Ikebukuro West Gate Park 4

December 31, 2008

The story maintains the average all the way to the end. I liked the mystery in this volume once again, which was about the disappearance of a yakuza boss’s daughter. Makoto is teamed up with a member of the yakuza gang, and the two have literally no leads to go on. Makoto’s usual methods, the G-Boys, only turn up an urban legend, and the real source of information turns out to be a hikikomori who went to school with both Makoto and his yakuza partner.

There’s a few chapters after the main mystery ends, but they aren’t about Makoto. Honestly… I probably would have kept reading this series if it had continued. I liked the mysteries a lot, even if the characters never struck me as particularly good. The series is worth picking up if you’re looking for a good manga mystery, though keep in mind it deals with some weirdly unnecessary adult content sometimes. I was surprised that the sex industry worked its way into almost everything, but I don’t think the stories would have been quite the same without it.

Ikebukuro West Gate Park 3

December 29, 2008

This is still sticking with the status quo of being fairly entertaining without having terribly engrossing characters. Pure action/mystery, and I kind of like it. The mysteries are actually pretty engrossing just for having so many bizarre and unpredictable elements. They’re not… fantastic, but they are still pretty fun.

The mystery from last volume wraps up fairly early on. Unfortunately, I didn’t get quite as much from the Iranian boyfriend of the female client as I liked. He was pretty funny. The sting at the end of the episode goes pretty much how you imagine, with a bonus imaginary sting running in the background.

The bulk of the volume is concerned with helping out a girl with a stalker problem. This girl actually lives in a room that is being broadcast 24/7 on the internet. She doesn’t do anything particularly naughty, she just… hangs out, and she’s very popular because men will send her outfits and she’ll try them on in front of the camera. One man starts stalking her, and Makoto’s job is to try and discourage him. He does okay, but the girl does not, unfortunately.

Makoto is put up to the job by an old friend who has undergone a sex change since the last time Makoto met him. This character has the privilege of delivering the line “titties are for holding, not for having.” It made me laugh a lot harder than it should have.

The stalker mystery wraps up in this volume, and we get one chapter into the next case, which may involve… yakuza? Tracking down a gang leader’s daughter who has disappeared into thin air.

Ikebukuro West Gate Park 2

December 28, 2008

Just a couple quick posts tonight before I go to bed. I should actually change the time on my blog. I’m really more of a night owl anyway, so the date is usually right, but it bothers me a bit that it looks like I’m posting at, like, five in the morning.

This series wound up surprising me a bit. The storyline from last volume is resolved in kind of a disturbing and unexpected way. The bad guy turns out not to be so bad, and the girl turns out to be a little worse that you expect, but… well, for good reason. I felt a little bad that the main character got caught up in that truly messed up situation that had very little to do with him save a promise he made a dead girl.

After this, the story leaves Hikari and her tormentor behind completely and moves on to a different set of characters that Makoto is vaguely acquainted with, this time a girl he went to school with who apparently sells herself out as an… illusion girl? Some sort of sex worker. She gets hooked on drugs against her will, her boyfriend gets mixed up with the people who got her hooked to try and stop them, and Makoto has to try and clear the boyfriend from some sort of Yakuza hit.

This story is enjoyable if only because I like the girl and her boyfriend so much. Actually, the drug dealer is kind of cool too, except for the parts where he gets sex workers hooked on… speed, or cocaine, or something. At one point, they use the term “tenhachi,” which I was a little disturbed I picked up on before it was explained (thankfully, I was wrong about the measurement, I just vaguely recognized a term).

Also, throughout this case, Makoto and his friends use code names, Perm, Cherry, and Megane. I could see where this was going even before the target gave himself the nickname Lum. Hilariously (or not), the drug dealer was actually… er, in the middle of something with a girl dressed in a tiger-striped bikini when he gets the call. Later, some dialogue in video and their call to the police is heavily censored, heavy on the darlings and datchas. I like when I’m rewarded for being a geek, I can’t help it. And just in case, because I hate when I can’t get stuff like this, all this is a reference to “Urusei Yatsura” by Rumiko Takahashi.

I’m still not entirely sure how much I actually like this series. It’s fairly enjoyable on a superficial level. The characters are likable enough and the cases draw you in, but there’s nothing yet that goes beyond “fun read” status. That’s just fine though. Sometimes you’re in the mood for a fun read.

Ikebukuro West Gate Park 1

December 27, 2008

Man, I’ve been getting some disturbing porno search engine hits lately. It’s funny every once in awhile, but it makes me wonder what I’ve said to get so many creepy search strings to hit.

Anyway! So I bought this series over a year ago on sale, because I’m always up for a little 4-volume murder mystery. For whatever reason, I got volumes 1,2, and 4 right away, but it took over a year for volume 3 to come back in stock. Reading all four together is the way to go for this type of series, so I saved it for a little vacation like this one.

So far, it’s really WEIRD. There are a lot of characters. It’s sometimes hard to follow the relationships between them as far as… who knows who, who’s afraid of who, who beats up who, etc. But it’s written in such a way as to totally brush off the importance of that type of thing. The characters seem to meet up with one another to get particular jobs done… be it hanging out with one another, sleeping with one’s girlfriend, or teaming up to bust a criminal. I was a little unclear as to what was going on, for instance, when the straight-haired girl seemed to be vying for the main character, then the main character was shown in bed with the curly-haired girl without explaining that the two were dating. But after awhile, it’s apparent that such things aren’t all that important… or rather, they become less important. The hanging-out-with-friends parts at the beginning give way to the tracking-down-criminals parts towards the end of the volume. I can’t say which I like better though, because I liked the bizarre casual social encounters from the early part of the volume a lot.

The murder mystery part towards the end of the volume is a little shorter than I thought it would be, though it is twisty enough and kind of brutal to satisfy my tastes in murder mysteries. It’s not at all a traditional murder mystery, but I’m not sure how to explain how it’s different, other than to say that the way the gangs of Ikebukuro are brought together while not at all explaining how or what exactly is going on sort of set it apart, and I kind of liked it for that, too.

With the way the volume wraps up, I can’t imagine what is in the other three volumes. It’s not spectacular about anything, and I think that has a lot to do with the total lack of character depth, re: the unexplained relationships. I don’t think I would be rushing out for the second volume if I didn’t already have it, especially since it seems pretty clear who the bad guy is at the end of the volume. But since I do have the next volume… I am a little intrigued.