Last month, I was asked to help out a friend with some editing for an free online course sponsored by Keio University, Introduction to Japanese Subcultures on the FutureLearn platform. The class had some really interesting content (some of which I wanted to argue about ^_^) and was free, so I signed up for the class after having edited for it. The class included a great number of written references for manga and academic articles, anime and pop culture writing. Among these, the lead professor, Ogushi Hisayo-sensei, mentioned today’s manga when the Takarazuka subculture was being discussed.
Since the class is online and free, I recommend it highly for anyone interested in the development of cosplay, otaku, moe and fujoshi culture. It was a very interesting class.
The upshot was that I went to Amazon JP to buy the first volume of this manga, only to find that it was out of print. But, hey isn’t that exactly what makes digital so great? I headed over to Bookwalker JP and sure enough, found all 10(!?!) volumes of Haruna Lemon’s manga on Takarazuka fan culture and in-jokes.
If you do not know what Takarazuka is, ZUCCA x ZUCA Manga, Volume 1 (ツッカツカ) would be not-all-that-funny. All the vocabulary is defined in post-chapter glossaries, which goes a long way to “explaining” jokes, but you know the old adage about jokes that have to be explained…that adage is never as true as it is for an in-joke. ^_^
But because I am familiar with Takarazuka and ‘zuka-ota (Takarazuka otaku) culture, the jokes aren’t all lost on me. I’m gonna have to say, though, that I needed those glosses for some of the show-specific references, although the jokes about being obsessed were understandable enough.
The manga is short, simple gags, following the lives of several obsessed women. From passing up opportunities at work because a particular Top Star was performing that month, to buying an unflattering jacket because it reminds them of a Takarazuka show, these women are completely relatable for any fan of any subculture. One of the most important facets of this manga is that it shows that the women are not isolated in any sense, they gather together in large and small groups to indulge their passion, from formal fan club tea parties to clustering around the computer on ticket sales days. This is an important message and I’m glad the manga makes the point.
Art – 4 – Simple and simplistic
Story – 6 Gag comics, rather than narrative
Characters – 9 – We are these women
Fannishness – 10
Overall – 8
As I read ZUCCA x ZUKA, I realized that while I am a Takarazuka fan, I’m nowhere near being a ‘zuka-ota. That’s probably okay, as I’m fully obsessed with being an ota-rezu, and one can only have time for so many subculture obsessions in one life. ^_^