Monday, January 17, 2011

Manga Review: Ringo Nikki - Volume 1

This might sound odd, but at the ripe old age of 19, I almost feel like I've started to outgrow shoujo. I'll feel like as I mature, my tastes mature with me, and as I progress out of high school and into university, I almost feel like I can't relate to those school crushes and young teen romances anymore. Then what happens is I'll pick up a story like Ringo Nikki, and discover I'm still a 16 year old on the inside. Now, don't get me wrong, I speak like this ironically mostly. I know of women in their 30s who still enjoy these sweet fuzzy shoujo manga, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think eventually I'll become on of them as well! I just see this as a personal reflection that as I moved out of one phase of my life and into the next, my manga would grow with me. Still, I'm pretty glad that nothing is changed. I don't really feel the fuzz as much, and I almost laugh at the over-the-top attitudes these young manga girls have towards what they call “love”, but I can still giggle like a little schoolgirl and enjoy it just the same!

Ringo Nikki, my feathered friends, is a manga after my own schoolgirl heart. It's got the classic element of “I really, REALLY can't stand you right now, but I'm probably going to fall for you later”. And you know what? I love it! Now, our hero isn't the kind of guy who's arrogant, he's the kind that is just cocky and mischievous enough to make him charming – endearing even, just about downright adorable! Trust me, I like me a guy that I can bicker with, because you know what? It just makes it all the more interesting! And that's the perfect example of what's happening here.

Ringo (I love her name!) is a 16 year old wonder. Takes care of her hopelessly hopeless father and is a picture of responsibility. It stems from your average mother-died-so-she-had-to-take-over complex. But what I love about this manga is Ringo's father. The manga has a quality to it that every character has their own personality. Rather than slapping on a generic mom and dad (which in manga are usually minor characters who are very passive and don't have opinions) and generic side characters, the mangaka has given everyone their own qualities. Ringo's father is cheerful with lame puns, but it's a cheerfulness that makes you go “awww”, because this fabulous family of two is poor. Their unfortunate situation is made worse when Papa Ringo (can I call him that? I want to call him that!) is laid off his job. They are forced to move away and Ringo must leave her life – and love – behind. And so our story begins!

What I absolutely hate in manga is clichés. And what I absolutely adore about this manga is its tendency to break away from a few clichés. Ringo already has someone she likes, but because she's moving away she thinks it's a hopeless case to pursue. The fact that she already has someone on her mind is perfect! It creates more tension for the bickering, arguing and all other mischievous behaviour that goes on between Ringo and Micchan, the hero of this manga. Micchan works at the bath house that she goes to and lives at the boarding house his family owns after her house burns down. And although at first Ringo finds him completely irritating, she starts to warm up to him, as she naturally would.

Now, I'm not going to go into too many specifics, I've had the habit in the past of ranting on for too long and possibly giving away too many things – but the dynamic between Ringo and Micchan revolves around Micchan bothering her, her unconsciously warming up to him, tantalisingly delicious moments of tension and Micchan egging her on to make things work with Sakura.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Sakura, Ringo's “first love”, does play an active role in creating a bit of a love triangle here. And another break from cliché is the fact that Ringo is not madly in love with both of them and can't decide between the two. In fact, she thinks one of them is annoying as hell, while the other is sweet, but somehow she can't bring herself to completely commit to him just yet. I found it refreshing that although Sakura thinks Micchan is irritating (does no one like this poor guy? How sad!) and sees him as a threat, Micchan does have his moments where he encourages Ringo to try harder with Sakura.

This story is only made more interesting when Ringo can never really read Micchan. Sometimes he hits on other girls, sometimes he hits on only Ringo, sometimes he tells Ringo she should be with Sakura, and sometimes it almost looks like he goes out of his way to come in between them by being as adorably annoying as possible. I think it helps with Ringo simultaneously wanting to fall for him and kill him. In that sense, I think Ringo doesn't know what to do with his casual affection or whether or not to ever take him seriously. As for Sakura, he has that rare determination and intensity that you could only get from 16 year old shoujo boys, straight out of manga. It's actually kinda sad, he's so serious that it seems he has no sense of humour at all!

The end to the volume, I have to say, is the perfect cliffhanger. It's like the mangaka spent the entire volume taking you to the very pinnacle of the peak of the height of the climax of the love triangle, then decided that you have to wait for the next volume, because she feels like dangling you there for a bit. And trust me, it's well worth the wait for the second volume – and you better believe that I'll be covering that as well! So, all you little shoujo lovers, if you've rediscovered that 16-year-old fangirl in you, whether you are a guy or a girl, you're going to love Ringo Nikki! Watch this space for a review of the second and final volume and we'll find out the fate of our beloved Ringo.

Stay sharp kidlets!


All images (c) NAKAHARA Aya. I do not own any of these images.


Ayame said...

I can totally relate to what you said. I'm 23 and I also think this really cheesy shoujo manga where the main charas have such and innocent and silly perception of love are way below my age, but then I happen to stumble upon something really special, like Cat Street or Skip Beat, and the teenager inside me springs back to life again.
Your review was great. I'll surely check out this manga. Thank you for the rec.