Pinky swear

It’s a little strange to constantly expect bloody criminal violence to erupt in a shôjo romantic comedy, but that’s the effect Kiyo Fujiwara’s Wild Ones (Viz) had on me. That it doesn’t is both a relief and a disappointment.

Sachie’s mother has died, and her future is uncertain until her maternal grandfather arrives to take Sachie into his home. Sachie had been told he was dead, so she’s understandably suspicious. She’s even more anxious when she realizes that Grandpa is the leader of a yakuza faction.

Now Sachie has a new school and a house full of tattooed, scarred toughs to deal with, along with the realization that her generally straightforward mother lied to her (for admittedly good reasons). The thugs all dote on her like she’s an adorable kitten they found out in the rain. Grandpa is a little aloof, but he obviously adored Sachie’s mother and seems to have transferred those affections to his granddaughter. And not all of Grandpa’s minions are leathery hoodlums.

Yes, there’s a boy, and his name is Rakuto. He’s class president at Sachie’s school, and Grandpa has given him the task of protecting Sachie. She finds Rakuto unnervingly devoted, and she’s not sure if it’s genuine or if he’s just following orders. He’s dreamy, sure, but is he sincere?

Everything that actually happens in the comic is pleasant enough. The thugs are actually pretty loveable in a ridiculous way, as when they try and find an appropriate birthday gift for the girl. Sachie’s ambivalence about Rakuto is credible and hits some nice emotional notes. But gangster-story expectations kept distracting me.

Fujiwara tends to gloss over Grandpa’s business, which left me to look for traces of it on the fringes. Rakuto explains that Grandpa took him in after his father succumbed to bad debts, and that all of the men in the house arrived under similar circumstances. It’s supposed to illustrate Grandpa’s unlikely benevolence, but it just led me to suspect that he killed all of their parents and took in the boy children to swell his ranks.

It’s not that I want Grandpa’s elegant compound to be riddled with rival gunfire, or for undercover investigators to try and turn Sachie between classes. I’m not sure what it would do to the amiability of the rest of the narrative. But the absence of actual criminal behavior in a criminal milieu is undeniably odd; it’s like a werewolf story where none of the chapters take place during the full moon.

Okay, maybe I do want a few shootouts and undercover stings.

(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher. And yes, I know that gun control is extraordinarily strict in Japan and that a shootout is extremely unlikely. You know what I mean.)

3 Responses to Pinky swear

  1. I’m glad to see that I wasn’t the only one hankering for a little gunplay (or pinky shearing) to spice up the narrative. Aside from the chorus of yakuza thugs, I found Wild Ones pretty ho-hum: nice illustrations, very bland leads.

  2. davidpwelsh says:

    It would be really funny if it was revealed that it’s sort of a retirement home/orphanage for yakuza who couldn’t really cut it. But if Sachie is going to freak out over someone shoplifting an eraser…

  3. […] David Welsh devotes his Flipped column to a nice long look at Emma and reviews Wild Ones back at Precocious Curmudgeon. The Avid Book Reader just couldn’t put vol. 1 of Battle Royale […]

%d bloggers like this: