Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, March 19, 2010
      ( 3/19/2010 07:00:00 AM ) Bill S.  

“CAN YOU BELIEVE I WOKE UP IN THE 21ST CENTURY?” When we last saw Neo Takigawa, the 23rd century time traveler struggling to become a pop star in our time, our spunky heroine and her singing partner Saya were getting ready for the big Sparrow Park concert that will make or break their career as Clap. Scheme-y and afro-haired music mogul Ebisu has been working to undermine the duo’s chances for success -- wanting Saya as a solo artist on his label -- but his efforts prove half-hearted at best. Though the poofy Ebisu considers Neo a “wretched female,” he’s still too much a show bizman to totally destroy a potential moneymaker like Clap.

The second half of a two-book manga comedy, Majiko!’s Mikansei No. 1 (Tokyopop) follows our duo through a series of comic obstacles -- the most outlandish of which is the twosome’s appearance on a Japanese game show to promote their first single. Along the way, we learn the not-so-surprising secret of 21st century music super-star Nanato, while Neo’s former 23rd century teacher, Miss Kitaouji, finally tracks down her missing student. She contacts the girl with the news that a time portal will be opening to take her back to her original era, but (of course) the portal’s opening is set for the same time as Clap’s big concert. Which will Neo choose: pop stardom in the 21st century or repressive schoolgirl life in the 23rd? Geez, what a tough choice!

If Mikansei No. 1’s central dilemma is a no-brainer and its central mysteries none-too-mysterious (though as far as I can tell, we’re never shown who Neo’s unknown 21st century benefactor is), the series’ comic energy and Majiko!’s appealing brushwork make it all pop. We’re even provided a hint at the end of the book that our girl’s performances in the modern world will have a small freeing influence on the future -- or at least make the skirts in that time shorter. The liberating power of pop ‘n’ roll: how very 20th century . . .


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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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