Rakka Ryuusui Manga, Volume 4

January 4th, 2010

Last month, the criminally intelligent and funny Kate Dacey added a few new items to her Manga Hall of Shame. Among them was 4-koma series Lucky Star. Among her many – and all completely valid – criticisms was the plaintive request, “Dear Manga Publishers: Please stop licensing 4-koma titles. Most of the translated material in this format is at best dull — wait, was that a joke? — and at worst incomprehensible…”

I wish I could disagree with her but, despite the ridiculously large numbers of 4-koma series I follow, I can’t. Before you get all bent out of shape about it, consider this:

4-koma are the equivalent of “comic strips” here in the west.

My gut tells me that few people would rush to read “Blondie” or “Sally Forth” if they were translated into Japanese for much the same reason 4-koma fail to be hysterical here – sitcom-itis. Each character has one, maybe two qualities, each of which is rendered down into a joke or visual gag. The sum of the plot is three or four situations into which this 2-dimensional (both figuratively and literally) ensemble is thrown, with resulting yucks and heehaws. The only way to change the dynamic is to add characters or props.

This is not to say that *all* American comic strips are bad, nor is it to say that all Japanese 4-koma are impenetrable or unfun. Realistically though, even a lot of the ones I like are not that great. :-)

Which brings me to the subject of today’s review, Rakka Ryuusui (落花流水), Volume 4.

It’s not bad…but it ain’t great. Here are my reviews for Volume 1 and Volume 2. I never did get Volume 3, in which I apparently missed nothing because the main topic of conversation in Volume 4 is…allergies. Yes, still.

It’s both funny and really, really boring all at once. Animal allergies, pollen allergies…I sympathize but seriously, how many comic strips about high school girls’ post-nasal drip can one read before the glamor wears off?

What passes as Yuri in this series is taken up by Akatsuki who idolizes and follows around Yu, who suffers allergies. And Akiho still has a crush on her sempai.

The only real downside to this particular series of comic strips is that while I tuned in to read about the allergy-suffering of the Kyuudo club while wearing cool hakama and carrying cool weapons, I’m subjected to them suffering allergies while wearing bathing suits and… horror! cheerleading outfits. It was unforgivable. They can be as sniffly as they like – while doing archery. Once they stop that, I’m outta here.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 6
Characters – 6
Yuri – 2
Service – 4

Overall – 6

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4 Responses

  1. Emma says:

    . . . Azumanga Daioh.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Erica! I think you’ve put your finger on why 4-koma panels just don’t translate very well. (And the Sally Forth reference was priceless, as it reminded how much I resented that comic for taking up valuable space on the funny pages when I was a kid.) Every now and then I’ve stumbled across something that works in English — I’m enjoying I Am a Turtle at the SigIKKI site, and liked Shoulder-a-Coffin, Kuro — but most of the time I just don’t see the point.

  3. @Katherine Dacey – It’s always a pleasure to be able to draw attention to your most excellent blog. :-) In fact, in 2010, I’m going to make a real effort to mention other blogs of note more often.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think you missed quite a bit by not reading volume 3.
    Volume 4 was indeed somewhat lacklustre when compared to volume 3, in my opinion.

    Notable things in volume 3 (just from vague memory; haven’t read it in awhile):
    In the theme part on the ferris wheel, Akiho kissed Minatsu on the lips. Too bad it was just a happy accident. :P
    Introduction of Yuu and Akatsuki – I’d like to point out that Yuu doesn’t really just have allergies; she’s just plain sickly – when the kyudo club found her lying under a tree, they thought she was dead (couldn’t feel a pulse)!
    Summer beach chapter: Minatsu slapped Akiho for pretending to have drowned. Something along the lines of “I don’t mind pranks, but don’t do it again. I was really worried…”. Akiho cried in her arms, Minatsu apologised for slapping her. // end lfb mode
    Volume 3 had a serious (and rather sweet) short strip on Akatsuki and Yuu in middle school (not a 4-koma, for a change). I really liked this strip.

    If you’re looking for high Yuri content, this series may disappoint, since the mangaka develops the relationship between Akiho and Minatsu very slowly (I recall the mangaka mentioning that on the Circle’s bulletin board that this is the intention), subtly (if you pay enough attention, you’ll notice it, otherwise you’re miss it)

    I’m anyway still a big fan of the manga and the mangaka (closing an eye here :)), and eagerly waiting for volume 5. Maybe it helps that I enjoy the absurd punchlines this series provides.
    If I read the posts on the BBS correctly, the impression I get is that there’s going to be a lot more Yuri content involving Akiho and Minatsu in the upcoming volume 5, but can’t really say for sure since I don’t buy the magazines that it’s serialised in, but wait for the tankoubon releases.

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