story by Novala Takemoto and Yukio Kanesada; art by Yukio Kanesada; adapted by Tomo Kimura
published by Viz; $8.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Kamikaze Girls is composed of four short stories. The first is an adaptation of Takemoto’s novel. The second story takes place shortly after the novel and is written by Takemoto. The third and fourth stories are written by Kanesada. The third story is about Ririka, a high school girl, forcing Kashiwagi to take her on a date. (He’s a business man who frequents the jewelry store run by her mother.) The fourth story takes place after they’ve become a couple.
The adaptation of Kamikaze Girls is atrocious. Everything that made the novel charming and fun is missing. The novel is told in first person by Momoko, the lolita girl. She’s intelligent with a sardonic wit. The first person narration lets the reader watch her mature as the story unfolds. It’s her coming into adulthood that gives the novel its emotional core.
The manga compresses the events of the novel. The quickened pace really hurts the story. The reader isn’t given the time needed to get to know the characters. Also, it makes the emotional moments feel forced and flat. The manga has all the main plot but none of the heart of the novel.
The short story by Takemoto suffers from similar problems. The relationship between Ichigo, the yanki (gangster) girl in the novel, and Raichi moves too quickly to be believable. I find the use of an identical twin brother to be a cop out by Takemoto. It’s suppose to be a way to give Ichigo what she couldn’t have in the novel, but it’s too contrived for me.
The third and fourth stories creep me out. I’m not comfortable with business men dating high school students. I wish I could say this is the first time I’ve seen this kind of relationship in a manga. In the third story, Ririka is tired of being treated like a kid. She thinks that going on a date and having sex with an older mature man will transform her into a woman. They end up spending a platonic night together. Ririka falls in love with Kashiwagi and a couple days later begs him for a second date. They end up becoming a couple.
Ririka isn’t a pleasant person. She’s selfish and immature. Why Kashiwagi didn’t immediately go to her mother when she first proposed a date is never explained. Kashiwagi is an enigma throughout the story. We don’t really know what he’s thinking or what he sees in Ririka. This lack of insight into Kashiwagi’s motives undermines the story’s credibility.
The fourth story focuses on Ririka coming to grips with being in a relationship with an older man, especially having to cope with his past romantic partners. In this story, Ririka doesn’t seem to have matured much. There’s still nothing to recommend her as Kashiwagi’s girlfriend. Kashiwagi treats her like a child. It feels like she is simply a plaything for him until he’s ready for his next serious relationship with a woman his own age.
The only enjoyable aspect of the book is the artwork. Kanesada shows real potential to be a great artist. She has a good eye for fashion and clothes. The characters are well drawn, with the expection of Ichigo. (For some reason she makes her look like a boy, which runs counter to her description in the book.) Kanesada does a great job of expressing a wide variety of emotions in her characters. It’s a shame the writing doesn’t live up to the artwork.
I had high hopes for the Kamikaze Girls manga. I loved both the original novel and its film adaptation. The poor storytelling makes this book a major disappointment. Even for the most die-hard Kamikaze Girls fan, I would recommend leaving this book on the shelf.