Everything old is new again!
Here’s another old series that’s been resurrected for a new audience…the original shaped an entire genration of girls in the mid-80’s…hopefully the new iteration willl do the same!
Atarashii Hana no Asuka-gumi (The new Hana no Asuka-gumi) is one of several excellent manga series running currently in
Feel Young Comics monthly magazine. I’ve raved about this series before, and the plotlines and character relationships are very complex, so I’ll attempt to keep this short, but will probably fail. :-)
Kuraku Asuka is an uber-cool 14-year old girl who hangs out on the streets of
Shinjuku in Tokyo. Her best friends are the members of the local gang; the Shinjuku Omoteban or Outside Group, while Asuka herself was once part of the Uraban or Inside Council that runs all the gangs of Tokyo. The leader of the Zenchuu Uraban, or Central Inside Group…i.e., the folks in charge, known as Hibari-sama, once upon a time, had fallen in love with Asuka and named her “Minister of the Left,” an important post in the organization. But Asuka was in love with, and being manipulated by an older girl, Yohko, who was an outsider to the organization and quite sociopathic. Asuka rejected Hibari, Yohko ultimately died and the series ended after 37 volumes of manga (Asuka Comics,) 2 anime OVAs, three-seasons of a TV show, and half a dozen drama CDs. Now, Hana no Asuka-gumi is back and I think it’s worth following. For one thing, there was quite alot of yuri subtext, which became overt text in the original. The fact that it’s running in Feel Young, which is a josei manga magazine (for older female readers) gives me hope that there will be more subtext than ever. Certainly the world of Asuka is primarily a girl’s world – there are a few guys with minor roles, but that’s about it.
In mostly every arc, you can expect: lots of internecine rivalry between the area gangs and Asuka; Asuka rescuing a damsel in emotional and sometimes physical, distress; lots and lots of fighting; cool conspiracies as Hibari tries to either get Asuka back, or get revenge upon her.
The yuri subtext lies mainly in the two dysfunctional relationships Asuka has with Hibari and Yohko. Hibari (whose face we never see, and who carries a broken doll around) treats Asuka like a toy to be dressed up and, of course, undressed. In the original story, there was NO doubt that Hibari desired Asuka. In the end, it was on Hibari’s bed, as Hibari lay above her, that Asuka rejects Hibari and the Zenchuu Ura for the last time.
Yohko’s relationship with Asuka is a more complex. In some way, she does love Asuka, but her own twisted nature makes her unable to express it in any way, except by emotional manipulation. Yohko is *not* a nice person. Asuka openly tells Yohko twice that she loves her, but it only enrages Yohko. For the most part, the only way they can express their emotion is by fighting physically -at least this way they can touch each other. Yuuki (one of the few boys in the story) comments quite calmly to Yohko that its obvious that Asuka is really in love with her, so its not just me reading into it. :-)
And, for the record, he uses the word ai (love) not suki (like/love.)
Bear in mind that throughout this story. Asuka is 14 years old, with intimacy issues, while Yohko is 18 and a sociopath…there’s no way this relationship could work. :-)
Asuka is way too cool for her age, and her friends in the Omoteban are a blast: Miko (Yohko’s half sister) is whacked and funny; Hime is composed and beautiful in a way that *no* 13-year old ever is. :-) The New Asuka has brought back all of the old characters, including alot of the smaller roles, the area gang leaders, the women of the Ranjuku Detention Center, and all of the Zenchuu Ura, including the incredibly hunky Kazuga (Hibari’s Aide-de-camp.). So there are plenty of uber-cool women to watch for.
The new series seems to be post-Yohko, but I live in hope that she will appear, if only because every other arc in the entire Asuka universe had Yohko at the center of it.
The author has her own website which has downloads, games and other Asuka-related stuff. You can find that all at
Takaguchi.net, along with info on the author’s other popular series, some of which are yaoi.
Ratings: Art: 8 out of 10, the old series was a little cleaner than the new (but the new characters look more their age). Character: 10 out of 10. You don’t get better than Asuka! Story – 8 out of 10 for now, since the arc is developing slowly…. Yuri: 2 out of 10 so far – no Hibari/Asuka, no Yohko/Asuka…only the hint that Hibari has a new favorite. Overall – 7 out of 10.
And, as always, you’ll always be kept up to date on any new yuri-ness on the Yuricon Mailing List!