Manga-ka: Kusanagi Mizuho
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Gender Bender, Romance, School Life, Shoujo, Supernatural
Keidai Saeki is a high school student who remembers his past life in Pompeii, living as the Italian warrior Sirix. His friends around him are all also reincarnated – although they don’t quite remember things the way he does. Keidai’s wife from the past? She’s now a middle school boy – while his best male friend is now a cute girl?!
There are just some manga that never fail to make me laugh. Laugh, and laugh, and laugh until I cannot take it anymore. NG Life is one of the highest on my list of comedy manga, and it’s probably the highest on my list of shoujo favourites.
I think the best feature about NG Life is how everything is balanced out between the drama and comedy. I honestly don’t know of any other work that has handled it as perfectly as this. I’ve read manga with comedy/drama, but in the end there always seems to be a slight favouritism for one genre, or it simply gets executed better. That would usually accumulate into this feeling of dissatisfaction for the slightly neglected genre – it didn’t always make the manga bad or not enjoyable, just… dissatisfied.
But not with NG Life.
The comic scenes are absolutely hilarious. The protagonist, Keidai, is one of the most ridiculous characters I have ever had the fortune to come across. He brings the statement ‘hung up on the past’ to a whole new level. The reasoning behind his actions would make sense, but his actions themselves are just to die for – he is, simply put, an absolute drama king. An absolutely hilarious one to boot. One that could possibly rival Suoh Tamaki.
Keidai still has the memories of his past life from Pompeii. Although in the earlier chapters it’s used mostly for comic relief, as the story delves deeper it shows how much of an impact it’s made into his present. There have been few stories that have really been able to stab through my heart – this is one of them. I just find it so sad at times when he flashes back to the past and relives his happy days in Pompeii, especially when it involves his wife. It didn’t help that I was listening to Natsume Yuujinchou’s OST when I was re-reading this.
The concept of the story itself is a little like Boku no Chikyuu wo Mamotte (Please Save my Earth). Except that the story was a lot sappier and the art wasn’t as cute. So if you like the sort of ‘reincarnation’ story, NG Life is a must read.
If you hate shoujo, or reincarnation, or drama or whatever, read this anyway. It’s my favourite shoujo manga dammit. It’s close to perfect.
Shitsurakuen (失乐园) / Paradise Lost
Manga-ka: Naomura Tooru
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Harem, School Life, Shounen, Sci-fi
Himoto Sora is a transfer student with a sense of justice and dreams of becoming a knight. Upon arriving at Utopia Gakuen, she learns of a virtual reality-like game played by the male students in which they use girls as weapons in battles for status and treat them as commodities. Seeing one of these girls being abused she steps in and through some sort of error unwittingly becomes the first female participant of the game.
I’m going to start by saying that not a huge bunch of people are going to like this. The story builds itself upon the subjugation of women by men. Quite a number have criticised it for not being very realistic in that sense, and how it’s all very sexist and stuff. So why mushroom this?
1, because I still find it enjoyable and a worthwhile read (this might have something to do with how I’m not much of a feminist).
2, this is manga therefore hardly anything is realistic. Some people think too much when they read manga. Just read it if you like it, even if the dude somehow survived after being blasted from a cannon, dammit.
3, if this really was a real life situation where students were chucked into a school and were basically ordered to treat women as objects – the outcome of them simply following an order isn’t as unrealistic as you might imagine.
There’s a lot of shoujo-ai and shounen-ai going on that is everything but announced explicitly. It is so obviously implicit it’s impossible to ignore. Of course there are the shoujo-ai scenes that are meant just for fan service so if that’s what you’re looking out for, go indulge yourself. I’m taking a wild guess that that recommendation isn’t as appealing to fan girls as they are to, um, fan boys but the whole student council seem to swimming in shounen-ai scandals so… go indulge yourselves as well, my dear fujoshi readers >=)
The two main factors that I focus upon in this manga, however, are the action scenes and the conspiracy going on underneath. I really, really like Naomura Tooru’s art – it just adds to the awesomeness of all the fighting scenes. Although the battles are based on advanced sci-fi technology, the fighting itself is all whack bang and slam. Blowing up buildings is cool and all, but it’s also nice to just see a normal fight once in awhile (or at least as normal as shounen manga can go. I feel so stupidly redundant since I just mentioned this with Sôten no Kômori). Oh, and I also really like the uniforms. They’re like, cool and classic looking at the same time 😄
I suppose Shitsurakuen is a really ‘hero’ shounen type of manga in a very shoujo-ai sort of way. If you’re looking for yuri action though, I don’t think you’ll be getting it anytime soon since it focuses more on her heroic deeds. Like, seriously. The protagonist, Himoto Sora, is a bit obsessed with being a knight (and it’s okay if that sounds sissy coz she’s a girl) – but her little heroic exploits leave her little time to go cavorting with her harem. Being decent girls her harem won’t jump her bones anytime soon either so you’ll have to be a bit more patient if that’s what you’re looking out for.
I honestly don’t think there’s much appeal for a shoujo audience besides the hinted shounen-ai, but if you’re a shounen reader you should try it out whether or not you’re into shoujo-ai; it’s not the main focus anyway. It’s just – there.