Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, July 10, 2010
      ( 7/10/2010 12:48:00 PM ) Bill S.  


“THOSE PRIME MINISTERS ARE ALL THE SAME. WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THEM?” There are times you can really fall down the rabbit hole pondering the sexual politics in shojo manga -- and Eiki Eiki’s Millennium Prime Minister (DMP) is one of ‘em. A comic romance set in the Japanese political world, the series is about the country’s youngest p.m., 25-year-old Kanata Okazaki, and his stalker-y attraction for the 16-year-old redheaded schoolgirl Minori Nagashima. How does a 25-year-old get to be Japan’s prime minister? “It is the New Millennium,” Kanata says, which is all the explanation we’re provided.

Kanta runs into the redheaded schoolgirl the day they both ditch their respective responsibilities for game time at the arcade. After she defeats him at a game, the impetuous p.m. is instantly smitten. “You have great hair,” he tells her. “Curly and permed, soft to the touch.” He then announces that she’s going to be his wife.

Young Minori doesn’t know what to make of this, of course. Though the young prime minister is a dreamy type with his own fan club of star struck young girls, there’s still that nine-year age difference to consider. More than once in the first volume, one of Kanato’s acquaintances asks him if he’s a pedophile, and while this is pretty much treated as a joke, it’s pretty clear that the guy’s a control freak. Using his connections, he gets a story planted in the press showing the two of them “patronage dating” (a helpful footnote tells us Westerners that this is a reference to “schoolgirl prostitution”), with Minori going by the public name of “Schoolgirl A.” To manage the scandal that he himself has helped to create, he tells the media that she’s his fiancé. Minori’s parents turn out to be thrilled at the thought of their daughter being a First Lady: “If she doesn’t want to, we’ll make her marry you,” they say.

Ignoring the potentially creepy overtones, Minori’s parents send her off to live in the prime minister’s mansion (“Don’t worry,” he reassures them, “we won’t consummate anything until after we’re married!”) where our high schooler has to survive among a world of political types. Chief among these is the jealous 18-year-old senior aide Sai, a boy genius with a serious crush on Kanata who starts pranking Minori as soon as she moves into the place. Just two years older than our heroine, he’s prized for his organizational savvy, but as soon as he starts acting out, he’s called bratty.

On Kanata’s side, the attraction that he feels toward our heroine seems to be largely platonic: at one point, we’re led to believe that he’s going to make a serious play for her, but it turns out that all that he wants to do is brush her hair. Still, Minori rightly chafes at all his machinations. “Like always, I’m at the mercy of this guy’s games,” she tells the reader as the p.m. hovers over with a brush in hand. There are times, though, when our gal finds herself admiring the guy’s basic hotness in spite of herself.

Eiki Eiki, primarily known for yaoi (boy love) manga, nonchalantly skips through this potentially offensive nonsense by keeping her heroine prickly enough to prevent her being a passive victim. Her characters are expressively comic without going over the top -- most of the time, anyway -- and Minori’s overall reactions to her outlandish situations are generally more amusing than distressed. First volume is primarily devoted to introducing the set-up and the characters (also in the supporting cast: a political reporter and a special police agent attached to the p.m. -- both of whom have their own takes on the situation), though the writer/artist, whose grandfather was himself once Japan’s prime minister, promises more political material in volumes to come. That’s as maybe, but I’m still thinking that Millennium Prime Minister’s big draw will remain its provocative Manipulative Male/Resistive Girl relationship.

(First published on Blogcritics.)

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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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