Miscellanea and Ephemeron
08/19/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Girls Bravo, vol 1"
Review by Tom Good
Yukinari Sasaki is a high school boy who is literally allergic to girls. He breaks out in hives when they touch him. Then one day, he meets Miharu, a beautiful girl from another world called Siren, where women outnumber men 9 to 1 and constantly fight over men. She falls for Yukinari, and he discovers that she does not trigger his allergic reaction, although she does have a strange obsession with food. But Yukinari remains attracted to Kirie, an Earth girl with a hair-trigger temper who keeps hitting him over real or imagined offenses. And Risa, a girl who uses magic, believes that a fortuneteller's prophecy shows that Yukinari is destined to be her mate.
This story aims to be a sexy romantic comedy, but it contains quite a few weird elements. Kirie is consistently physically abusive towards Yukinari. At first I thought her punches might not be intended to be taken literally, but later in the story she specifically threatens to hit him again. Nobody seems to think there is anything strange about this. None of the other characters tells Kirie, "hey, punching people in the face whenever you get mad isn't cool." Yukinari never questions why this girl is so unbalanced and violent, or whether it would be a good idea to get closer to someone like that.
Risa also comes across as a dangerous, obsessive stalker, who will use black magic to get to Yukinari. At one point she leaps through the air and body-slams him to the ground. Then he is shown sprawled on the ground with blood coming from his head and mouth. But after this he simply asks, "who the heck is she?" Not "where do I get a restraining order?"
On the other hand, Miharu, the alien girl, is sweet but clueless. Her instant devotion to Yukinari does not wane when she gets to Earth. She fails to notice that unlike her home world, this planet offers plenty of other guys to choose from. Nor does she miss her world or any of her friends back home. People assume she is a foreigner from another country, but do not ask her about her home or family. Her alien origin becomes almost irrelevant to the story. She could just as well be an exchange student.
Yukinari's experiences suggest that women, while sexy, are also scary, unpredictable, crazy, abusive creatures whose mere touch is dangerous, except for alien women from other worlds, who are friendly and compassionate but not very bright. Now, the political incorrectness of this does not bother me, because comics are entertainment, not guidebooks to how to live one's life. But these elements do bother me in that they are weird and not adequately explained, so they keep the story from hanging together the way it should. The characters do not react to their situations the way normal people would. And though the violence is supposed to be slapstick humor, it does not seem to fit with the rest of the atmosphere.
The book ends with a 25-page side story which is a warped, lecherous retelling of the Japanese folk tale Momotaro, with the Girls Bravo characters in the lead roles. I found this funnier than the main story because as a crazy parody, I did not expect it to make much sense. But I cannot recommend Girls Bravo, because other recent titles like I''s and Sokora Refugees work much better within the romantic comedy genre.
Edit 091705: Also of interest, Tom Good's review of the anime, "Girls Bravo, vol 2." ED
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