Alice on Deadlines Manga, Volume 1

January 30th, 2009

Can sexual harrassment ever really be “funny?” That is the question I asked myself as I picked up the first volume of Alice on Deadlines. As the pages piled mortification upon embarrassment, I began to suspect that, for me the answer would always be “no.” As with so many things though, as I thought about it, I came up with the somewhat different answer of “it depends.”

The manga itself is a pretty standard pervy-guy-perves-on-women-who-can’t-stop-him storyline, attached to the vaguely overused plot complication of a Shinigami sent to earth to complete some important task that must be done before he can move on/graduate/reincarnate/get off probation/something else.

Lapan is a slacker Shinigami who would prefer to spend his time reading porn than doing his job. His boss sends him to earth to accomplish a really important task to get back in his good graces. To punish Lapan for his slacker ways, he’s meant to be incarnated into a skeleton but…for reasons which we will call a ‘lame plot complication,’ he is instead incarnated into the body of a young girl, Alice, while she is displaced into the body of the skeleton.

Lapan immediately abuses Alice’s position as beloved idol of her all-girl school, sexually harrassing and molesting Alice’s fans, and Alice’s own body. As with Your and My Secret, Lapan is in no rush to switch back, so poor Alice is stuck in the role of skeleton-shaped boke, to a her own body-shaped tsukkomi, in a not terribly funny manzai routine. (For pretty funny manzai, I recommend watching Sean Gaffney and I nightly on IRC. We’ve got the routine down pretty well these days – I even slap him around a bit for effect. ^_^)

By about halfway through Alice, my progress through the story was positively glacial, because it just wasn’t making me a happy camper. And I began to think about the question that has come to me over and over as I read what passes for “comedy” in manga. Can sexual harrassment be funny? No, I said, and I meant it. (A small Lewis Carroll reference, in honor of his just-passed birthday.) But…why? Why can I read Ikkitousen or Ultra Sword and have absolutely *no* issue whatsoever with it, yet this kind of manga – which isn’t 1/1000th as offensive and violent as Ultra Sword – makes me want to stab something?

It came to me after a little thought – the issue is one of *power.* As anyone knows who has ever studied anything about sexual violence knows, the crime is not a crime of sex, but one of power. The criminal seeks to impress upon the victim that they are the one with the power and can therefore take away any and all power the victim might otherwise have.

Likewise, in manga where a character is endlessly sexually harrassing other characters, it becomes a fact that they hold the power in the relationship, since the harrassed character(s) *cannot* put a stop to it. (This is avoiding the issue of plot contrivances in which the harrassed character(s) *does* not want to put a stop to it. That’s a whole different rant.)

Put simply – the characters in Ikkitousen *do not care* that their clothes have just exploded off their bodies, or their underwear is exposed. They are annoyed, perhaps angry, and they go about showing their displeasure by establishing their complete dominance over the perpetrator. What they do, of course, is beat the bad guys flat. In Ultra Sword, the sexual molestation doesn’t stop the characters from beating the living daylights out of the bad guys. They are not disempowered by the actions of the molesters. In fact, they are *empowered* by the actions of the molesters, and subsequently adminster a violent – sometimes fatal – lesson in why hurting people is BAD.

But, in Alice physical, and in Mariaholic emotional, abuse actually robs the victim of something. They are disempowered, damaged, broken. Their pride, their world, their whole lives are taken away from them. That is true in real abuse, of course, and is very hard for me to tolerate as entertainment in any way. Especially not as “comedy.”

Which brings me back to this volume. Having learned this about myself, I turned back to the book, hoping to cope better with the contents.

The story took this opportunity to step off the path into a not hideously offensive side story about Lapan’s “date” with the beautiful guy Alice has admired for a long time. It wasn’t nearly as heinous as the previous chapters and the ending is sort of touching in a really bent way.

The second half of the book turns the tables completely on Lapan with the introduction of Ume, another Shinigami who lusts strongly after Lapan – even if he’s in Alice’s body. Ume engages in a little crossplay to join Lapan at school and pursues the entirely unwilling Lapan for the remainder of this volume. And because I now knew that it was an issue of power, I was completely fine with Ume making Lapan as miserable as he had made Alice. So there, nyeh. :p

Yuri in this volume is Alice’s body inhabited by Lapan sexually molesting Alice’s fans, and Ume crossdressing and molesting Alice’s body with Lapan inside. If a female-shaped being groping another female-shaped being’s breasts is good enough for you as Yuri, then this a Yuri manga. At least we are told plainly that in the world of the Shinigami, same-sex relationships are not taboo, which was completely unnecessary to the plot, but is the same level of relief as pulling a splinter out before it even hurts.

As a comedy, it wasn’t that funny. As a journey through bias into enlightement, it was about 5 minutes of good conversation. The *best* thing about the book is the title.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 3
Characters – 4
Yuri – 5
Service – 7

Overall – 4

Today’s review was brought to you by Okazu Hero Martin S! Martin, please email me at anilesbocon01 at hotmail dot com and receive your Okazu hero badge and my sincere thanks. To become an Okazu Hero, simply sponsor a review and be a hero to all of us!

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15 Responses

  1. Katherine says:

    Interesting commentary on how harassment is played for comedy, and the dynamics behind it. I’m as much in the dark in understanding why people enjoy watching/reading that. (Like a chapter of the Mariaholic manga in which Maria has his maid pour gasoline on Kanako and holds a lighter near her until she apologizes for backtalking. Hahaha, isn’t that hilarious? >_>;;) Thanks for the review. This definitely looks like a manga to pass.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Just like with Maria+Holic, again the issue of sexual harassment as comedy appears gain. More importantly, why do series like this keep popping up? As a victim of abuse (both physical and emotional) I can’t see where any shred of comedy can be found in this. Seeing people being harassed, either fictional or real, always irritates me and this is no exception.

    What you said about sexual abuse being completely about power, not sex, is completely correct. If these stories were actually about two people in a relationship in sexual situations and teasing, it would be different. I’m justifying abusive relationships, but I’m not sure how to phrase it any other way. But these series, it’s always about some person forcing themselves on another, the victim always being defenseless and allowing it to happen.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I was thinking of Maria+Holic the whole time while reading this. Thanks for pointing out what should be common sense, and sadly is not.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is why I am so utterly disgusted by Maria Holic. Thanks for putting it in words.

    Oh and Katherine, that’s soft. In an anime episode he actually threatens to rape her.
    But the narrator says she will eventually love him, so it’s fine if she’s threatened with rape&death!

  5. michiru42 says:

    Yeah…I never found it funny either. You know, there’s a lot of it in yaoi, too. In “Okane ga Nai” it’s supposed to be all sexy how one guy enslaves another with money because he “wants him so badly.” In “Fake” Dee threatens to rape Cal–a 13 year old girl–if his boyfriend won’t open a door for him. In “Gorgeous Carat” one hero takes another prisoner and whips him. The scene is later plated for cute comedy. Or hell, think of het shoujo manga like “Hana Yori Dango”. Granted, it’s all about how the abuser reforms, but it romanticizes abusive, bullying, assaulters.

    I dunno. Thanks for pointing this out. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one bothered.

  6. @michiru 42 I know it’s super popular, but I have always despised Hana Yori Dango from the bottom of my heart. netiher funny, nor romantic nor entertaining in any way.

  7. athenaltena says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head why I was not as disgusted by Ikkitousen as I thought I would be once I finally sat down and watched it (and, I admit, enjoyed it), and I agree completely that the type of abuse seen in Maria Holic and other things of the sort is entirely different. I don’t get the appeal of seeing other people get abused both physically and emotionally, and it’s one reason I avoid most Yaoi. I don’t get what’s so “wrong” about consensual sex and loving, respectful relationships in fandom’s eyes and why this is so popular.

  8. shanejayell says:

    Thank you for the review… I knew I didn’t like Alice, but I couldn’t easily explain why.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I have one question for you–

    If you hate sexual harassment so much, why do you even read manga/ watch anime at all? Most manga and anime, especially “comedy” has some to and excessive amount of sexual harassment at its core. There is almost no escaping that in an anime. Any other humor is almost always referential in nature and pretty damn unfunny anyway. A genuinely funny anime is almost impossible to find, and most of those are choc full of sexual harassment in order to broaden the audience.

    I don’t get it. Japan has almost no respect for women and you hate about 90% of the crap you review. Why do you even care anymore? This all seems like an exercise in futility. Your nerd-rage filled reviews aren’t going to change anything.

    This isn’t because I actually think Alice on Deadlines is good by any means. It’s horribly written and poorly drawn and wildly unfunny. This is a general question to you. I hope you know what they say about doing the same thing over and over in exactly the same fashion and expecting different results.

  10. Let me suggest you read this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_distribution

    I review in a faily standard deviation curve, so I like about the same amount as I dislike, statistically speaking.

    The real question is, if my reviews bug you so much, why are you reading them? I’m enjoying myself immensely writing them, so clearly it’s you. :-)

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m frankly disturbed at the number of people I know who are watching Maria+Holic, a series I passed on specifically due to the abuse. Are there really enough misogynists in the animanga market to make these things pay for themselves?

    (And on a random note, in what channel might one find this “pretty funny manzai”?)

  12. @Anonymous You can ususually find us on #lilicious, #otenba or #marimite_spoilers on rizon. :-)

  13. Anonymous says:

    Well I was just wondering why this was placed under romance as well, whilst reading the review and the comments, this taught jut kept replaying in my head.

  14. Trey says:

    I just read the summary of Maria+Holic and it sounds like the slight opposite (setting and main character) of Girls Bravo. In a certain sense I think.

    And I do enjoy Alice On Deadlines to an extent, it’s somewhat good to me, if not an entirely odd series.

  15. Anonymous says:

    this book was funny whoever took it too serious needs to get a life it is a book and i don’t see anyone getting too upset that perverted guys live in this world every second and every minuet of the day, just because you cant enjoy the book doesn’t mean everyone else should follow you maybe you are the pervert and want to have power over peoples minds and get them to agree with you because in your sick and twisted mind you want to make something of yourself and all you can think of is to talk crap about a book, also if you really disliked it that much then why did you keep reading it? whoever is commenting on this and hasn’t even read the book you really need to shut up and read it before you judge the book!

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