Rokudou no Onna-tachi: When Krillin Wins

In 2016, I found out about Rokudou no Onna-tachi, a new manga that was a fresh and interesting take on the well-worn harem genre. As I continued, my opinion of it only grew. Even now, I find myself regarding Rokudo no Onna-tachi more highly than ever. There are many aspects of this series that contribute to its success, but fundamental to all of it is the portrayal of its protagonist, Rokudou Tousuke, as a true underdog. In a sense, he’s the Krillin of the series, but Rokudou no Onna-tachi is a story where Krillin is the main character, and he succeeds because he’s not the strongest, or the toughest, or the smartest.

To recap, Rokudo no Onna-tachi is about Rokudou Tousuke, a meek high school kid who casts a spell on himself to be more popular with girls. However, what he didn’t know was that the spell was very specific: it only attracts delinquents and “bad girls.” Most notable among them is Himawari Ranna, the strongest and most terrifying brawler in town. It turns out that bullies are a lot friendlier when your ostensible girlfriend can shatter concrete with her fists, but Rokudou is the last person to want to encourage violence, so he actively tries to prevent Ranna from sending every person they meet to the hospital. Along the way, Rokudou manages to befriend an eclectic group of people and through a combination of friendship, guts, and kindness, accidentally becomes the “shadow boss” of his school.

I call Rokudou no Onna-tachi a delinquent harem work, but it leans much more toward the former descriptor than the latter, and I think the series is all the better for it. While there is a romantic aspect of sorts, as the series has progressed, a majority of the focus has been on Rokudou’s shounen protagonist-esque ability to win over his antagonizers with or without the attraction spell (which he can’t get rid of, no matter how hard he tries). And even when it comes to the delinquent girls who fall head over heels for him. What’s more, “being hot to bad girls” doesn’t give him much of a leg up in a fight, so his ability to stand up to bigger and bigger threats speaks more to his qualities as a human being than anything else.

And yet, while romance doesn’t define the series, the central relationship between Rokudou and Ranna is still interesting and vitally important the tone of the narrative. If Rokudou is indeed a Krillin, that sort of makes Ranna the Android 18 of this story, in that she’s the more powerful of the two. However, her role is arguably closer to that of Goku, or even Saitama in One Punch Man. She’s an unstoppable force in a fight, and many physical conflicts in Rokudo no Onna-tachi are a matter of anticipating the carnage to come as soon as she gets where she needs to be. She’s not a heroine with a tragic backstory or a brash amazon with a hidden soft side, and even those moments of loving infatuation toward Rokudou humorously highlight a central tenet of Ranna’s being: violence is everything. That dynamic of contrasting personalities between Rokudou and Ranna fuel both the comedic and the dramatic parts of the manga, and it’s all the better for it.

If Rokudou no Onna-tachi had just stuck to pure silliness, making jokes about how an endless parade of nasty girls were getting googly-eyed over a tiny loser, then it would have worn out its welcome far too quickly. But if it had swung too deep into the serious and dramatic, then I believe it would have had a harder time standing out from the pact. It’s because Rokudou can be portrayed as this unlikely hero, and that the series can swing between silly and serious so effectively by using his constantly being out of his depth, that the manga is such a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

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In Defense of Jiren

The Dragon Ball franchise is famous for many things, and one of them is its gallery of iconic antagonists. Piccolo, Vegeta, Freeza, and Cell are some of the big names Goku has faced over the years, and they each make a lasting impression. The recent Dragon Ball Super series introduced a major antagonist in its multiversal “Tournament of Power” arc, a mighty warrior from another universe named Jiren. But unlike the others, Jiren is considered by many fans to be a disappointingly generic villain. It’s an argument I can see, but in the end one I don’t quite agree with.

Indeed, if you take Jiren as a villain, he seems to just be generic in his obsession with power and sacrifice–just another big body for Goku to overcome. However, this approach to Jiren’s character isn’t quite accurate: Jiren may be opposing Goku, but he’s not a villain. He’s a hero of his own world, one he presumably has defended from threats comparable to the ones Goku has faced, and he gained his power through the circumstances and decisions that comprise Jiren’s experience.

The crucial difference between Goku and Jiren is that the latter’s life is full of pain and loss that made him choose a life of isolation and rejection. Where Goku would defeat and befriend those he faced, Jiren would destroy. Where Goku attains power for self-improvement and new experiences (i.e. fight stronger opponents), Jiren does it almost out of a sense of obligation or duty. Where Goku is goofy, Jiren is dead serious. What Goku has to overcome when fighting Jiren is not some evil machinations or even a chaotic force like Majin Buu, but a different in philosophy borne from a universe that did not have a Goku.

Put another way, Jiren could have been the protagonist of his own anime or manga, one where suffering and cynicism dominate. Perhaps you can think of a couple of titles that fit the bill. But just like how Goku embodies certain values as the core of Dragon Ball, Jiren would be the center of his own narrative and all that such a scenario entails.

So Jiren might come across as “uninteresting,” and he might not necessarily be as compelling a foe as the most well-known villains of Dragon Ball, but he acts as a different kind of foil. If ever he shows up again, there’s plenty of room to explore his character.

Oh My God, Becky, Look at His Hands: Teasobi

One of my favorite manga in recent memory has been Mogusa-san by Ootake Toshitomo, about a girl with an unstoppable appetite. Its sequel, Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite, concluded last year, leaving me to wonder where I might see Ootake show up next. The answer is his brand-new series: Teasobi, or “Hand Play.”

Plain-looking Shijima “Shijimi” Nagisuke seems an unlikely boyfriend for the attractive and popular Fuchizumi, but she sure doesn’t see it that way. After all, in her eyes, he’s gorgeous and manly—or at least his hands are. That’s right: Fuchizumi is really, really into hands and fingers, to the extent that Shijima’s not sure if she even sees him from the wrists up.

To a degree, Teasobi resembles Mogusa-san—a normal guy, an eccentric girl, and a strange connection between the two. However, it actually reminds me more of the bizarre romance manga that I’m rather fond of, series that focus on the idea that a unique bond between two individuals is somehow deeper, more powerful, and more sensual than just a normal physical relationship. Think Nozoki Ana (centered around a peephole), Sundome (about avoiding climax), and one of my absolute favorites, Mysterious Girlfriend X (features literal spit swapping).

But whereas those series all delve into the sensual in graphic or at least eyebrow-raising ways, what sets Teasobi apart is that it’s focused on that most seemingly innocent of loving interactions: hand-holding. There’s nothing rated X about the physical contact between Shijima and Fuchizumi, which ranges from clasping fingers to thumb wrestling to high fives, but Fuchizumi’s enthusiasm makes it seem somehow more taboo. It’s fun, silly, and a bit thrilling.

Only a few chapters are currently out in Japan, but I’m definitely enjoying Teasobi. It brings a new meaning to the concept of “secret handshakes.”

An Odd Fusion: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 13

The club finally comes together, sort of. What lies ahead is to find a common goal!

Summary

With Shion joining in and Mimi-sensei as their advisor, the Chorus Club is officially formed! …Except technically, they’re an appreciation society, one step below a true school club in terms of legitimacy. So the Chorus Appreciation Society doesn’t even have access to the music room.

On top of that, to keep Shinji in the group, the Chorus Appreciation Society’s members all join his Mountain Castle Appreciation Society…but with one exception: Shion refuses because she doesn’t care about that sort of thing. In order to make everyone happy, two sideline spectators decide to join Shinji: Hasegawa–first name Kozue–and her previously unnamed friend, Katou Kanon.

Even the “appreciation society” status is tenuous, so Mimi-sensei suggests that they get some results by entering the MHK Chorus Concours (aka M-Con). While Jin doesn’t really care one way or another about it (there are separate competitions throughout the year, so it’s not like one big tournament, baseball-style), Akira actually does, to everyone’s surprise. He can notice how unpracticed and limited he is, and he wants to improve. His quiet enthusiasm manages to convince everyone else, so they agree to try. The only problem, as Mimi-sensei points out, is that the deadline for submitting songs is today!

Katou Kanon

At last, we have a name! A couple of chapters ago, I had to write about her interactions with the other characters, and I kept having to say “Hasegawa’s friend” and the like while hoping it wouldn’t seem awkward. Thankfully, that’s finally over–and Hasegawa got a first name too! This certainly isn’t the first time that a manga, let alone a Kio Shimoku manga, has withheld character names until later. The bully trio in Eyeshield 21 took forever and a half to get names, and Asada Naoko in Genshiken was known for the longest time as either “Nyaako” or “cat-mouth girl.” At least Kanon got her name revealed in the original manga, and fans didn’t have to suss out Asada’s name in one of the anime’s episode credits!

In any case, this probably means Kanon is going to be a more prominent character. Still, I wonder how often are the Kanons of the world are just background characters who happen to fall into more involved roles, and how often that’s planned well in advance.

Chimera Clubs

I’m quite fond of the trope where two clubs with insufficient members have to join together to stay alive. It was fun in Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, and while a group that discusses mountain castles isn’t as absurd as a napping society, I’m confident Hashikko Ensemble will make it entertaining. I do hope we get to see them visit a castle at some point in the story–maybe as part of a training camp?

As for why they have be an Appreciation Societies, it’s rather telling to me that the real reason is basically a transfer of burden. According to the Wood Ensemble Club’s advisor, Ochi-sensei, it took them forever to get that coveted “club” status, so Mimi’s new club should have to go through a similar ordeal. In a way, it’s like an extremely light form of hazing that you’d see elsewhere–earning your place and all that–only applied on a slightly broader scale.

Where Do Their Motivations Lie?

Jin’s initial rejection of M-Con is one thing, but his reasoning for agreeing provides even more insight into his mind. He cares little for competitions, but the sheer amount of singing a group has to go through to even get ready for one is more or less his idea of paradise. To him, the actual recital portion is just icing on the cake. In other words, here you have a guy who just loves singing for the sake of singing.

But on the flipside, I’m not sure how much Akira is motivated by a simple desire to improve and how much he’s being influenced by guilt. As shown in the chapter, Akira still remembers being in middle school and only pretending to sing, and he still feels pretty bad about it. He’s slowly learning to embrace his extremely deep voice thanks to all his singing, but I wonder if he’ll grow to appreciate music and singing all on their own.

Music

Continuing from last chapter, Akira and Jin continue to sing “Kanade” by Sukima Switch. While that particular song has been featured multiple times throughout the manga so far, it’s interesting to note the part that’s highlighted in Chapter 12.

君が僕の前に現れた日から
何もかもが違くみえたんだ
朝も光も涙も、歌う声も
君が輝きをくれたんだ

Ever since the day you appeared before me
I see everything differently
Morning, light, tears, even a singing voice
You gave me your shining brilliance

In other words, the lyrics of “Kanade” pretty much set the theme for all of Hashikko Ensemble.

Final Thoughts

Two last things, each about a different character:

The more I see Kurata Shion, the more I realize that she’s a ponkotsu character–essentially someone who seems capable on the surface but is really a comedic wreck. Just about everything she does in this chapter makes me laugh, from her goofy face while playing piano to her innocently mentioning how lacking Akira’s singing is without realizing how tactless she’s being.

Orihara appears in this chapter to talk about how he won’t do any dumb songs (which means he’ll do them if they’re not dumb). When I see him talking, I picture a specific voice in my head: Jotaro from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. If ever there’s an anime adaptation of Hashikko Ensemble, I hope they get Ono Daisuke.

The Fujoshi Files 183: Mapi Mapi’s Friend

Name: N/A
Alias: Mapi Mapi’s Friend (まぴまぴの友達)
Relationship Status: N/A
Origin: Happy Fujoshi: Watashi no Tomodachi

This fujoshi is a friend of the manga’s author Mapi Mapi, and goes shopping with her for otaku and non-otaku goods. Once, she tried to make friends with an unseen stranger she heard doing anime karaoke, but forgot to put away her graphic doujinshi first.

She is also a fan of Prince of Tennis, including the Prince of Tennis musical.

Fujoshi Level:
When asked if inserting herself into a doujinshi is okay, she mentions that it’s a big no-no because the character in question should be gay and would never marry a girl.

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Hands-On Experience: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 12

Kurata Shion’s history with piano and some lewd humor make up Chapter 12 of Hashikko Ensemble.

Summary

The chapter begins with Mimi-sensei recalling her past. Growing up shy due to her large chest, she was inspired by a high school teacher to go into teaching herself. Unfortunately, her students treat her more like a friend than an authority figure, leaving her unconfident.

Shion tells the classroom about her own history. Encouraged to learn the piano from a young age by her mom, she eventually developed a form of tendonitis. When she suggested to her mom that she wanted to quit, her mother’s response was that Shion has no ability otherwise—if she stops playing, she’ll have nothing left.

Jin figures out that Shion was taught poor form—a byproduct of being coached by her inexperienced mom. This lines up with everything else we know about Shion: she uses too much force for everything, whether it’s sawing or playing piano. The conversation gets heated, especially because Shion discusses quitting the school due to her seeming inability to learn how to let up on her grip.

Oumi-sensei steps in to try and convey to Shion that there’s more to Hashimoto Tech than just learning trade skills, that it’s about having new human experiences. Mimi-sensei feels the spirit of her old teacher inspiring her, so she offers herself as an open ear. Shion immediately squanders this good faith by asking for a smartphone, to which Mimi responds, “Why don’t you ask your mom?”

Shion leaves, childishly frustrated at Mimi’s response, but accidentally trips and lands with her hands on Mimi’s chest. However, squeezing them and alternating her grip strength helps her figure out what it means to have a gentle touch. Excitedly, she runs to the woodshop classroom to demonstrate her suddenly improved sawing technique. Jin then asks her to try and play piano, and using that chesty eureka moment, Shion applies her new lighter touch to the ivory as well. The Chorus Club has their pianist now.

Poor Mimi-chan

I feel for Mimi, especially how she doesn’t seem to be treated seriously as an adult. Even her heartfelt recollection of how she became a teacher was a setup for a boob joke.However, I like how this chapter revealed that she actually has a tiny bit of an edge when Shion asks her about getting a smartphone. The way the page is framed, with each of them equally prominent in separate panels, makes Mimi’s response feel immediate and somewhat terse while still conveying her generally gentle demeanor.

The Road to Hell

Shion’s past is yet another instance of conflict between parent and child, but unlike Orihara’s situation of neglect, it involves a mom with good intentions. Shion’s case is when a general approach to life (work harder!) fails to take into account the particular needs or feelings of an individual. The fact that her mom actually suggests that Shion has nothing without piano is an all-too-real sentiment from a loving but perhaps overbearing parent, and on some level I can empathize with Shion’s situation more than any other character so far. It also makes me wonder if Kio Shimoku is laying a general criticism towards parents in Japan and the different ways they can negatively impact their children’s lives. As a father himself, perhaps he’s also warning himself—like a reminder to never forget what it was like to be that age.

Because Hashimoto Tech is a vocational school, it brings to the foreground the notion that these are kids on the cusp of becoming adults. For Shion, there’s also the question of what happens when one’s passion or hobby is tied to one’s career. At one point, she reveals that she always assumed a dislike of piano meant a dislike of music in general, and it’s a window into how all the different elements involved with her starting and giving up playing are jumbled together. Decoupling them is one of the outcomes of this chapter.

Talent vs. Hard Work

The question of whether hard work can compete with talent comes up while the class is discussing Shion’s situation. We know Shion’s opinion on this—that hard work can’t compete. Jin disagrees, but what’s especially curious is that Jin doesn’t see himself as talented. The question is if his incredible vocal skills is indeed a product of constant striving, or if he’s comparing himself to some kind of titan. The fact that Jin expresses empathy with Shion growing up with an overbearing mom might say it all.

Songs

Once again, “Kanade” by Sukima Switch. It’s the song Shion plays.

Final Thoughts

When Shion accidentally trips and is about to fall, Hasegawa (the judo girl) rushes to save her but then accidentally bumps into Akira. If you look closely, Hasegawa was behind the teacher’s lectern a moment before. Either this was a mistake, or she actually slid over the lectern to get there in time.

Also, she likes puns.

Basically, Hasegawa’s awesome.

They’re all awesome.

Dreams Before Harems: Why I Like “We Never Learn”

We Never Learn is a popular harem manga currently running in Weekly Shonen Jump, and one I actually like a good deal. With the anime debuting next season, I’ve been thinking about why I’m fond of this particular series over other similar works, and I realized something. While We Never Learn is indeed a harem series, and thus shipping is ostensibly an important factor for enjoying the series, I find that I don’t actually care about pairings at all, and this makes the series better for me.

Because the anime is coming out this season, I’m going to make this post as spoiler-free as possible. Actually, I don’t even think I need spoilers to explain my point, so it works out.

The basic plot of We Never Learn has high school boy Yuiga Nariyuki tasked with tutoring two of the smartest girls in school. However, while Furuhashi Fumino is a genius of literature and the arts, and Ogata Rizu is a math and science wizard, their respective dreams are to go to college in their worst subjects instead. Along the way, other girls join the cast, and the close calls with Nariyuki never stop, in typical harem fashion.

One thing clear from the start is that each character has their own goals they want to reach. Sparks fly and fanservice abounds, but their attractiveness doesn’t define who they are as people. Moreover, they’re all supportive of one another, and this makes it a refreshing experience.

Nariyuki could end up with anyone, or no one. Any of the girls could end up with each other. Perhaps they might all marry random, unrelated characters. To me, none of it truly matters, because I want all of them to succeed in ways beyond relationship success. While the girls and their cuteness is a major part of We Never Learn, you want to see these girls achieve their dreams as they try to overcome genius with hard work in a Rock Lee-esque way. The fact that the geniuses they’re to beat are themselves makes it all the greater.