I don’t normally do manga; my taste has moved away from comic books in general over the years, and manga is particularly hard for me to read, since it involves running against the (western) habit of reading left to right. Despite that, I spent yesterday checking out scanlations of R+V, to get an idea of whether or not the animÃ© was going to be worth a long-term commitment, or if it was going to be another GSNK.
The result? I’m kind of disappointed, but it’s still got some good parts. There’s some serious drama here, some clichÃ©s, some character development, some illogic, and so on. It’s very much a mixed bag, and there’s nobody to blame but the manga-ka, Ikeda Akihisa. I would describe him as a naive space cadet who thinks the whole world should be friends, at least based on a few notes he included with the story, the general tone and theme of the manga (friendship conquers all), and one specific storyline he wrote in response to a stabbing near where he lived. Now how much of his story is going to make it into the animÃ© is yet to be determined, but obviously they plan to get all four girls in, despite the fact that one of them shows up very late in the manga. If they bring her in early, it will require significant changes to the continuity, as when/how she gets involved is tied into things that not only haven’t happened yet, they’ve actually been either dropped or pushed back in the sequence. Personally, I believe it’s the latter, or there’s some serious violence done to the story. Which, for some aspects, might be a good idea. And that’s all I can say above the fold: I must warn you that I”m going to get into some discussion of story spoilers eventually: the good, the bad, and the amusing.
The “amusing” (non-spoiler) would be the fans of the manga; their reaction has been pretty negative, from what I’ve seen here and on a forum I lost the link to. Everyone seems upset that Gonzo upped the fanservice. Hmmm. Guys, are we reading the same manga? It’s more per chapter because the manga has fewer opportunities; it would have to be a panty shot every frame to equal in numbers what the animÃ© delivers. I will concede there is still a proportional increase, that the first glomping was a change, and the “upgrading” of alt-Moka’s bust and butt size. I will also say that I think the first was necessary if the show was going to get made, the second criticism may be correct, and I agree with the third change; I think the Manga-ka’s style of continuing to draw her with thin hips and bust is in error. (I originally wrote “bush”…Thank you Sigmund Freud.) There were scenes where I couldn’t tell for certain which Moka was present, until I saw the rosario was off. Furthermore, she looks more mature in the animÃ©; there is no question that alt-Moka is an adult, whereas in the manga, she still looks like a teen due to the skinnier appearance. Most amusing was a comment on the lost forum, indicating that Gonzo had ruined a serious romantic story. Much h8 for Gonzo!
Serious. Romantic. Story. Are you kidding me? This is a harem comedy! Whomever wrote that wouldn’t know serious romance if it bit him on the neck.
Now, having gotten past my snark, let’s dive below the fold and get into some spoilerific territory. While I avoid specifics, there are still plot spoilers galore, and not behind tags. You have been warned.
The good: I like the fourth girl, MizorÃ© the snow fairy; she’s actually my favorite, in terms of personality. (Kurumu still has my libido locked up.) Quiet, a bit shy, a loner, creepy, misunderstood… and crazy. Stalker-crazy. “Fairy” is actually a misnomer; she’s introduced as the icy equivalent of a Will o’wisp; one who lures men to their doom in snowstorms. Her motivations are a bit different; she’s a stalker-fan from reading Tskune’s articles in the school newspaper. She sees him as a kindred soul and tries to kidnap him. She eventually accepts that she’s not going to be able to as long as the other girls are around, but Mizore continues to stalk him at every opportunity; she is occasionally unnoticed, somewhere in the scene. She’s the least gregarious of the girls, and appears to have excellent stealth ability, though it’s not clear whether that is supernatural. Several times, no one sees Mizore until she speaks. (FYI, it’s a lolipop that she always has in her mouth.)
Somewhat good: it becomes obvious just how much danger Tskune is in. Several times he’s badly wounded and nearly killed. Eventually, all four of the girls (and a few others) discover that he is human, and all of them chose to protect him. Of course, this has the expected effect of making him feel less “manly”; his reactions (and subsequent events) drive a wedge between him and Moka, keeping the other girls’ hopes up. While this sometimes falls flat (especially early on before the danger rears its head), overall it means that the harem aspect isn’t forced; it becomes believable (at least to them) that one of the other girls could win — although it would clearly hurt Tskune, who’s remains fixated on Moka even when mad at her. (You have to care to be mad at someone.)
Yet more good: The “one-teacher school” trope is avoided. Mostly. There is a caveat: Show ▼
The bad: Ikeda-sama has trapped himself with his one-trick pony. Only Tskune can yank off the rosary and release alt-Moka. Therefore, almost every battle follows the predictable formula that one or another of them gets into trouble, and then Tskune saves the day by risking life and limb to pull the rosary. Later, a wrinkle gets added that involves up-powering Tskune temporarily (which is not without its dangers). Only three times in 26 chapters is the day saved by anything other than removing the rosario. Well, four, but the last one was special. Worse, the manga-ka has not dropped the first hint of why alt-Moka has locked herself away behind a weaker personality. Several times, it almost gets her killed; while she’s strong and fast compared to a human, shes far weaker than other monsters — until the rosario is removed. Then, only three opponents ever give alt-Moka serious trouble, and in two of those cases, she was weakened first.
More bad: One of the battles won without alt-Moka involved Kurumu developing a new power; one that only the most powerful succubi can achieve…. and then we never see it again, even though it would be very, very useful afterwards. It’s just forgotten.
Yet more bad: Some villains are also completely forgotten. There’s a very fascistic group at the school that targets the gang, due to their activities in the newspaper club. There appear to be five or six of them, but the gang only confronts two; they take down one assigned to watching them, then have an epic confrontation with their leader. We never hear from or see the others.
And a final bad: the manga seems a lot like a monster-of-the-week series, especially early on. It’s either that or angst. It gets better later on, as the drama develops.
In addition to the teacher caveat above, we never see the school’s administration or staff. We do see the staff of the school’s hospital. Apparently, monster fights are so common, it has its own hospital, which appears to be as large as the school itself.
It’s needed: the show turns quite bloody, and there are casualties. Innocent people die; so do guilty ones. (Fortunately, none of the innocents are the core girls). I can’t tell at this point if Ikeda-sama actually has a plan and long term plot in mind; however I’m going to speculate on what I think it is. I warn you, it’s a massive spoiler, so behind the tag it goes.
I’m not sure that Ikeda-sama is really all that forward thinking, and put together that much background. He could easily just be telling whatever story comes to mind, and making it up as he goes along. The thing greatly supporting this hypothesis is that Tskune has never bothered to ask either of the Moka’s, “Why are you doing this?”
That, and his general blandness are what bother me most about him. Tskune is a teenager, and he’s acting like a teenager… “one of those half-assed male leads in a manga.” His assertiveness is limited to the tactical situation of the moment; he’s given no thought at all to the strategic view, or the rationale behind his situation Tskune isn’t strong enough to hold my attention as the lead. He’s brave and valiant, but he’s not curious enough about the chaos around him to be credible. Nor does he have much else going for him, like Yuuiji’s humanity, Kyon’s snarkiness, or SouskÃ©’s zeal.
Overall, I have to say that if the animÃ© follows the manga faithfully, I will quite probably lose interest in it once I’ve had my fill of T&A. If Gonzo takes some chances and changes up a few things (especially the repetitive battles), and they do follow a script like the one above, then the show could be the sleeper of the winter. It would just depend on how Tskune and the transition from comedy to horror/drama are handled.
Edited for clarity