Nearly a year ago, I started a [Manga Talk] on “Tsubomi-chan, Wasure Mono nai?” by NAKAYAMA Noriko. Since then, I have become quite a fan of her. Lucky for me, lately I finally got the chance to read her Go Go Girls and its sequel, Tachibana Kiku no Amaeta Kankei…. How do I like the stories? Let’s just say, I am going to let them stay on top of my must-read book shelve for quite some time. 🙂
Go Go Girls
NAKAYAMA Noriko (中山乃梨子)
Story: Some may conside the Tachibana family as a strange family. First of all, the four sisters and brother were born of different fathers. Their characters were completely opposite too… Momo, the eldest of the four, considered herself a successful ‘wonder woman’ who was perfect in domestic household as well as office administration. The only problem was, she just wanted to get marry, to anyone willing! Kiku, the second daughter of the family, was a casual university art student and had a hairdresser boyfriend called Tokiwa, whom despite of his cool look, was always feeling insecure about their relationship. Ume, the third Tachibana daughter, was a high school student aiming to enter medicine school, hence the most demanding one in the family. Ume hardly paid attention to her weight and appearances until one day, Koizumi, the college ‘hot shot’ asked her out! Little did she know that, she was actually natural plump beauty, especially when she took down her glasses….. (but of course, Kiku was not going to tell her that anyway; she would just have to discover that by herself : ) And finally Ranmaru, the little brother in the family. Though the youngest, he was hardly a spoiled child. Quite on the contrary, Ranmaru was rather disturbed and dramatised by all those love and romances happening in his family, especially since their mother was about to marry again, despite of her previous four divorces….!
Tachibana Kiku no Amaeta Kankei
NAKAYAMA Noriko (中山乃梨子)
Story: It would not be normal of the Kiku-Tokiwa relationship if there was not any fight between them at anytime. Even their friends/ colleague/ family were used to seeing them fighting and “calling it off” all the time! Despite of the zillion split-ups and after massive arguments over little things most of the time, the two still managed to go back to each other….. In fact, after each argument, it would always be Kiku who went back to Tokiwa as if nothing happened. Tokiwa did not want to show it, but he was worried sick after every fight that their relationship would be really over and done with. He would always be relieved to see Kiku returning to him… until it all started over again in the next round of argument. For Kiku, it was Tokiwa’s “forever teasing attitude” towards her that turned her off. But she would easily melted away and “forgive” him whenever he showed even small signs of tendency towards her. Anyway, life went on, and they still had their fights each time; she had one or two affairs whilst he was feeling insecure; they continued to break-up and patch-up again….. But in the course, they would learn a little bit more about themselves and their relationship, and then got to love each other a little bit more thereafter……. : )
In some way, I found the execution of Go Go Girls series (and sequel) was somewhat less refined than “Tsubomi-chan, Wasure Mono nai?”. But then again, I should not complain, since the Go Go Girls series has a lighter tone in its theme that tagged with couples and relationship issues, whilst the other, however, was dealing with the more complex society and human behavioral issues.
Nonetheless, it is not to say that the Go Go Girls do not deserve a serious look by its readers. This series could have been read just as an ordinary comedic josei manga with minimal degree of smuts (yes, you’d be disappointed if that’s what your are looking for!), but it would be a shame reading it without giving some fruits of thoughts along the way, just as the mangaka has hoped for (according to her “free talk“).
Indeed, this series was full of unexpected comedies, for instance:
In dealing with her problematic sex-deprived high-school students, Kiku stood up on the teacher’s bench, loosing her rage shouting, “GROW UP, YOU BRATS! IF ONLY YOU COULD SPEND AS MUCH EFFORTS (instead of focusing on her underwear) IN YOUR STUDIES! NOW! JUST LOOK CAREFULLY AT WHAT I AM WEARING TODAY AND GET IT OVER AND DONE WITH! I WON’T BE WEARING THE SAME PATTERN EVERY DARN DAY!….” She pulled up her skirt to show off her underwear to her audience whist looking down at her students (yes, just like a queen ^^)! Meanwhile, the jealous and suspicious Tokiwa showed up at the classroom window (don’t ask me which floor it was!) screaming: “YOU IDIOT! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?! THAT’S NOT FOR SHOW TO ANYONE OTHER THAN ONLY ME!!!!!!!”. Whislt still holding on to her skirt, Kiku instantly lost her cool as her facial expression changed completely at the sight of Tokiwa…. the next thing she knew, she was squeezed in Tokiwa’s strong embrace….
But it was not a fun matter for Kiku when she had to deal with the stress of being an inexperienced art teacher, especially since her carefree spirit had to be refrained at school…. and at the same time, Kiku also had to handle Tokiwa’s increasing insecurity of her commitment to their relationship. Tokiwa day-dreamed of their “honeymoon” after moving in together, but instead was in distraught finding out their quality time had been compromised by Kiku’s busy work schedule. Every night they made love, and every time he would ask her the same question over and over again, “do you love me, really?”….. to the point where Kiku could take his non-sense no more and punch him on the face instead!
After a long time of being together, Kiku would sometimes ponder whether her love for Tokiwa was still real and alive? She was no longer turned on or be excited at the thought and at the sight of him, like how it used to be when they just started being together….. Each time they had a fight, she would still return to him afterwards; each time she found him being/ just hanging around with another woman (or so she thought), she would punch right at his face and kiss him, tease him, then make love to him again and again – but it might merely be an act out of jealousy, not love… it might be that she was so used to be being with him that she could not bear seeing him with anyone else but her? Kiku then concluded that the only way she could figure it out was to meet other guys “in the pond” for the sake of comparison! At a celebrity party, she spotted this cool looking guy; he turned and spotted her also. Kiku and Tokiwa looked at each other and then from a distance, he started to follow her outside…. in a quiet corner, they kissed passionately. There then Kiku knew, she had fallen in love with the same guy again.
The thing I like about NAKAYAMA Noriko’s, is the way she managed to lighten up a serious storyline with lots of humour. (I must admit I am personally not a great fan of mangakas who enjoy flirting with dark and sadly dramatic plots in their work….)
I remember reading somewhere comments about the resemblance between NAKAYAMA Noriko’s style and YAZAWA Ai’s, Nana specifically:
“….while Nana might have truly represented the current Japanese rock culture, NAKAYAMA Noriko’s carefree and casual style in her artwork demonstrated a feeling of American rock’n roll….”
A way to sum up NAKAYAMA Noriko’s style here I suppose? : )