Sunday, July 08, 2007


I realize that recently I've done very few reviews of Japanese-language manga. This is partly because I haven't finished any Japanese-language manga for a while, for various reasons. So, I'm going to discuss some manga I own but haven't read, starting with 51 Ways to Protect Your Girlfriend (Kanojo o mamoru 51 no houhou) vol. 1.*

The protagonist, 21-year old Jin Mishima, is waiting for an appointment in a Tokyo square when he encounters by chance an old schoolmate of his, Nanako Okano, who has become a Gothic Lolita.** She's not a very good Gothic Lolita, though, and is looked down upon by the other Lolitas there. In full hearing of these other Lolitas, Jin reminds Nanako that they were both on the basketball club in middle school. She's understandably not pleased about this, and they part on bad terms.

That evening Jin sees the other Lolitas pushing Nanako off a bridge (or perhaps only pretending to) in response to an alleged infraction of some sort. Jin chases the other girls away, and then, being a rather strait-laced young man, upbraids Nanako for her choice of lifestyle. Again they part angrily. But, while mulling over the encounter, Jin suddenly recalls that Nanako had been the target of Japanese-style bullying in high school. Now feeling awful about himself, he runs to catch up with her and apologizes for not having helped her in high school. She tearfully tells him that it's too late for that. Then an earthquake destroys Tokyo.

Okay, that's an exaggeration (but I couldn't resist): Tokyo doesn't appear to have been destroyed, at least not totally. But it is a major earthquake of magnitude 8 which devastates the areas surrounding Jin and Nanako, though they themselves are unhurt. The rest of this volume seems to be primarily devoted to Jin and Nanako's efforts to help the survivors. After the earthquake (which takes up sixteen pages, although it's over quickly in "real time"), the art becomes a bit more angular than is usual with Furuya, which works well with the gritty subject matter.**

51 Ways to Protect Your Girlfriend is published by Shinchosha. Four volumes have been published so farm, each 505 yen each (I think). The 13-digit ISBNs are:

Vol. 1: 978-4-10-771289-9
Vol. 2: 978-4-10-771305-6
Vol. 3: 978-4-10-771321-6
Vol. 4: 978-4-10-771338-4

*Translating the title is a bit tricky: the basic meaning of "kanojo" is "she," but it's frequently used to mean "girlfriend." The afterword is titled, in English, "The Way to Protect Kanojo," which is no help.

**Strictly speaking, Gothic Lolita is just one of several varieties of Lolita fashion: others include Classical Lolita, Punk Lolita, and Sweet Lolita. (I'm particularly taken with the concept of Pirate Lolita.) But I can't tell the difference between the varieties, and saying "Lolita" without qualification might lead to misunderstanding; so at the risk of inaccuracy I've opted to say "Gothic Lolita," which is the most familiar term in the West.

***Incidentally, on p. 25 Furuya does something I don't recall seeing anywhere else in either manga or Western comics: in order to put a lot of dialogue into a single panel, he shrinks the type size, rather than have the word balloons take up half the panel.

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