but with the wrong equipment (which, I can assure you, is exploited mercilessly for comedy). He goes home to his parents in order to get a photo of himself for the plastic surgeon, only to find he was thought to have been killed in the accident and his parents have moved away without a trace. While on his way back to the plastic surgeon, Rando runs into Rina. It turns out Rina has a long-lost twin sister named Yuna! And Rina is so happy to have Yuna back! And Rando can’t possibly explain what’s happened, and doesn’t have anyplace to go, so he feins amnesia and just goes along with it, living in the same house as his crush and pretending to be her twin sister. He eventually finds a photo of himself, but when he realizes how crushed Rina would be to lose Yuna again, he decides to play along until he finds the real Yuna. This is somehow simultaneously as creepy as it sounds and not nearly as creepy as it could be. It’s actually mostly a comedy manga, so there are a lot of jokes about Rando needing to hide his male parts. Also, Rando needs to wear falsies and it’s apparently okay to flash those in Shounen Jump. Actually, most of the plot of the series is about Rando getting into situations where he’s going to be stripped or… er, otherwise found out. And despite being a girl, Rando is still a tough guy, and still beats up a lot of other people. It’s pretty tasteless, but it crosses some pretty shocking lines for a manga that ran in Shounen Jump, and its ribaldry can be simultaneously entertaining as well as creepy. All six volumes were translated some years ago, and all are out of print. Used prices are starting to creep up on one volume, but most can be had cheaply.
Genkaku Picasso – Usamaru Furuya (3 volumes)
Again, I don’t really like talking about series more than once, and I’ve already talked about this one in my coverage for Usamaru Furuya. But it’s too perfect not to use for this topic. Severely Misanthropic main character Picasso violently shuns any sort of social contact between himself and his classmates, preferring the company of his sketchbook. Only cheery Chiaki bothers to try to make friends with him, and she is undeterred by his grumpy, mean, and downright insulting demeanor. One day, when Picasso is drawing on a riverbank and Chiaki is watching, a helicopter crashes and kills them both. But Chiaki prays hard enough, and Picasso is brought back to life. The catch is, Chiaki appears to him in the form of a tiny fairy conscience that forces him to do good deeds, lest his body start to rot and decompose as it should have. These good deeds are the rather elaborate focus of the series. Against his will, when Picasso sees a classmate, he will sketch a bizarre, surreal piece in his notebook. Then, he must try to auger meaning from the abstract drawing by questioning the classmate (usually in a very rude and offensive manner). He’s not very good at this, but he eventually learns what it is that bothers them, then he and Chiaki “enter” the sketches and fix the wrong in a highly surreal, detailed pencil landscape. Several chapters run like this, and the (surprisingly excellent) conclusion of the series involves all who have gotten to know Picasso over the course of three volumes, and the ultimate fate of Picasso and Chiaki. The art is the main draw here, as it’s quite excellent. Picasso’s drawings aren’t inked, nor are the crazy landscapes he enters at the conclusions of the story, and all of them are excellent. It’s a fairly standard coming-of-age story at its heart, but Picasso’s misanthropy is fairly entertaining. Plus, he has a tiny fairy girlfriend that only he can see (they grow closer as the series goes on). Genkaku Picasso was released 2010-2011, and all three volumes should be available.
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