Appare means "Bravo" and Jipangu or Zipangu is the obfuscated name meaning
land of gold that Marco Polo gave to Japan (Tasuki no Miko).
Set in Japan during the Edo period, Appare Jipangu! follows the life of Yusura, who as a baby, was found under a cherry tree with the Kongoumaru (a staff that turns blue when people are sad) by her side. Now fifteen years later, Yusura has become the hikeshiya (or "extinguisher of sorrow") and uses the Kongoumaru to "absorb" people's sadness and hit it back at the people causing it.
*turns the struggling Wiki loose* My quick take: Parroting the party line and echoing other people's opinion of this action, comedy series—that it's not as shoujo (regardless of the deep-pinkness of the cover I posted) as Watase Yuu-sensei's other titles. This difference can be seen in the under-the-speed-limit-paced romance between the lead characters, which recalls relationship acceleration in a typical shounen manga.
It's no secret (to anyone who has read the manga or the same Wiki AJ entry anyway) that Watase Yuu-sensei was working on Appare Jipangu! around the time she was producing the
draws on ancient Japanese myth and mixes it with a cynical modern perspective to produce a dark yet compelling tale of a young girl caught up in supernatural events beyond her control or understanding Ayashi no Ceres (Ceres Celestial Legend). Despite that or probably because of it, the former went down a no-mahou-shoujo-or-miko path less traveled into a
wacko, there are no normal characters here Edo-jidai. Steering clear of darkness and angst, AJ then establishes itself as a lightweight infused with slapstick worship aplenty. Each volume opens with an Instructions for Use, which among other things recommends—
In the event that friends want to borrow this product, kindly suggest that they buy their own
In-jokes, self-parody, no fourth walling, shout-outs are taken to near-extreme for (some) Hilarity Ensues, but I see the deviation from her shoujo titles before and since as only showcasing Watase Yuu-sensei's versatility and reinforcing her goddess stature in the manga world (and no, I don't work in the PR department of Watase-sensei's publishing house, Shogakukan).
I've finished all three volumes of Yusura's adventures in Tokyo-during-the-Tokugawa-period. In the course of nine of 10 episodes, Yusura has met Samon (the romantic interest); starcrossed lovers à la RomeJuli ; a fugitive ninja and the shinobi no mono sent to kill him; a boy who absconds with Kongoumaru ; a cute youkai/bakemono with a tail; a misguided foreigner; a circus performer; her "real" father; and a Hotohori-lookalike swordsman who falls for Yusura at first sight (while Yusura is on a road trip with Samon and supporting character Minekichi). I had predicted that the installments would cling to the same self-contained Suffering of the Chapter vein (or in the case of the fifth, a literal MOTW episode), but by chapter seven ("Rival!"), a myth arc pops up, albeit belatedly. I'm deliberately not talking about the final episode, I'm sure you understand why. *angelic smile* Suffice it is to say that Watase Yuu-sensei reminds us that this IS shoujo; Everything is Explained; and it's medetashi medetashi from here on out.
While Yusura's adventures have produced the obligatory chortles, snickers, groans, as expected, the characters were first in line to receive the investment handouts. I adore Samon, the klutzy scion slash nearly-blind swordsman with teh Coke-bottom-thick glasses and
Your boobs are cute H-propensities. The bastard son of a daimyo (feudal lord), Samon hefts his emotional luggage with optimism and his affection for Yusura is in the good stalker,
I will protect you! cliché mold so beloved by the shoujo genre. Not that the girl needs it; the trappish Yusura is more than capable of whacking villains with enough force to send them twinkling in the sky. And speaking of Yusura, I like the avenging
Feel the sufferings of others and atone for your sins! angel/hikeshiya for being another Watase Yuu heroine (the others are Alice and Tanpopo) who *doesn't* irritate. (Here's a hint so obvious, it's no longer a hint:
But my puddle-deep self absolutely, positively hearts Watase Yuu-sensei's self-insertions. *thumbs up*
The first can be found in the second chapter, "Battle in the sentō." While trying to save a public bathing house from closure and eventual bankruptcy (and impress the daughter of the owner which he's at it), Minekichi says they're giving away Tamagochi and/or Digital Pets as raffle prizes. Given that AJ takes place between 1603 and 1868, the anachronistic offer is enough to make a cartoon editor stuck with a sweatdrop whap a hiragana-caricature Watase Yuu-sensei on the head while retorting,
How can that be?!
The second one (from the third chapter, "A story of true friendship"), however, is my true favorite. After the outlaw ninja Hanji calls out his attack,
Snow blossom foam!!, Watase Yuu-sensei and her editor are shown in off-panel discussion:
EDITOR: Watase-sensei, why does it have to be foam?
WATASE: Well, when you blow into Coca Cola, it foams, right? So...
Needless to say, there's another sweatdop ^^.
In addition to the manga-ka appearances (and product mentions), some lampshading (where
a writer tries to excuse or explain a plot element that's unlikely or overused by drawing attention to it) for the mecha and breaking down of the fourth wall made the initially quiet read move into the territory of loud snorts. Again, Minekichi stars (you may correctly infer that I also like this character).
MINEKICHI: There's only one thing left to do...
SAMON: Use the wan-chan to track the culprit again?
MINEKICHI: Shut it! This is my only panel!
Note: The "wan-chan" referenced here is Pochi, the first generation "genius" mechanical tracker dog invented by Yusura's adoptive father. The new and improved Pochi G or Pochi Great is what Yusura & Co. ride on their road trip.
The art is pure Watase-sensei, with marble-eyed characters left, right, and hanging from the ceiling. There's an excursion (chapter six, "Yusura becomes a bride?!") into the ukiyo-e style that's absolutely hilarious (Watase-sensei's take, not the 17th-century-originated woodblock printing style that used to illustrate picture books and which eventually inspired Cubists / Impressionists / Post-Impressionists).
Perhaps the virtuosic dabbling worked because the story's Edo setting is equally credible. Watase Yuu-sensei shares in one of the outtakes that her editor gave her propers for creating a convincing Edo period, that she then qualifies as being nothing more than fiction. That admission underpins the series refusal to take itself seriously, constituting what is inarguably AJ's most endearing charm point.
So, despite its subterranean placement on the TBR stack, the yet-unlicensed for English distribution Appare Jipangu! managed to put a grin on my face and fill in for terribly-missed Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden. I don't even mind, in fact I embrace, the fourth chapter entitled "Missing friend"—the just asking for it,
Chekhov's gun Kongoumaru's gone missing story (because
any device, tool or weapon... that is introduced conspicuously [has to] become very, very important later on.) While it's only so-so, the chapter is redeemed by the near-kiss Samon tries to plant on Yusura before being derailed by Minekichi-interruptus. (Note though that Minekichi will not always be around and Samon works hard to get close to Yusura, so all's well.)
Six of 10 glowing-blue, sadness-spongeing staffs (or "staves" if you wanna be archaic and get into a hysterical-historical mood).
omake: Alice 19th prequel
icing on the cake last story of AJ volume three is a prequel to Alice 19th. If you're a regular to this blog, you know by now that I can't mention Watase Yuu-sensei without finding a way to digress to A19. This is the second time in this post, but at least in this omake corner, it's called for.
The story titled "First Love" stars sisters Alice and Mayura during the summer of Alice's sixth grade. Wakamiya Kyou doesn't make an appearance, but Horiuchi Yuzuru from Okinawa surfaces.
I would have issues with Watase-sensei's giveaway plot titles ("The Death of Tooya" in AnC. I rest my case), but I actually liked Horiuchi-kun. I attribute my marshmallowy softness to a quote on hatsukoi I read mukashi mukashi:
The beauty of first love comes from knowing it will never last.
~nik AKA 花木兰03 who cringes at being both sentimental and pragmatic