by Kiyo Fujiwara; adapted by Mai Ihara
published by Viz; $8.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Sachie Wakamura is a fifteen year-old girl, who recently lost her mother and now lives with her maternal grandfather. He just happens to be the boss of the Asagi Clan, a branch of the yakuza (Japanese underworld). She’s the only female in a house of about a dozen men not use to having a woman under the same roof.
The volume opens with the Asagi Clan trying to catch a neighborhood panty thief. It appears Sachie has fallen victim to the fiend. It’s a comedy of errors as the henchmen try to solve this crime.
Next, Sachie wins a free weekend at a local hot spring resort. Grandfather fears for her safety, so he and his entourage accompany her. Grandfather’s instincts are on the money, Sachie is kidnapped while everyone is out enjoying the cherry blossoms. Rakuto Igarashi, her personal caretaker/bodyguard, has to find Sachie before anyone notices she’s missing.
The book actually reads like it’s the first volume of the series. Each character is introduced and their place in the household is explained to the reader. Also, the stories in this volume appear to be independent of anything in the previous two volumes. This makes it a great volume for anyone who wants to sample the series.
There are a few clichés in the book, but they’re handled with a deft touch and end up adding to the charm of the series. The biggest cliché is the standard comedic yakuza stereotype; tough guy on the outside, but hiding a gentle heart. The henchmen cry like babies at tear-jerkers on TV and enjoy schmaltzy traditional Japanese songs. Most of them are all brawn and are easily impressed with the smallest display of intellectual ability. They’re loyal to a fault and eager as puppies to show their loyalty to Sachie and her grandfather. Basically, they’re your typical likable mooks.
Sachie is a wonderful character, too. She’s trying to be your typical teenage girl in the midst of her unusual living circumstances. She’s cute, intelligent, and pretty easy-going. She seems to have adjusted well to living with her grandfather and the guys. However, she’s not all frills and lace. When she gets mad, she can be just as tough and aggressive as anyone else in the Asagi Clan.
As you can tell by the description, Wild Ones is a light, frothy read. There’s a healthy dose of Keystone Cops style humor throughout the book. This doesn’t mean it’s a pure comedy. It’s a shojo title, so there are elements of romance and drama. However, the mood of the series never gets too somber. When it appears things might getting too serious, Fujiwara is sure to throw in a couple of gags to lighten the mood.
Overall the artwork is very good. The character designs are well-done. The henchmen have a slightly gritty look, so they come across as being yakuza. In contrast, the two main characters, Sachie and Rakuto, are elegant and beautiful. However, where Fujiwara really stands out is in her superb page layouts. Her free flowing panels are gorgeous. In the entire book there are probably only five pages that follow a traditional grid format. The panels are as alive and playful as any of the characters. I was reminded of the innovative panel designs used by Ariyoshi Kyoko in her manga Swan. Once I finished reading the book I went back and just flipped through the pages admiring the page layouts. This book is a great example of comic book art freeing itself from the stifling influences of cinema and comic strips and becoming its own unique visual media.
Wild Ones is a fun read. It’s the perfect book to read when you want to rest your brain and have a good laugh. As a bonus, it’s a visually stunning book that will excite you about the possibilities of comic books as an art form.