Imadoki Vol. 1
Imadoki, or "Nowadays", is a little something different from Yu Watase. There are no fantastic elements involved, as there are in Alice 19th, Fushigi Yugi, or Ayashi no Ceres. Instead, this title is about Tanpopo Yamazaki's adjustment to life at Meio Academy, a highly respected school with a very wealthy student body.
Despite the school's reputation for excellence, more applicants buy their way in than test high enough to attend. Tanpopo, of course, is an exception. Neither rich nor an especially good student, she somehow slid in under the door of the admissions process and ended up making it as a new student at the academy.
She is quickly assaulted by her snobbish classmates, but her spunky personality and unstoppable passion for life keeps her spirits up and her enemies confused.
A tanpopo is a dandelion, a particularly sturdy weed that pops up where people desire it least. While it is a weed, it is actually a rather cute plant, and thus Tanpopo is the perfect name for a charming main character with incredible perseverance.
Part of the reason for the students' animosity toward Tanpopo stems from fact that she made fast friends with Koki Meio - the most attractive and wealthiest guy in the entire school. His family actually owns the Academy, and he's caught off guard when Tanpopo drops on top of him with her bike as she climbs the fence to get onto the school grounds.
When Tanpopo arrives at the school, she discovers that Koki is especially fond of various kinds of flora. Thus Tanpopo quickly volunteers to be a member of the school planting committee - which swiftly earns chuckles from her fellow classmates. She finds out that the presence of live plants is against the school's policy due to the delicate nature of so many of the students - the pollen bothers them.
Their laughter is cut short, however, when Koki announces that the school rules have been changed to allow plants on campus, and so a friendship begins to blossom between Koki and Tanpopo.
Koki is not used to the sort of blunt, honest friend that Tanpopo can be, and so at first, he doesn't easily open up to the perky girl. However, by the end of the first volume, it appears as if he's starting to return the affection that she so easily gives to him. In a way, the little weed of a main character is causing other characters to bloom, and it's a rather charming story.
The artwork is on par with everything else from Yu Watase - which is to say it's gorgeous. Her linework is amazing, with lines that are as delicate as silk defining her dependably attractive characters. She has a talent for illustrating motion and for accurately depicting emotions in her protagonists, and this book looks as great as everything else she's done.
Even though this is something different for Watase, I still felt that I had to rate it lower than I would Ceres or Fushigi Yugi. Maybe those two titles set such a high standard that I need her to produce a mind-blowing, dramatic, action-packed love story for me to be really satisfied. I don't mean to imply that this isn't an enjoyable title - it was very fun to read, and I can sense twists and turns that only she can dream up coming in the future.
However, it's not nearly as groundbreaking as what I'd expect from this artist. It's not disappointing in any way, for it accomplishes exactly what its talented manga-ka set out to do - to tell an engaging story. It's a great romance translated well, and kudos to Viz for keeping the original title instead of just translating it to "Nowadays."
The Japanese word imadoki can be taken as more than just that simple translation, for it is also the beginning of a common phrase that people use to express the fluttering of the heart that one experiences when attracted to another. Hopefully, the series will sell well enough to show that a book with a Japanese title is still viable in our market.
Imadoki is a delightful (if slightly mundane) addition to Yu Watase's impressive catalogue of works, and one that any fan of hers or of romantic comedies in general should enjoy. Just don't expect anything mystical to happen, and you'll enjoy this energetic series quite a bit.