Manga Friday continues to go backwards and forwards at the same time; this week, I read the first volumes of two very popular and long-running series, and the latest volume of Path of the Assassin, a lesser-known samurai series from the creators of Lone Wolf & Cub. Our theme this week is young love…but this is manga, so we’re talking about lots of panty-shots, blood spewing out of noses, gigantic sweat-drops, tasteful nudity, and utterly gormless young men. So let’s dive right in:
Ai Yori Aoshi, I’m informed by its foreword, is a romance comic for young men. (They don’t put it quite that way, of course, but that’s what it is. And it shows just how big the Japanese marketplace for comics is when even the odd niche of a love story in a boy’s magazine is filled.) Kaoru, a young student, ran away from his terribly rich, terribly powerful, terribly conservative, and terribly controlling family some years ago, and is now in college. Aoi, his incredibly sheltered childhood sweetheart – who is the scion of a similar family, and who was betrothed to him at a very young age – runs away to find him, since she’s utterly in love with this man she hasn’t seen in a decade (or at all as an adult). They meet cute, she goes home with him – not like that, get your minds out of the gutter – and then the engine of plot complication starts to chug along.
Kou Fumizuki, who created this series, does make Aoi believable, which is not an easy achievement – she’s confused about nearly everything to do with Kaoru and modern life, and that’s the main driving factor of the plot. Kaoru is more generic, the usual audience-identification character (smart enough but not too smart, hardworking ditto, and so on), but he works, and centers the story reasonably well. I suspect that over-controlling rich families and arranged marriages are mostly things a generation or two in the past for the Japanese public, which makes them fodder for melodrama and comedy. (If they were still living institutions, stories about them would be drama.)