Girls (or Shimotsuma Monogatari) began
as a light novel written by Lolita-clothes-loving
author Novala Takemoto, and would prove popular
enough to be made into a zanily charming Toho film
of the same name. As with many such popular properties,
inevitably a manga version of the story was also
released, more closely following the light novel's
plot with its own odd tweaks and additions. Unfortunately,
the manga version is easily the weakest telling
of the story yet, despite a sequel tale thrown in
for the fans.
As with the movie, Kamikaze Girls the manga
follows the story of Momoko, an anti-social teenage
girl who loves Sweet Loli clothing styles, and her
Odd-Couple relationship with Ichigo/Ichiko, a tough
biker girl of about the same age. Both girls are
social misfits, and it is through their cultural
rebellion that they find solidarity in a sometimes-hostile
world. The movie version efficiently trimmed the
excess fat from the novel, more effectively narrowing
the focus in on the girls' relationship and re-envisioning
several events from the novel to capitalize on building
their characters. It works. The manga version, however,
chops out so much of the story as to become nearly
incoherent at times.
The manga runs breakneck through the novel's plot
points, squeezing the story into a slim 80 pages.
The introduction to the heroines suffers especially;
while in the book Momoko sells fake Versace products,
which brings Ichigo to her door as a customer, the
manga simply tosses both girls on the road so that
they meet at random. Ichigo reacts like anyone meeting
a perfect stranger for the first time: she asks
Momoko to be her guide in helping her find a specific
embroidery shop in a town far away. Fortunately
for the plot, Momoko is randomly familiar with the
place, and the story lurches clumsily forward with
very little sense to weigh it down.
The most curious change made to the story involves
a redesign of Ichigo, who now inexplicably looks
like a boy. Momoko mistakes her for a man upon their
initial meeting, and she is drawn to look like a
sort of typical androgynous male manga anti-hero.
Thus, when Ichigo is suddenly called on to model
a Sweet Lolita costume just like in the novel, it's
exponentially more difficult to buy the transformation.
Still, by distilling the story to its bare essentials,
the Kamikaze Girls manga highlights the various
dramatic plot-points of the novel like an illustrated
Cliff-Notes version. Just don't read it to prepare
for a test.
A continuation of the story is also included in
the American manga release, this time focusing almost
exclusively on Ichigo, and her relationship with
a male ballet dancer who just happens to be the
twin brother of the man she "fell in love with"
in the novel. Because the story was written for
the manga, it doesn't feel as rushed as the novel
adaptation, but neither is it particularly interesting.
Momoko is completely incidental to the tale, and
the themes are a rehash of what was in the novel:
be yourself, chase your dreams, but do it passionately
with disregard to what anyone thinks. It's like
a bad Hollywood inspirational movie.
Curiously, the manga volume further shoehorns in
a third story that has nothing to do with Kamikaze
Girls. Instead, a selfish teenage girl named Ririka
seduces an adult male gigolo and manipulates him
into having a sexual relationship with her. To make
things worse, the man seems to be married while
all this is going on, although in the end it is
revealed that he has been divorced, which is apparently
a signal to the readers that it's okay. What's especially
idiotic is that, once the "shocking" relationship
is established, the author doesn't do anything with
it. It's pure moral-transgression fantasy with no
character interest and no real plot beyond "oh,
no, the teenage girl is going to have sex with a
married man!" Insulting junk.
All the stories are drawn by Yukio Kanesada, and
her art is uninspired. Character design is bland
and cliché, and backgrounds are nearly nonexistent
most of the time, with sparkly screentones taking
up the white space. Nothing special here at all,
and definitely nothing mirroring the visual creativity
of the movie.
Writing suffers as well, with awkward line translations
occasionally breaking up bland dialogue, and pop
culture references left unexplained. It's sloppy
work, but at least it doesn't interrupt the overall
mediocrity. This is pure vanilla folks, minus the
The best way to experience the story is through
the movie, and the novel is entertaining if badly
flawed, but Kamikaze Girls the manga crashes