Wild Ones Book 3

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.

Wild Ones Book 3 cover
Wild Ones Book 3
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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.

5 Comments

  1. […] Reinhardt MacFarlaine checks out vol. 1 of Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro at Manga Life. Ed Sizemore reads vol. 3 of Wild Ones at Comics Worth Reading. Lissa Pattillo is both intrigued and appalled by vol. 2 of Sundome. Isaac […]

  2. Maybe it’s because I really don’t like frothy reads anymore, but it left me feeling lukewarm. I wish there was something more substantial coming in.

    I didn’t take much note of the panels. I read a lot of shojo, and “free-form” panels that are out of the norm aren’t that difficult to find. I do have to say she makes the panels very easy to read, however.

    Once again, the art didn’t impress me, probably because I’m a hardcore shoujo fan. It’s pretty, but that’s it. I don’t think there’s anything greatly notable.

    I’m sick and tired of the way the Yakuza is handled. I wish someone came in with something realistic. I mean, like, why would all the Yakuza be ugly but the main love interest so beautiful and cool? Why are they Yakuza anyone? How do they make their money?

    I don’t like gags that the mangaka throws out. They’re a bit pedestrian, nothing really…witty. Sachie has such a double personality that doesn’t feel like it fits with her other side, and I wouldn’t call her normal nor intelligent. She ran away, and Rakuta had to get her back. Why would she need him otherwise? And I’ve noticed this in shojo often, but Rakuta has nada personality, even more than Sachie.

    Maybe I should just give up on shojo…I feel bored by all the titles coming out now. I mean, it’s pleasant enough, if I just take it at face-value and don’t analyze using your brain too much, but where’s something really funny, really witty? Something really realistic? Something really dramatic? Something that pulls and tugs for the next volume? Something that simply doesn’t have any plot holes, even?

  3. Ed Sizemore

    Miki,

    Sorry, you found the book such a great disappointment.

    Since this series is a comedic romance, I wouldn’t expect it to be that realistic about the yakuza. I always take the genre into account when judging the merits of a book. It’s not fair to ask that this series be the manga equivalent of the Godfather, since that obviously isn’t the intention of the author. In fact, part of the comedy of this series is asking how Grandfather and his clan make any money given they seem to spend most of their day hanging around the house.

    I also wouldn’t discount Fujiwara’s artistry. When I point to her page composition, it isn’t because it’s novel, but because it’s well done. There are probably plenty of shojo artists that experiment with unstructured page layouts, but few who are actually adept at it. This seems to be Fujiwara’s greatest gift as a manga author and artist. I would love to see her paired with a writer that could provide material worthy of this talent.

    As Johanna can attest there are good shojo series, and she is more the expert than I. If you’re looking for something more substantive then perhaps you should be reading Nana or To Terra. Also, I think you’re frustration points the need for more josei series in America. Given the age range usually listed for shojo, you have to expect certain limitations in content and maturity.

    I suggest you write to Viz and other publishers and let them know the kind of manga you’re looking for. Publishers need to know there is a market for more mature manga and they can only know that if readers tell them what they want.

  4. Ed,
    Well written synopsis!
    So far, I have only read two authors whose art is anything noticeable: Masashi Kishimoto and Kiyo Fujiwara. I’ve looked at other manga and noticed that the hands or feet are nothing special, or maybe the profiles.
    I will agree with Miki on the subject of Rakuto having very little personality. He’s just a big sap, but what’s not to love about a sap? =)

  5. Ed Sizemore

    Nami,

    Thanks for the kind words. If you like to see the way hands are depicted, then I have to recommend Steve Ditko’s art. No one has more interesting hand gestures. His Doctor Strange work is perhaps the best in regards of hand poses.

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