Tokyo Boys and Girls Vol. 1
Fans of the deliciously twisty Hot Gimmick might be a little disoriented by the different look and feel within the pages of Tokyo Boys and Girls. This series was created prior to VIZ Media's other Aihara release, even though Hot Gimmick made it first stateside. While the style of this older manga series isn't as sharp as the more recently written Hot Gimmick, the characters are just as well-developed, the narrative is just as unpredictable, and Mimori Kosaka, the heroine of the tale, is just as fun to watch as any other Miki Aihara character.
Mimori Kosaka had a relatively simple two-step dream. First of all, she wanted to get into the girls' half of the Meidai Attached High School. This desire was fueled not so much by the search for academic quality as for the school's incredibly cute uniforms.
The second part of that dream, only naturally, was to become popular and get a handsome boyfriend. Of course, that part of her fantasy could only come true with the aid of the fashionable uniforms at Meidai, so that was her school of choice.
Tokyo Boys and Girls begins directly after Mimori accomplishes the first half of her goal. The story opens up on her first day of school in the girls' wing at Meidai High. However, getting a boyfriend is going to prove to be far more challenging for Mimori than just getting into a school -- no matter how cute her school uniform may be.
She quickly befriends Nana Kakaichi, a very attractive girl in her first class, but things suddenly take a turn for the weird when she runs into Atsushi Haruta. Haruta is good looking, but between his bleached hair and pierced ears, it's pretty easy to believe the rumors of his involvement with a biker gang. However, he turns out to be more than just a scary delinquent. He recognizes Mimori as a former grade school classmate, but to her surprise, he promises retribution against her for something that she did to him when they were in school together.
Soon after Haruta's threat, Mimori finds herself in even more trouble with two other guys at the high school. Perhaps wishing to become popular with the guys wasn't exactly the smartest thing that she could have done!
One downside to the plot, pleasantly complex as it may be, is that it's almost too predictable. Ironically enough, it might fall into an easily discernable story path because it strives so hard to be unpredictable. Is there a chance that Haruta and Mimori will fall in love with each other? Heck yeah. That's exactly what happens when a guy declares undying hatred for a girl in manga series, right? Perhaps Aihara will prove this expectation wrong, but it's unlikely that she will.
Just because one can deduce what's going to happen down the road, it doesn't mean that it isn't worth taking the journey to get there. Aihara always seems to have a few tricks up her sleeve when it comes to tricking her readers, and I'd expect at least one or two major events to arrive unexpectedly.
Ultimately, it's the characters that are going to keep readers attached to this piece. Either you want to know more about them, or you don't care. If you don't care, then it doesn't matter how devious the storyline may be; that won't change the fact that you're uninterested in the first place.
Personally, I want to know what happens next, so picking up the second volume is a sure bet for me.
I have to admit that some of the book's allure comes from my appreciation of Miki Aihara's art style. As I mentioned before, this series is a far cry from the razor-sharp illustrations on display within the pages of Hot Gimmick, yet it has an organic quality that makes it just as appealing, if only for different reasons. I think Mimori is a cute character, even if Haruta is rendered as the typical tall, slim, bleach-blonde loner of a heartthrob that is seen so often in manga.
In this series, Aihara's style seems like a blend of artists Yuu Watase (of Fushigi Yugi fame) and Yoko Kamio (author of Boys Over Flowers), and that's nothing to be ashamed about.
The adaptation is very readable, although sound effects have been translated. The occasional bit of large text obscures the background artwork, although it might just be covering the original text. This volume also includes a bonus short story by Miki Aihara -- a nice touch to distract readers until the second volume arrives. Another technical detail that I appreciate is the slightly lower than usual price, although Shonen Jump readers have it even better. I suppose there's a greater chance that random nudity might stay in books in the Shojo Beat lineup, since they aren't marketed specifically towards eight year old readers. Not that there's anything wrong with eight year olds seeing nudity -- surely they must bathe sometime; otherwise they would be little stinkers.
Tokyo Boys and Girls isn't as hip and edgy as Hot Gimmick, but that is to be expected from the product of a younger and less experienced author. It's still a very entertaining book, featuring characters and a storyline that will keep most (if not all) readers on their toes in guessing what will come next. Much like the book's main protagonist, this series is cute, plucky, and it has a lot to prove, and like Mimori, I expect it to deliver.