Kamikaze Girls
 Novala Takemoto
Pencils: Yukio Kanesada Inks: -
Language: English Release: 2006
Publisher: Viz Pages: 208
Colors: - Cover: Yukio Kanesada
Monster Appearances: Aliens, SDF, & Misc Appearances:
None None
Nicholas Driscoll

Kamikaze 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 sweet taste.

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 and burns.