Yuri Manga: New Hana no Asuka-gumi, Volume 5

June 4th, 2007

Today’s review is a total wank. I’m reviewing Hana no Asuka-gumi, Volume 5, not for its awesome relevance to our mutual interest, but as a way of gloating about something so stupid that you’ll all roll your eyes when I finally get there. Just be warned. ^_^

In the past I have mentioned Hana no Asuka-gumi as one of the three great gang girl manga series, along with Sukeban Deka and YajiKita Gakuen Douchuuki. The story was ridiculously complex, with a vast, multitiered organization that ran all the girl gangs of Tokyo, and included things like underground labyrinths and all-city gang wars. And the focus of it all was high school student Kuraku Asuka, with one of the most dysfunctional Yuri love stories to ever span the pages of a manga.

In 2003 the series, which had been out of print for 18 years, came back with a whole new manga. Asuka, having returned to Tokyo after a visit to the US, is immediately embroiled in more shenanigans with Hibari-sama’s lackeys. This time, mysterious marks signifying *something* to *someone* appeared on people and places and in the end they’re all out to kick Asuka’s ass…again. ^_^

This time, at least part of the war is clothed in the veneer of “whoever defeats Asuka gets to be the new ‘Minister of the Left'” – the cherished position of strategic advisor at the side of the apparently charismatic and obviously cracked Hibari-sama. The contenders for the title are Mari, one of Hibari’s own shadow warriors/lookalikes and Nene, the 11-year old Area Master for Chiyoda-ku and the keeper of the seal that commands the The Oni – the enforcers of the Hibari SS organization.

…I know…that cleared everything up, right? ^_^

The point I’m making is that once again, everyone who is not Asuka’s ally is Asuka’s enemy, and we spend a lot of the manga running around fighting…and talking about what’s going on. For a fighting manga series, there’s a LOT of talking.

And this is no easy read, mind you. Aside from the constant military and slang terms, there’s just a sense of “huh? what the heck are they talking about?” that I can’t quite ever put my finger on. I constantly feel like there’s an explanation for Hibari’s commands just out of my reach of comprehension.

The new series has been less Yuri in regards to Asuka, primarily because Asuka’s main love interest, Yohko, died in the original series. But hold on to this concept, because we’ll be back to it in a sec.

Although she is a lone wolf, Asuka *always* has at least one damsel in distress tagging along. In this new series, she has two: Serena, the more typical damsel who is being bullied by her peers and; Kiho, the completely atypical tough girl who is being groomed (e.g., she ends up fighting alot) to take over as an Area Master. Kiho is actually pretty cool, so when she ends up being given the Chiyoda-ku area and Nene and Sessho (Nene’s acting regent) step down, it’s kind of a shock, but in a good way.

In the meantime, I have developed an unshakeable belief that two of the tertiary charcters, Kiryuu and Fusako, are a couple. Kiryuu used to be an Area Master, but she retired long ago to be the head of an “outside group” – a group not within the Zenchuu Ura. Fusako, on the other hand, is also known by the name Bara no Miya, and she has been Hibari’s “Minister of the Right” – one of Hibari’s close advisors – and has headed up the Hibari SS (“SS” stands for something like advisory council, nothing to do with stormtroopers.) In other words, she’s as much Hibari’s girl as one can be in the organization. Fusako is also one of the few members of the Zenchuu Ura that could always kick Asuka’s ass. I can’t tell you why exactly, but I’m convinced that Fusako and Kiryuu are a couple. Well, I could, but it would be lots of teeny things that won’t mean anything to you unless you read the series. You’ll just have to trust me. ^_^

But none of this is why I am reviewing this manga today. I am reviewing it because of this: In Volume 5, something I wrote in a Hana no Asuka-gumi Fanfic actually happens. Now, that’s really no big deal. I make it a point to try and stay in character when I write fanfic…or at least write the characters in a way that’s plausible, unless it’s total crackfic. But in this case, I did something sort of odd, even though I thought it completely plausible. I had the dead Yohko talk to Asuka in her head. Imagine my complete surprise, nay, shock when I started reading the chapter in Feel Young magazine and dead Yohko started talking in Asuka’s head! I think my reaction was something like this:

“Oh. My. God.”

/still pause/

“Oh. My. &^$!ing good god.”

/Me holds the book up and suddenly breaks out into a spastic dance of hysterical fangirly joy./

P.S., I wrote the story years before the new series ever began.

To make it all better, Miko’s reaction to Asuka’s confession that dead Yohko is talking to her practically came out exactly the same as in my story too. So, hey, maybe Takeguchi-sensei plagiarized my story. (I’m not being serious – and, even if she did, FINE.)

Anyway. How’s that for a total wanker reason to review a manga, huh? ^_^

So here we are, Asuka’s still gaga over Yohko, dead as she is, and dragging around a bunch of girls who need rescuing from time to time. Fusako and Kiryuu are together a lot more than mere friendship can account for and Hibari…well, Hibari’s obsession with Asuka is legendary and Yuri-riffic. (Asuka last repudiates Hibari on Hibari’s bed, from underneath Hibari. You do the math.)

Art – 7
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Yuri – 3
Service for MiddleAgedFanWomen – 27

Overall – 8

God, I *love* this series! Cannot wait to see how the new Ranjuku Detention Center arc pans out….

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