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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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09/14/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: IGWP, vol 1 and 2"

Ikebukuro West Gate Park, Vol. 1 and 2
Story: Ira Ishida
Art: Sena Aritou
Translation: Duane Johnson

Review by Tom Good

In Ikebukuro, an area in the northwestern part of Tokyo, Makoto is just another young man who wants to hang out with friends, meet girls and have a good time. But when a serial killer starts to stalk Makoto's turf, he becomes determined to hunt the hunter and put an end to this new threat. His journey into vigilante justice takes him into the dark world of the Tokyo sex trade, teenage prostitution, and gangs.

This manga is based on a live-action Japanese TV show, which was in turn based on Ira Ishida's award-winning mystery story. Though drawn in a typical manga style, the initial story feels more realistic than that of the average manga. The characters seem like real people, so the threats they face produce real tension. Even the exaggerated comedic scenes do not really compromise this.

The first story arc begins in Volume 1 and concludes part way through Volume 2. At this point it is worth reading it once more from the beginning, to pick out some of the clues that may have slipped by the first time through. Volume 2 continues with Makoto on a new mission to take down a local drug dealer and help out a friend. Here the story shifts to a lighter, less realistic tone, with more emphasis on humor, almost like a grittier version of City Hunter. But rather than playing the lecherous hero, Makoto seems embarrassed when girls throw themselves at him, offering to help maintain his "cover" by shedding theirs. He usually makes at least a token effort to talk them out of this.

I liked IWGP for its colorful portrayal of the Tokyo street scene. There are also some funny references to manga. One of the girls in Vol. 1 draws manga-style art with "the otaku touch," and a prostitute in Vol 2. dresses up as Lum from Urusei Yatsura. Because the story deals explicitly with Tokyo's underground of sex and drugs, it is rated M: for mature audiences 18+.

(To view Ikebukuro in Google Earth, enter the coordinates 35.72994701427134,139.7068011632971)

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