by Mihona Fujii; adaptation by Sheldon Drzka
published by DC/CMX Manga; $9.95 US
Kotobuki Ran is a kogal, a fashion plate with designer clothes, trendy accessories, and dyed hair. She’s a legend in the neighborhood, ready to defend herself and her friends by fighting, which brings her into conflict with her family. They’re all made up of police officers, and they expect her to become one as well.
Her older brother, the local cop, helps keep her out of trouble. She’s not above letting men buy her clothes, but when they want more, she says no and stands her ground, physically if necessary. She’s childish, selfish and immature, but she’s also principled in her own way. She stops a classmate from prostituting herself in reaction to over-strict parents, protects a friend from a stalker, and figures out who’s using her name in a blackmail scheme.
The battle between a teen’s independence and the expectations of her family for her career is a typical subject for manga. In this case, it’s made unique by its emphasis on fashion-based culture clash. The presentation is stylish. Ran is drawn full of attitude and attractive, just as she should be, even if her face makes her look about twelve. The carefully chosen clothes and accessories contribute to the reader’s understanding of the characters; that’s a benefit of comics, that so much can be established so quickly visually.
The author’s motivation, based on her notes, was to counter the stereotype of all kogals as “deviants”. She wanted to show one who was “funny and passionate”, and she’s succeeded. Even in a book featuring fashion, the girls give the message that you don’t need money to have fun as long as you have friends to share with and boys to chase.
Given the risks and pressures these kids face — materialism, solicitation, temptation to thievery — it’s impressive that the book is as light and entertaining as it is. The key to its appeal is Ran’s exuberance, which jumps right off the page.