A great antidote for kawaii-fatigue.
“Kyaa! Sempai is so cool!” Is NOT sentence you will find in Tokyo Crazy Paradise, believe me I’ve read it a couple of times. (Cue a load of smart-ass comments linking me to a page where it’s said in a background character’s stupidly small speech-bubble). TCP is set in the not too distant future in a Tokyo that has long-since gone to hell in a hand-basket, gangs and thugs rule the street, corruption is rife and nobody puts themselves out to help a stranger – least of all a woman being attacked. So all in all it’s not surprising that Tsukasa’s policemen parents have decided to raise her as a boy, but they’re both killed and she and her brothers are thrown out onto the streets by their landlandy; desperate she goes to a classmate for help, Ryuu. But, Ryuu just happens to be the youngest ever head of the Kuryugumi – the largest Yakuza group in the Kansai region, so when Tsukasa’s brother’s manage to ring up a massive debt “he” needs to work it off, as Ryuu’s bodyguard.
For the first few chapters a very big part of me was wondering if this was a shounen and not a shoujo, lack of kawaii-factor, the lead wasn’t powerless, the plot isn’t really romance-centric (there is some romance later on in the story, but it never really takes over from the main plot). There are a lot of car-chases, blood and gore, explosions, power-politics, drugs with weird effects – so no classic shoujo-fodder. It’s not really angsty, it does have those moments (hey, the main cast is made up of teenagers in the criminal underworld) and does have some wonderful moments of slapstick humour and general visual comedy. It’s nice to not have cutesy, pink, bubbly optimism shoved in my face because I’m a girl and we’re supposed to be into that kind of thing.
The plot for the first volume or so is a little episodic and in places repetitive, but then all of a sudden it seems as though Nakamura-sensei has been given the all-clear for the series and suddenly starts building up the main plot-arc – which of course means things all of a sudden get really interesting. It ran for 19 volumes, so inevitably there are a couple of chapters we could do without (the school-trip and Christmas mini story-arcs spring to mind), this happens in manga quite a lot because the artist needs to produce a chapter a month/fortnight/week depending on the magazine, so you do get filler whilst the mangaka’s busy plotting the main story. Filler notwithstanding, the story does eventually build up and crescendo in an awesome finale, which randomly peters away to one of the most annoying final panels to an amazing story I’ve ever seen in a series.
4 out of 5, because of stupid final panels and filler – thou shalt not mess with a cheated reader. Nevertheless, I still highly recommend reading this because it’s just good, clean fun and the artwork only gets better as it goes along. It’s the equivalent to sitting down on a Saturday afternoon with Spiderman (the first one, the other two are uninspiring), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or X-Men (any of them are good).
Stay tuned folks!