Triple Trouble: Imadoki!, Hollow Fields, Gakuen Alice

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On a very special Manga Connoisseur: “Triple Trouble: Imadoki!, Hollow Fields, Gakuen Alice.”

Here’s how it works: I read these three manga in a row without prior knowledge of their plots. Astonishingly, they turned out pretty similar. So I’m reviewing all three in this new installment. I’ll start with the similar themes, then go into a brief summary of each individual manga. I don’t normally do letter grades, but I think it makes sense here. Let’s get to it!

Imadoki!, Hollow Fields, and Gakuen Alice all fall into a common manga genre: Idiot of the School Savant. Basically, a new student comes to a school (almost always female) and despises the system. The students hate her, and she needs to prove herself in this dog-eat-dog environment. Thing is, it’s common to use this as a manga theme, but it’s not actually “good.” Try to think of an A-list title that falls into this narrative trope. I can’t. You might. It could exist. Whatever.

Imadoki! uses money and status as the divide for the protagonist, Tanpopo Yamazaki. Hollow Fields’ Lucy Snow came to a school filled with super-geniuses. While Mikan Sakura of Gakuen Alice is bullied by children with superpowers. See, that worked out pretty well, I think.

Oh, another common trope of Idiot of the School Savant: The Savant part. Tanpopo is able to charm the highest-standing students with friendship and an “aw shucks” mentality. Lucy has dumb luck, which escalates when she finds a discarded teacher willing to help her. Mikan has a power of her own, and it’s powerful but so low-key that she never noticed it.

This trope is not used so often for romance as it is for society. Later on, romance will come into play, but the other students are the biggest issue.

Oh, none of these three have parents in them. Tanpopo and Lucy talk about their parents, but they go unseen. Mikan lives with her grandfather. Well, it’s common in all manga genres, but here it’s stronger without parental support, focusing on the lone child’s need to adapt.

Well, let’s get into them.


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“Imadoki!” or “Imadoki! Nowadays” or “Imadoki! Nowadays: Dandelion” is a title with an unclear title. This is an older Viz manga, evident from the art. Typical shoujo style, bland as a clean-shaven face. Although props to the cover for having both a male and a female character on the cover.

Tanpopo enrolls in a prestigious Tokyo school to prove herself to her small-town loved ones. She meets Koki, a boy who loves gardening. Actually, she crashes her bike into him! HA HA!  She finds out Koki is the most beloved student in the school (beloved = he has money) who pretends not to know Tanpopo because of her low-standing and her insistence that Koki loves flowers, despite them being banned on campus. Can Tanpopo open Koki up?

My biggest problem: She wants to make something of herself in THE BIG CITY, right? Okay. Why Meio Academy? Why not a school for budding botanists? Even if she doesn’t want to become a botanist or florist, and there’s nothing to suggest that, she didn’t look into Meio enough to know about the fake plants? It’s not supposed to be a secret; the students and faculty seem in favor of them.

Tanpopo is the Pollyanna here. So while it’s nice she doesn’t wail “OH, I GIVE UP!” after one bad day, her high enthusiasm is unbelievable. Not annoying, mind you, but it gets on my nerves after some time. Tanpopo’s first friend in Tokyo pretends not to know her, essentially turning everyone against her. All of the students hate her and bully her, drawing on her desk and moving it to the back, tripping her and insulting her. The only student who is nice to her ruins her flowers right after Tanpopo got sick from planting them in the rain. But Tanpopo smiles through it all. I can’t hate her, but I will say she’s too dumb for me to enjoy.

11096796_10153141267999845_2074395091_n11088256_10153141268009845_435532540_nI do like Koki, as he eventually comes around, but he’s too easily changed. Tanpopo’s fake friend  is also changed quickly, but Koki’s personality becomes much looser. Also, his conflict of making sure no one knows he likes flowers is odd. His father can change school rules, so Koki has the flower-ban repealed. Why couldn’t he do that before? And it’s not like anyone thinks less of him.

All of the conflict is worthless, as it’s resolved in volume one, the only draw for volume to being some guy who writes nasty things about the main three characters. Who is he? What does it accomplish? I’m not drawn in by shrouded mystery and fake reveals. “Oh, this guy is… who?”

I don’t think “Imadoki!” is worth the trouble to hunt down. If this were the pH of soil, I’d give it a grade below 7, too acidic. The characters are biting to Tanpopo without enough support, and the conflict dissolves like nothing mattered. And, like the fake flowers, it doesn’t seem that anything will grow, no matter how long the characters are planted.

But this is a manga, not soil. Silly. Also, I’m doing letter grades.

Story: B-
Art: A-
Pacing: C-
Characters: B+
Overall: B


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Up next, Seven Seas’ “Hollow Fields!” An American manga, the art is… mixed. No one has a nose, which bugs me. I mean, a stranger has a nose in the beginning, but the children and faculty don’t. Ick.

So, nitpick out of the way: I have no idea what the historical setting is. Maybe it’s just anachronistic. Lucy gets off a boat in a town filled with people in cloaks holding lanterns on poles. She talks about fires as sources of heat and villages. Then again, her whole school uses super-advanced technology. The obvious answer is “steampunk,” but it feels like a divide, not a combination. Like Tokyo and the countryside.

Lucy Snow gets lost on the way to school and accidentally finds the school Hollow Fields, whose maid mistakes Lucy for a new student. Enamored by the lack of a fee, compelling technology and self-justifications, Lucy signs up without reading her contract. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and at Lucy’s free dinner she discovers that the student with the worst grades at the end of the week goes to “Detention,” and are never seen again. It turns out that Hollow Fields is a school for budding super-villains, and Lucy lacks the assets to survive! Will she survive?

I mean yeah. It’s only volume one. This one focuses less on conflict from students as it does faculty. They’re patched up from countless deaths and fairly non-human. The students are out-of-focus, with one girl picking on Lucy because of snobbishness, and one boy because Lucy’s nature bugs him. I mean, friends count less when you could die any time.

Lucy is recognized as a mistaken student, but the principal keeps her because she might have latent abilities…

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Lucy’s classes include stitching animals together, grave-robbing (She found a hand! Lucky!), and building killer robots, which is taught by the principal herself. Lucy is inept, being born into a family of dentists, but she finds a box with a teacher inside who instructs her how to build a killer robot and escape detention.

The plot is genuinely intriguing, as it builds up tension and doesn’t get insultingly sidetracked in doing so. The boy who dislikes her appears to be important for later, and the mysterious “Detention” is a huge draw. I really want to read the rest.

I feel that Lucy is too childish, however. She’s nine-and-a-half and she carries around a plush dinosaur. Granted, the snooty girl does too, but she has a boxing glove in hers. I don’t know, it’s more than that. Like saying she’s “nine-and-a-half.” I guess I did stuff like that, but I never held a plush when grave-robbing. It’d get dirty. It’s better than being too mature, as it’s not believable, but there’s a reason children are written more developed.

I found myself adoring “Hollow Fields,” despite noselessness and the immaturity of the lead. It has goals and direction, which is better than drifting. I think I’m going to pick up the rest.

Story: A
Art: C+
Pacing: A
Characters: B
Overall: A-


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“Gakuen Alice” by Tachibana Higuchi, whose “Portrait of M & N” I’ve taken a look at. I say this was way better. A Tokyopop release, “Gakuen Alice” uses a cliched premise but a great delivery.

Mikan’s best friend, Hotaru, is accepted into Alice Academy and moves away from her small town. Mikan follows her, but is attacked by a boy in a mask who can control fire. A teacher stops him and tells Mikan she can take the entrance exam. However, Mikan quickly learns what Alice Academy is: A school for super-powered humans! And Hotaru can create amazing technology! Why did the teacher allow Mikan to enroll? Will she pass the exam?

The art, while Higuchi’s typical unusual throwback to the older shoujo style, is better than in “Portrait of M & N.” I mean, this is from 2003, so it’ll look outdated either way. I prefer this art because it has less blood. I mean, it’s a fair reason. There’s something… wavy about Portrait that Alice ignores. Also, given the subject matter, there’s much more room to breathe. Giant chicks, evil teddy bears, not to mention the school hosts students from K to college. Artistic and narrative possibilities are boundless!

Apparently so, as there were 31 volumes (North American got 14 volumes. Dang.) The whole series ran for a decade. Nothing to sneeze at! So it won’t be much of a spoiler if I reveal that Mikan’s power is subduing other powers, but not all of them (yet). So useful, yet so circumstantial.

The characters all have different molds. Mikan’s like the other two, friendly and out of her element, although she’s aggressive with it. The determination is endearing, rather than overkill. Hotaru is distant, but she can’t betray Mikan for long. Also, her powers only serve to benefit her, which leads to some funny moments. Oh, one character can use animal pheromones. Which leads to this.

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So much romance.

The other students oppose Mikan because she has no apparent powers, but some are on her side. Which is fair; a school that has super-humans is bound to have heroes and villains, rather than one mold. They do all bully their teachers, however.

I have to recommend this manga. It’s fun, it has a large collection, the characters are engaging, and I’d be interested in seeing the different powers. The art, while not a deal-breaker, feels out of place, but maybe it improved over the decade it ran. Well done, Higuchi.

Story: A-
Art: B+
Pacing: A
Characters: A
Overall: A

Last Hope OR, Slip-Sliding Away

One year ago today, there was a review of World of Hartz. It was mine. And it was awful. I’ve never read anything filled with so many overused cliches, presumptuous tones, long-standing resentment towards humanity and a completely unlikable lead.

I’m not talking about World of Hartz as I am my review of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s atrocious. Did everything wrong. But I want to thank it. As low as it was, it reminded me that reviewing manga isn’t all about rampaging in lieu of humor. It’s also about talking about the product, possibly in an actual humorous manner. Inform, not deform. In forgetting that, I had almost given up my Last Hope.

I’m sorry.

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The wonderful thing about Last Hope is the cliches. Well, less the cliches, more the subversion of tropes. For example, there are characters named Hiro, Ikuko, Colleen, and Alvin in one school. However, it’s justified because they live in this diverse transfer student school. There are characters with atypical Asian hair colors, but only because the redhead is Irish and the blonde is German. Which, admittedly, is an even bigger cliche, but the only way to cover a stain is with a rug.

Plus, there’s the typical narrative cliches that’s offset by the art. Like the reveal of a dead parent.

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Ikuko, center, looks like someone mixed Tohru Honda of Fruits Basket and a glass of milk in a blender.

So the premise: Hiro, a transfer student from another dimension, saves Alvin, Colleen, and Ikuko from two rough classmates, Drake and Tom. Hiro asks Alvin to repair his alternate-universe-sliding device, which I will not attempt to write. Apparently, Alvin is a super genius pretending to be average. As a character, not pretending. Hiro’s uncle arrives while he’s fighting Drake, so they run off and go into an alternate dimension where the school is a prison. Like the first episode of Sliders, when they get stuck in Communist America.

The Characters, Their Cliches, The Twist:

-Hiro, the hero. Like Big Hero 6 or Heroes. Has the “My parents are dead!” cliche. One flaw, as usual for the flawless, and this one can’t find Sicily on a map. Boiled down, he’s the typical angsty leading role. The Twist: He’s not emotionless, although that’s not great either, since it doesn’t give us enough room to care about his tribe’s loss. Clan? Pack? Pod?

-Ikuko, the heart. Loves the hero, natch. Feminine, with a tomboy as her best friend (of course). Probably the biggest damsel, until we learn why, like every heart character, she’s here. The Twist: Okay, she really doesn’t have much of a character. In fact, she’s actually described as “the heart” in her character profile. But she isn’t entirely wilting, nor is the the object of the anti-hero’s affections. That role belongs to…

-Colleen, the tomboy. Fiery redhead from Ireland, uses “daft” and “my Da” and a tough demeanor to offset her gender and the stereotypes associated. Lazy, sneaky, cheeky, and serves as a counterpart to not only Ikuko, but the frail Alvin. The Twist: So, okay, this is the gall. Colleen, after Drake voices his plan, protests that she didn’t have a say, but he shoots her down. And she backs down! Also, once in the Prison School World, she starts crushing on him, despite multiple rejections of his feelings for her in their world. I guess it’s kind of cool that the roles change in a dangerous situation, but I kind of lost respect for her.

-Alvin, the genius. Short, glasses, German if you’re going that route. He pretends to be average because of his brilliance, how it scared his parents. Kind of the “little buddy” to Hiro. Not attracted to anyone in particular, which resembles Brian from The Breakfast Club. The Twist: 11072637_10153128610624845_1141148672_n

His thing is that he’s attending school because he realize that getting a PhD at nine did nothing for his social skills. Hey, you seem awkward, but you’re not smart in lieu of social. He made three friends in an hour. I think his character is great, at least the presentation. It’s not over the top and it’s not under the radar. Just… talking at two months? How do they not know you from swimming in pools of cash?

-Drake, the anti-hero. Rivalry with Hiro, because he’s a cooness threat. Snobby and suited, Drake wants what he can’t have, which is Colleen. A bully to the weak, but he has admirable standards. Not on the cover, either for a surprise or because something horrible happens to him next volume. The Twist: He has standards. Like, not a sex fiend all the time. Can think of others if need be. May be able to get the girl, oddly. Drake surprised me in multiple ways, and he was a fun surprise. Granted, he’s not genre savvy, but I think it’s unfair to expect that from a narrow trope like inter-dimensional travel. Even Doctor Who tries not to enter that pool too often.

-Tom, the henchman. Tom’s the Skull to Drake’s Bulk. But Tom is just sort of there, and joins the group because he’s figuratively glued to Drake. Wears a backwards cap. American. The Twist: The fact that he’s there is a twist. He doesn’t really redeem, nor does he explain why he knows about a cave. The hook for volume two says someone is trapped in Prison School World forever. I’m guessing Tom.

-Hiccup, the team pet. Found by Hiro, knows nothing about it. Makes hiccuping and purring sounds. No known powers. The Twist: Either he’s like Mokona from Magic Knight Rayearth or he’s the red herring creature from the game Lock’s Quest. Hides in a backpack and that’s it.

I think I enjoyed it more upon the first read, but I appreciated it more the second time around. So many writers go for obvious character traits, and this one isn’t an exception. But they did change how characters act in a group, high school, between sexual interest and prioritization. No one could be as awful as Drake’s character stock usually is, nor is Hiro’s associated tropes too unbearable. Plus, alternate realities are a seldom-used environment for media. It’s nice to see a manga take a crack at it.

I think the art, however, is only smoothly competent. Nothing that pops, and the screen tone is inconsistent. Sometimes it’s clearly gray, but other times their hair has poppy seeds. Like I said, the art offsets overused moments, so it prevents the palm of your hand coming over to say hello to your face. The main issue is that I feel, as mentioned with Ikuko, the characters are based on other designs. Also, for such a diverse school, there sure are only white and Asian students. And Hiccup had tons of unrelated designs before they chose Q-Tip on blob legs.

There was supposed to be a volume three, but Seven Seas had a dispute with the writer. That was in 2006, so two volumes is all there is. If you’re a completionist, steer clear. Otherwise, it does a great job subverting (while supporting) cliches and tropes.

As a reward for making it to the end, have a gif I made of Sliders’ Maximillian Arturo denying his similar appearance to Luciano Pavarotti, although I didn’t subtitle it. Hope you can read lips.

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Crying Freeman: Shades of Death OR, Reverse Tezuka

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When I was idealistic, I bought any manga that featured a “1” on the spine. This lead to a complication. I bought a manga years ago that had nothing on the spine. It was an oldie, but a goodie I cannot say. I never read it, as I shortly found out after purchase that it was the sixth volume in the series. My indignance was through the roof, but I held onto it, just in case I’d buy the other five volumes.

I gave it away after a year.

This is not that manga. “Shades of Death” has a similar issue.  It’s labelled with a “1,” but it’s “Part 1” in the second series. There’s six series, Shades of Death on the heels of “Portrait of a Killer.” There’s no indication of this on the cover, although “Crying Freeman Graphic Novel” had me concerned.

My point is, the past is stupid when it comes to manga covers.

So why am I still doing this post and why read it through? To be honest, I didn’t know about any of this until I sat down to type this up. It has as much coherency as any manga Ryoichi Ikegami. That’s right, the artist of “Mai The Psychic Girl.” Okay, I don’t actually assume you thought “THE ARTIST OF MAI THE PSYCHIC GIRL?!” Heck, I had to glance at the cover twice. I just needed a sentence segue.

Rather than read the first series, I’m going straight to Shades of Death. I think it’ll be as telling if I did Portrait of Death.

There’s a man, Crying Freeman, in a clan, The 108 Dragons, and he’s testing a woman who wants to join. She passes, and both Crying Freeman and Tiger Orchid attend their initiation ceremony. However, it is quickly interrupted by this guy.

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That was the only thing that both confused me and was never fully explained outside of him being a spy. They hunt down who’s the fink, assuming it could be any Old Man from Mercury to Pluto. Yep, that’s their names. Old Man Comet was presumably killed and replaced with the spy. Admittedly, “Comet” doesn’t stick to the theme well. Nor does Pluto nowadays.

So they find the spy and have a honeymoon of a sort, but it’s interrupted when their mentors are attacked by this woman.

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She’s peeved because she wasn’t chosen to lead the 108 Dragons, since her grandmother is the wife of their leader. Bakah Sin, annoyed after her grandmother insults her own son, Bakah Sin’s father, then kidnaps the two and keeps them in a tower. Crying Freeman finds them and turns Bakah Sin to their side.

Final portion of Part 1 of the second series, a woman is hired to take out Crying Freeman. Thing is she’s black, something I love about older manga, since modern manga seems racial rooted in Asia. The problem is that she covers herself in white makeup. Rally Vincent of Gunsmith Cats did that once. Not exactly… convenient, I guess is the word I’m looking for. She starts playing the ol’ stab-and-mouse game, then the volume ends.

Thing: While the series is not written by the writer of Mai The Psychic Girl, it does have a lot in common. Explosions. Cute old people, both genders. Tall and obese people who snot. Uncomfortable nudity. Former enemies becoming friends. Evil organizations. Laughter in situations where I’d probably give a sideways glance.

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HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. BUY A TURTLE.

After you’re approved to join the clan, there’s some other… stuff. You have to get a yazuka-esque tattoo while conscious, size and all. Then castration.

You might wonder, why join the clan? Well, you can do this:

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Not good enough? Well, I’m stumped.

The action is fun, and the lack of children makes erotic scenes okay, unlike Mai. And I adore Bakah Sin. She don’t care; she just likes to party in her own weird way. I’d probably have passed this over if it weren’t for her. I’d recommend it, although if you really need to read Portrait of a Killer first, by all means. If you can find it, feel free to let me know.

Okay, “Reverse Tezuka” is in the title. What is it? If you’ve ever read the works of Osamu Tezuka, you’ll know that he almost consistently draws cute characters but writes devastatingly dark plots. Yes, especially in Astro Boy. I’d call Ryoichi Ikegami’s works the Reverse Tezuka. Detailed art with a gritty tone, but the writers never raise the stakes. Like, Mai lacks any permanent loss. Woman who nurtured her father dies? Eh. Car pileup? Mope, eh. Man who clearly tried to kill me? WE’RE FRIENDS NOW! Same thing here. I understand they’re adults, but any drama is resolved quickly. It’s a nice change of pace, but beyond weird. And that’s why I recommend it.

Portus

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This time, both twins are evil…

Friends, how often have you heard this cornball? “Yes, hello? I have a problem with the game you sent me. It’s HaUnTeD!” Pretend the capitals and lowercases switching off represent ghost noises. It’s a cliche, and done to death. Pokemon, Mario, Sonic, Minecraft (so I’ve heard), Godzilla on the NES (It has NOTHING to do with the franchise, but it’s very well done if you don’t mind some cliches towards the end), and even Legend of Zelda. Such an odd choice.

Portus isn’t really a manga in that genre, though. Rather, it’s a ruse for a duller story. Before I begin, however, you may notice I’m reviewing this in March, which is… From October to March, 1, 2, I can’t wait however many months until October to review Portus. It’s across my bed. It stares in my sleep. Mainly, the spine is creepy.

I tried doing extra research, but when I typed in “portus,” all I got was some Roman thing. Does Portus not exist? Am I reviewing a… GHOST manga?

So I added the word “manga” and this came up: 6.6 (GASP! One six short!), 2.7, 3.2. I deduce that Portus is not well liked. And I’m here to tell you the same thing. Don’t read it. No, it’s not super haunted, but it is super cheap. Let me save you the time.

1. It’s not really a “haunted video game plot.” It’s somehow even worse. Basically, it’s an excuse to delve/devolve into a standard dead boy story. There’s Jizo statues and a village picking on one person. Wait, this sounds like an Animal Crossing creepypasta.

2. The suicide stuff. Apparently the spooky aspect of Portus is that playing it causes hallucinations, obsession, and the desire for suicide. First, I know it’s a mature manga, but not cool. Second, not all that scary. Third, I read this in a Spirit comic. A guy playing a saxophone played sad music, causing the city to increase in suicide rates. This leads Nazis to hire him, but since the player is rich now, he plays happy music instead, depressing the Nazis who kill themselves. That one scene is better than anything they got down here.

3. The art. I would describe Junji Ito’s art as scary when it needs to be, pleasant enough when it doesn’t. Jun Abe’s art is creepy and creepier. Even when it’s just normal faces it’s too much to look at, knowing the taffy face or annoyingly-detailed face could be there. You know how scare chords exist to create the illusion of horror? That’s what this art is. Draw generic and with scary elements. I’ll admit, I got jumpy after reading it, but it was only the art that caused it.

4. Jun Abe is a generic name. That being said, we get only one Jun Abe manga, AND it’s the only horror in his lineup? How is that fair? And his other works look really cute and fun. I want an alien girl manga, or a hot guy with noodles!

5. Cliched. Classic “Oh, the threat isn’t really gone!” In Little Shop of Horrors it was okay, as Audrey II is the best and we’re glad it’s alive. There was one threat in Portus (or whatever many), and then the ghost shows up. Oh, it’s still alive! Or whatever manifestation of consciousness. I feel it’s best for horror, if it must do so, to not make a sequel hook. One one hand, if it’s good, it can give fans hope. On the other, it’s always presumptuous. Either way it’s a cliche.

6. It’s a one-shot. It’s short, but who cares? You won’t become invested in the characters because they’re stock. And very temporary. Strong characters don’t have to stem from longevity, but it doesn’t hurt.

Six is spooky, right? Okay. So what did we learn? Don’t keep your bookshelf facing your bed. Also, mainstream definitions of horror can never replace the good old values horror have instilled upon society: No one knows the canon vampire as it constantly warps the creatures and takes over society (that includes both Dracula and Twilight), situational horror is best implemented when using the apocalypse and/or children, and don’t go in there. I said don’t go in there. You went in there. Now you’re dead.

Why not something else with new media? A haunted YouTube video where all the comments talk about is your darkest secrets and insecurities. “Don’t Read The Comments!” Or an evil app that alters your past experiences. “The Appening.” Or a malfunctioning Instagram that takes photos of people’s deaths in way too many filters. “Instagrave.” I need to write these before someone else does.

The Four Immigrants Manga OR, Primarily Two Immigrants Manga

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Look no further; we’ve found an anomaly. Many American artists draw in manga style, but how many Japanese artists have drawn in Western style? I mean, there was this manga by Osamu Tezuka that has a Popeye doppelganger, plus Popeye himself in a crowd scene with a ton of other Western characters.

Although it would be hard to say that this wasn’t the style at the time. Henry (Yoshitaka) Kiyama created “The Four Immigrants Manga” in 1931 about life as a Japanese immigrant in the states. It takes place in a two-decade span, from 1904 to 1924. But this information is on the cover.

Let’s be frank here. Or Henry, ha ha. See, Frank was one of the immigrants. The jokes in here are only marginally more funny than that one. It’s not “funny” funny, it’s “jarring” funny. Like being drawn into Astro Boy for its cute designs, only to discover there’s never a full happy ending in the manga. T4IM might be its own style, but there’s no denying the artistic similarities with Western art.

That having been said, it’s not Popeye. You know, witty. You wanna say that’s an unfair comparison? Fine, I’ve been known to make those. E.C. Segar had more opportunities on a number of levels. But humor can transcend time and space. Here, let me show you what I consider to be the funniest punchline. Charlie (basically the protagonist) visits a married friend with many snot-nosed children.

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That’s about as good as it gets. Now yes, the manga is antiquated. It’s based on experiences starting from a hundred years back, published originally 75 years or so ago. So my point on this front is don’t buy it expecting “classic manga humor.” Don’t get me wrong, I found it fascinating. I couldn’t put it down. So when I put it down to take a nap, I recommended it to my dad. We read it on and off and both concluded it certainly wasn’t up to today’s standards of humor, but there’s something irresistible about it.

Okay, to end off the humor aspect: What makes the jokes outdated? Well, most of the gags are visual. The first few strips have an immigrant being hired to work for a woman, misunderstand a situation / make the house dirty / ruin the woman’s parrot or dinner, get yelled at by a woman in broken English (“You no sarbey! Go home!”), then the cycle repeats, never fully explaining what a “sarbey” is. Servant? Slang for “school boy?”

This gets abandoned after some time for more verbal humor, mixed with visual humor (being assaulted, having an outlandish dream). It’s better, but not great. And then this horrible racist caricature. The easily offended should scroll.

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Very antiquated. To be fair, they all did it back then. Oh, if you read the above, then you might be asking why Charlie has two fonts. The small print is Japanese, while the Comic Sans-style was written by Kiyama, which is simple English for the Japanese. Plus, it represents when someone speaks English.

SO! Who are the four immigrants? There’s Charlie. He’s a philosopher of sorts, coming to the West to study our values. He constantly quotes scholars and is the resident butt monkey. This includes being beaten on top of being robbed (Frank was only robbed), his father passing on back home, and an attractive woman standing him up at the Panama Pacific International Exposition. Oh, and that whole thing about being Japanese in America during an uncaring time.

Following Charlie in frequency is Frank. He wants to destroy the Western Empire from the inside. Okay, he doesn’t say that, but his phrasing is a bit unnerving. By becoming rich, Frank will import goods from Japan, “thus help our nation become the most prosperous in the whole wide world…” Not far off at all, Frank. Frank is to Charlie what Ernie is to Bert, and I mostly say that based on physique. They do enjoy each other’s company more than those Muppets, but while Charlie is high-strung, Frank is a bit more laid-back. These two are the main focus.

Fred’s the hottest of the group; total dreamboat. He wants to become a potato farmer to support the Yamato race. Sheesh, this guy and Frank. Fred is theatrical in his movements and speech. He does become a potato farmer, so there’s that. He appears in the first strip and vanishes until the last third of the manga. In fact, he appears less frequently than some secondary characters. Three immigrants.

Finally, Henry. He’s the cutest of the boys; total babyface. Of course, since Kiyama is “Henry,” then this Henry must be him. Henry wants to study art in America, and if my theory is correct, he did. I mean, they showcase his art in the Introduction, and it’s great! Like, real cool, cats! Henry appears in the first few strips, with his first “sarbey” job. He mistakes Western values and enter’s his employer’s bathroom while soaking in the tub. “Wow! White folks really are white!” That made me chuckle. Henry then kinda saunters off until the end. Odd that it’s by him, yet he’s barely in it. 2 1/2 Immigrants, this Fall on CBS.

So this manga was written in a highly historical time. There’s the Introduction, the Translation Notes, and this scattered throughout the manga.

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No, hey, that’s a natural way to say that, he wrote on MARCH FOURTH 2015. Good night! I don’t know if that was Kiyama or the translators, but I’m getting chills over this writing.

The end is recognizable through two signs:

First, everyone’s looking for wives. Tell me, when you read a shojo manga, how do you know when the series is over? When the couple is together without obstacles. It’s beginning to approach the end when the couple finally gets together. There’s the loose ends, such as the love rivals, an old childhood crush, a defiant parent, a bully’s opinion, the male lead’s own immature emotions, the female lead’s own public pride, or the principal who will suspend you BOTH if you don’t stop holding hands and hit the books.

Here, it’s through picture brides. Then Charlie and Fred settle down and raise families. Total shojo, yo.

Second, the characters break the fourth wall. Kiyama secluded our world from his, but the final few strips have characters remark on their own nonexistence. “If you don’t come back alive our cartoonist’ll run out of ideas!” That was the 45th out of 52 strips. Yeesh. What do I based it on? E.C. Segar’s Popeye. He made self-deprecating jokes in the second half of the series, but to be fair, he only stopped because of death. Still, who knows if that’s how it is? I’d say so, but I’d probably need more evidence.

Oh wait, I do. When a series sets a tone early on, say Dick Tracy, only to change the formula, like how Dick Tracy was a cop-centered series and added a woman from the moon, you lose credibility along with your audience. The Simpsons go to Kang and Kodos’ planet outside of a Halloween special? The Powerpuff Girls abuse their powers for their own selfish needs without remorse or punishment? The fourth wall, if not established early on, could be a sign of diminishing ideas. You get me, audience?

The four immigrants reunite, discussing how their plans went. Since Charlie and Fred are fathers, they’re grounded in America, although Charlie says his biggest accomplishment was “never eating the Empire’s precious rice.” You gotta set your goals low and stay there.

Frank and Henry decide to go home, with the former claiming the cutthroat world of Western business being too difficult, and the latter saying he wants to someday fusing Eastern and Western art. I KNEW IT!

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Kiyama wanted to make a sequel, but it was never completed. Me, I liked “The Four Immigrants,” and prefer it isolated in this one period. No, it isn’t something you might pick up and read, but it is short and discusses events from someone who experienced them. It’s valuable for its existence, but not personal merits. Still, what other manga can claim such historical prominence?