I’ve talked about Hana no Asuka-gumi! (花のあすか組!) a number of times over the years here. I’ll never get tired of pointing you towards it, because it was one of the most amazingly crack-tastic series ever. In fact, as I consider that statement, I realize that all three of the Big 3 girl-gang series I love were mad as porridge knives. From school-based organized crime rings to giant snakes, both YajiKita Gakuen Douchuuki and Sukeban Deka were plain nuts. In comparison, the organization that controls all the girl gangs in Tokyo, the Zenchuu Ura, and the elite fighting squad-infested labyrinth under Ranjuku Detention Center of Hana no Asuka-gumi make perfect sense.
When Hana no Asuka-gumi was in its ascendancy, back in the 1980s, when both manga and TV series were fixtures of girls’ lives, a collection of the cover art and magazine color art was put together. Published in 1988, the Hana no Asuka-gumi artbook, Kuraku Asuka Mairu! (九楽あすか参る!) is page after page of Asuka in any number of outfits, as tough-as-nails gang girl to tough-as-nails gang girl. All three zillion of the secondary characters get some page time, as well. The no-nonsense girls of the Nishiku Omoteban, the Area Masters, the crazies that inhabit Ranjuku Detention Center, Kazuga, Bara-no-Miya, Miko, and most importantly, the Zenchuu Ura’s mysterious leader Hibari-sama…and Yohko.
Which is why I wanted to talk about this book. There’s a few color pictures of Yohko, and some black and white line art. But there are two pictures in the book that nail the overall obsession that both Hibari and Yohko have for Asuka. (Click on the images for larger versions.)
This is the frontispiece for the book. The English is part of the original:
The banana curls belong to the always half-seen Hibari-sama. “Make Asuka come to me, Kazuga,” pretty much sums up her obsession in a sentence.
If “SEX” on the wall doesn’t convince you, let me translate the Japanese for you: “I’m here, Asuka.”
The rest of the book includes interviews with the creator, Takaguchi Satosumi, the actresses from the TV show, info about the original movie, (as opposed to the new movie, which was awesome,) the books, media and goods related to the show. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this but, for a while, Asuka’s gold coin was available on Yahoo JP auctions. I never bought it, though. ^_^
If there is one single reason you should learn Japanese, one series so compelling that you really *must* read it, it would be this one. As long as I’m alive, I’m gonna keep talking about it, so really, you might as well read it. ^_^
Overall – 10
The art is truly variable from great to “aagh!” but I love the series so much, I’m giving it a wildly subjective score. Deal.