Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, October 24, 2009
      ( 10/24/2009 07:14:00 AM ) Bill S.  

”WHO NEEDS SWIMMING WHEN THERE’S SINGING?” In the 23rd century, Neo Takigawa is a “fish out of time.” A vivacious teen with a love of singing and a predilection for short skirts, she’s unsuited to her prudish future world. “Women today are modest and gentle,” the frustrated school authorities bemoan: not so Neo, whose “heinous behavior” is deemed a “danger to the purity” of her school. So when our girl opens a mysterious misty cylinder that transports her back to the era of her daydreams, it appears as if everyone’s prayers are answered. Dropped into 21st century Japan, Neo quickly sets about trying to establish herself as a pop star.

The premise behind Majiko!’s comic manga series Mikansei No. 1 (Tokyopop) is to take our fish out of time and pit her against that business we call show. When she lands in our century, it’s on the lap of a serious-minded would-be singer named Saya Kudou, and the two wind up tentatively partnering as a singing duo. Challenged by the afro-sporting music mogul Ebisu to put on a successful performance in the park, the twosome team up as the unfortunately named Clap and begin their arduous trek to stardom. Relational sparks fly, of course -- as Saya proves to be almost as judgmental as Neo’s old 23rd century teachers -- but we know they’ll hit the big time several volumes down the road. “He doesn’t realize how fun it is to sing with him,” Neo thinks as the two rehearse on a rooftop and start to meld as a singing duo.

Majiko! (also responsible for St Lunatic High School) draws the first volume of this teen-rated comedy with frantic cartoony energy that’s suited to our ultra-perky heroine. This is one of those stories where events move along simply because a fresh character pops up to change the course of action -- just when our pair needs to expand their test audience beyond the kids’ party stage, for instance, a schoolmate of Saya’s appears to tell them about an upcoming school concert -- which can get rather pinball-y at times but not fatally so. Hovering in the background are an anonymous benefactor and a figure who resembles a missing 23rd century school chum of Neo’s, but neither of these prove as diverting as watching our heroine gleefully bounce around her new city playground.

Late in the first volume, Neo receives a note from her unknown helper, which tells her, “If you want to get back to your time then you must succeed at your park concert and make your debut.” As a reader I was less concerned with how this was supposed to work than with why our girl would even want to return to her home era (as far as we know, parents are non-existent in the 23rd century). I also suspect most of Mikansei’s American teen readership, watching our girl take her first joyful steps towards Josie and the Pussycats fame, will be wondering much the same thing.


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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