Monday, 15 June 2015

Manga opinion #1 - Arigatou

Arigatou by Naoki Yamamoto (1994-1995)

I think the opening could have benefitted from a little introduction chapter, a "calm before the storm".
The ending was disappointing - to be plain, it was bad, really bad.
Casually introducing a couple whose romance wasn't fully developed or in stupider cases like this one not even developed at all (see also: Elfen Lied manga, Naruto, NARUTARO) having a baby is an unforgivable offence in itself. But having the most ego-centered character I've ever witnessed give birth is just abominable. The worst possible mother (You're hungry, baby? Well too bad, cause you're NOT ME. But your crying is annoying, so DO get out of my face!) should not have a baby at all for that reason alone.
One has to wonder how she even introduced herself to her new family. I bet it was something like "Well my family split up and there's only two guys I could stay with, the bug (who I never really cared about but tossed a pity fuck, because, why not) or the violent, psychopathic fat guy from the earlier plot who's really good at fucking. Meh, either way is fine." The splitting up part, while justified in-universe, made really no sense whatsoever. Could Shokou ever live completely alone? She's coming to the last reunion on her own, so she probably (especially after her earlier experiences) doesn't have a boyfriend. She was never shown to have friends (only the opposite). She calls her sister ONCE a year. But she can, after not even being able to leave the house, all of a sudden get her life back on track and go to college? If that's what happens, author, at least SHOW US, otherwise it's just bullshit you pulled out of nothing. The father doesn't go to Russia to work the job he has already accepted? What? But he still survives without a home or job for years? Huh? Laziness much?!
Takako is really a case of underdevelopment and laziness. First of all, her entire life consists of violently reacting to harassment, being annoyed by her mother and especially father - and sex stuff. She is never shown having interests, hobbies, dreams, plans. That could make for a very unique and interesting character, of course, but like I said, the development is simply not there, with the author rather going for a LOT of repetition in her facial expressions and behavior. Since the mangaka had done more than a dozen works before, this is not just a beginner's fault, sadly.
Second, Takako has no emotional connection to any other person, ever. Her only friend is quickly discarded (from the plot as well), her mother is really not a likeable being in any way, her father is really not much more than a lunatic. But the fact there is no relationship with her older sister either is once again extremely jarring and unrealistic. If there was something that tore them apart after early childhood (they seem cheerful in the car ride in the last chapter), it has to be shown. Akiko (or Shokou? - the fanlation wasn't consistent on that) has been heavily traumatized and there is not a single instance of her sister comforting or hugging her (again, compare with Narutaro. In some respects, Shiina is very similar to Takako). If Takako was really THAT unable to relate to any other person, it would be called out by other characters in the story. The same really can be said about Shokou too, there is never any attempt on her side to BE comforted. The mother is a drunk and the father a crazy man, so there IS only each other's sister to hold on to. And this story isn't intended as some shonen thingy where realistic emotions don't play a part. Showing emotional impacts on the characters again and again, and on the other hand having things don't add up left and right is simply unforgivable. To sum things up, the couple out of nowhere shitting out of a baby in the last chapter is always something really insulting, but in this case it contradicts the story so much it's beyond atrocious.
The drawing style is solid and detailed. Takako's room is deliberately decorated in a childish way. I found the mutant-like faces of some rowdies and cult people hilarious. Sometimes I couldn't tell the sex of a character (Takako's friend) or characters apart, and there is some inconsistency with e.g. Takako's height (she looks like she's maybe 10 in some shots) and the way Shokou's face looks. Never mind the chapter title drawings, they are just stupid fanservice, cause if they were meant to symbolize that the 2 girls were stripped bare psychologically, that sure didn't happen.
The father's pathetic death in the end is also lessening the manga. If anything, he should spit in their faces from converting him from a successful businessman (flashback) to a lunatic and sick moron in the timespan of a single year. Having a dysfunctional family like that literally robbed him of his life. (Maybe killing Takako and then committing suicide WOULD have been the right choice on his part...) Arigatou my ass, and that's really the perfect summary of this manga.
Summary: Even if the abovementioned flaws and idiocies wouldn't occur, the manga's spectrum would really have had to be broadened a lot more to create a top tier work. There's no sense of wonder here like in Narutaro, which, despite its piling up flaws and plotholes, is a magical work akin to experiencing a dream; the psychological exploration of the characters, while clearly attempted, was just not developed enough.

On the plus side, this manga was very daring and explicit with its sexual stuff (probably the part that was intended to draw people into reading this), but even that was pretty much dropped in the second half.
Not recommendable.

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