Friday, September 22, 2006


Konnan de ikka by Risa Itoh is a four-panel* gag manga collected in one volume, starring a mother and three daughters, of whom two are young adults and the youngest is an adolescent. All of them spend a good deal of time thinking about sex (the eldest daughter periodically suffers from fits in which she sees everything as a penis), except for the youngest daughter, who is more interested in food. The fifth main character is the father of the family, who is dead but keeps returning by possessing various animals and inanimate objects. Among other recurring characters is a shinigami (death god) who periodically appears in the form of a kitten.

A lot of Japanese four-panel strips don't have punchlines: their humor comes simply from presenting an absurd or incongruous situation. (See How to "Read" Manga: Gloom Party for an example that's been published in the U.S.) This is true of many of the strips in Konnan de ikka. But once you get used to this, it's a funny strip There's a lot of nudity and bawdy humor, but the impression given is not pornographic or erotic (except for the covers and endpapers), because of the matter-of-fact way that the sex and nudity are treated, even when one of the daughters is shown performing fellatio on her boyfriend.

As for the title, ikka means family or household; konnan can mean difficulty, embarrassment, or perplexity. So the title might be translated as "A Difficult Family," "A Perplexing Family," or "An Embarrassing Family."

Although Konnan de ikka originally appeared in Big Comic Superior, a seinen (young man's) manga magazine, Risa Itoh** is a woman, which probably explains the large number of dick jokes. Itoh's best-known manga appears to be Oruchuban Ebichu (Ebichu Minds the House), a humorous manga starring a hamster and her female owner. This was made into an anime of the same name, which was notorious for its sexual content. Looking at vol. 1 of the manga, though, it seems fairly tame, and certainly nothing to compare with Konnan de ikka. And here are links to a webcomic in Japanese by Itoh, Onna ippiki neko futari (One Woman, Two Cats) (pdf format; scroll down to where it says vol. 37, vol. 38, etc.), which gives an idea of her style, though the characters in Konnan de ikka are not drawn chibi-style as is the protagonist of Onna. Nor did I see any sexual content in the Onna strips I looked at.

Konnan de ikka is 130 pages long, but the pages are biger than most tankoubons or U.S.-published manga. Its ISBN is 4-09-186711-1 and it was published by Shogakukan. Its cover price is 571 yen, but it appears to be out of print, judging from its amazon.co.jp page, though you can buy copies from third parties through amazon.co.jp.

*The Japanese term, which you'll sometimes see used in English-language discussions, is 4-koma.

**Her surname is sometimes romanized as "Ito," but it's "Itoh" in Konnan de ikka.


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