Welcome to Shin Hana no Asuka-gumi.
Asuka has returned from America, eighteen years in real time, and about 3 months later manga time. And immediately weird stuff begins to happen. Strange markings are being drawn upon people, things and buildings around Tokyo. The Area Masters, the leaders of the gangs in each section of Tokyo, are hearing strange whisperings about Hibari’s new favorite, and about a possible takeover of power among themselves. And in the middle of all this, Asuka strolls in, with her studied nonchalance, and hyper-mad gang fightin’ skillz, and basically turns everyone on their heads.
There’s lots of girls fighting, and gang leaders waxing philisophic and world-weary, and a lots and lots of…cell phones.
Yes, in the three months and two decades Asuka has been gone, cell phones have taken over the lives of the girls of Tokyo – including the girl gangs. In fact, my clearest memory of Volume 1 is Miko screaming at Asuka because she never remembers to take her cell phone with her. :-)
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I adore the girl gang manga series of the 80’s. And I, along with a multitude of middle-aged women, adore the fact that Asuka is back on the streets of Shinjuku, moving the Area Masters and their gangs around like pieces on a chessboard.
That’s all the good. The bad is that this manga had a rocky start, and took a while to find a magazine to call home (it ended up in Feel Young, the same magazine that carries Yamaji Ebine’s work,) so the first volume is a bit inconsistent, and a little unfocused. The art is actually not quite as tight as the original manga – I’m sure it’s because Takaguchi has all new assistants these days, and after all, she hasn’t drawn Asuka for nearly twenty years. And lastly…and this is the real killer for me…Hibari has gone off uniforms and is into Goth-Loli now. Isn’t that dreadful??? I mean – Kasuga in a uniform was one of the highlights of the original manga!
Anyway – this is one of those manga in which the *main* cast numbers in the dozens, so I won’t even really bother trying to explain who is who and what is what. I will say that the standard tropes of Asuka remain consistant – damsel in distress that Asuka saves only to draw her into a tangled web of internecine gang warfare and politics within the Zenchuu Ura headquarters, and possible threats from the HQ enforcers, and Miko yelling at Asuka, and Hime being *way* too cool and together for a 13-year old. Okay, maybe 14 now.
There is one more thing that is not so good about this volume, but there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it. Yohko is still dead. In fact, Yohko isn’t even mentioned, which bums me right out the door. But in the current chapters, the plot is a-thickening and I hold out hopes that something yuri-ish this way comes. For now – its a bust.
Art – 6
Story – 6
Characters – 8
Yuri – 1 (but only because of Asuka’s natural animal magnetism)
Loser MiddleAgedFanWomen – 8
Overall – 6, unless you’re one of the LMAFW above then 8, dammit.
Girl gangs fighting in the streets of Tokyo – now that’s the Japan I wanna see!