Tramps Like Us 14

November 29, 2008

A lot of the final volume was dedicated to chapters wrapping up the stories of the side characters.  Yuri got the best one by far, with not only a little flash forward, but also a really nice look at her personality and friendship with Sumire over the years.  Yuri was a great character, and it was nice to see her given so much attention.

I don’t like to spoil things too much, but I’m going to go ahead and give my final thoughts on the series, which is going to spoil it for most people.  So here, here’s my spoiler marking.





As I mentioned last time, I hated that Hasumi assaulted that girl as a reaction to the breakup with Sumire.  It was so unlike him, and just uncalled for in general.  His chapter here is nice though, and is composed of flashbacks of happy memories he has of Sumire and him “getting over” things.  Things work out between him and his pet, though it just didn’t seem like they had the same type of relationship as Momo and Sumire, so it didn’t work out that well for me.  I liked Hasumi because he was a genuinely nice guy who loved Sumire and had his feelings hurt by her… and it’s best just to leave him that way than give him a happy ending.  That’s just who he is.

I was disappointed the sex scene was skipped.  Not so much because I wanted to see it, but because I would have loved to see Sumire reacting to Momo’s kisses et al in the before parts.

The family meetings were a little underwhelming, but I liked that Sumire’s grandfather totally rejected Momo outright and there was that whole big scene with Sumire’s family.  That the grandfather relented so easily in the end was a little disappointing, but he was still a pretty cool guy.

I kind of disliked Sumire’s pregnancy.  It was happy and all that, and a nice way to end the series, but… Sumire doesn’t strike me as the type that an accidental pregnancy would happen to.  I understand that sometimes it happens to anyone, but it was timed way too conveniently for me to believe.

I hated Rumi right up to the bitter end, but I did like her final chapter.  To show her in such an unhappy position and unable to communicate what she wants was interesting as well as totally expected from someone who basically wound up in a foreign country not speaking very much of the language because they followed someone else out there.

HOLY CRAP.  It took me some puzzling the first time I read through Yuri’s chapter to figure out that there was a flash-forward involved with Yuri’s kids.  Reading through it a second time, I realized that Yuri’s daughter’s friend is actually Sumire and Momo’s kid.  That’s cool and… well, understated.

I don’t understand.  There’s a joke at the end made by a Japanese editor about how the face of Yuri’s husband is never shown.  She says she respects Rumiko Takahashi-sensei.  I’ve read Ranma 1/2 all the way through, and I’ve read enough of Urusei Yatsura and the shorter stories to know there’s no faceless characters there, and I’m pretty sure there’s none in Inu-Yasha either.  What is that in reference to?  Maybe Maison Ikkoku?

It mentioned the series won a Kodansha manga award in 2003, which prompted me to look up a list of the Kodansha award winners.  It shared the prize with Honey and Clover that year, which is pretty cool considering I like both series pretty well.  Also, 1993 was a good year, since Parasyte, Sailor Moon, and 3×3 Eyes all won the awards that year.

In short, this series is FANTASTIC.  Even after all these years, it’s still the best josei series I’ve ever read.  The characters are all extremely well-developed and come across as real people, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses, and all strengths and weaknesses for each character, major and minor, get equal story time.  The chapters each have a theme and are basically one-shot stories that advance the plot in most cases, a technique I’ve not quite seen anywhere else, or used extremely poorly elsewhere.  It had me close to tears at several parts, both happy and sad, and it was just… everything I look for in a series.  I love it dearly and it gets the highest marks from me.  I would say it compares favorably to Honey and Clover and Nana, and may only fall short because those two are more ostentatious and use humor a bit more than Tramps Like Us.  It is certainly their equal as far as relationships between characters go.

Tramps Like Us 13

November 29, 2008

This is the only volume of the series that doesn’t have both Momo and Sumire on the cover, just Sumire.  It’s significant because… well, it’s just Sumire in this volume.

Hasumi is in and out in his way, but he does something extremely out-of-character that ruins him for me at the beginning of the volume.  I understand that he’s distraught, but… how insulting.  His story is wrapped up in this volume and the next, but I was disappointed with the way he was handled.  His feelings, which were fairly genuine, seemed totally disregarded in favor of having the story wrap up nicely.  Of course, he does get a really nice chapter next volume that takes the hurt away a little, but I was still a little sad about it.

I don’t think I mentioned her before ever, but Sumire’s friend Yuri is absolutely essential to the story.  She has a few chapters to herself where Sumire helps her, but for the most part she has been Sumire’s friend since childhood and listens to all her complicated stories and offers good advice without question.  She is a real person, and yet another reason why this series is quite good.  I came to appreicate her even more after her final chapter next volume, too.

The telephone dates in this volume are absolutely to die for.  The imagination involved is just… magical, in its way.

The cliffhanger at the end of this volume is of the exact same nature as the one from last volume, which prompted me to finish off the series in one go.  I needed to see.  Two pages before the end, we do get one of the happiest scenes in the series, though,

Tramps Like Us 12

November 29, 2008

I couldn’t help myself and just powered through the last three volumes of this last night.  I try not to do that because it leaves the details hazy in my memory, but sometimes you just have to know how things turn out.

It was hard not to follow with another volume immediately after this one.  For all intents and purposes, this is the climax of the series.  Everything that I was waiting for all series happens here (well, except for maybe one thing), and it’s almost too much to take in all at once.

Once again, there are two really stand-out chapters.  One has a really nice metaphor for the relationship between Hasumi and Sumire.  Aside from that, it was just a really good chapter in general.  The feelings were all there, and… well, the story gets across everything it wanted to perfectly.  I can’t say it’s often you run across a relationship like Hasumi and Sumire’s, but all the nuances were great right up to the end.

And Momo… well, Momo.  Momo has a lot of good scenes in this book.  He’s always been sort of a cool guy, but applying his coolness to certain situations makes what would usually be a really fantastic scene anyway something truly special.  All the nuances in their relationship got across perfectly too.

And yes, none of this would be possible if Sumire wasn’t a great character.  Her freak-out over Hasumi having a pet of his own was… a little weird, considering everything, but that she was eventually fine with it and did what she did was also good.  Plus the aftermath of everything that happens here, and how she deals with it, is also handled extremely well.

The other notable chapter was the one that dealt with said emotional fallout.  You remember the new character I mentioned a few volumes back that totally was not like James from “From Eroica With Love?”  He gets a chapter to himself.  He’s an otaku-type character, which Sumire can relate to sometimes, but this entire chapter is him trying to figure out what’s wrong with Sumire, which involves him imagining her in several anime-like scenarios, stalking her, and Sumire eventually pulling off a heroic save after he’d been… stripped-robbed or something.  It was a fine chapter, and would have probably been one of my favorites in any other volume, but with so much else going on here, it’s only a runner-up unfortunately.

And yes, there is a WICKED cliffhanger at the end of this volume.

Tramps Like Us 11

November 29, 2008

Yes!  Momentum will carry me through the rest of the series!  I wrote a long entry last time, so this one will be brief.

The situation that I was hoping would save everyone’s feelings and work out in the end seems to have… resolved itself.  I worry even more for Sumire’s well-being now.  I want to say it’s not what she wants, but it clearly is.  She goes together well with Momo, and it’s hard to imagine her living without him… but she’s a responsible person, and I trust her to want what she wants.  Most of the obstacles proposed by others seem to have cleared themselves, so the going seems clear as long as Hasumi is true.  I don’t like it, and I have a feeling things will change soon, but let’s see.

Momo.  Poor Momo.  I may have to start calling him by his real name soon.  He’s made some decisions, and I like it.  He and Sumire were fighting a bit, and I think it’s mostly Sumire’s fault… but it’s sad to see him doing what he does with so little recognition.  Here’s hoping that changes soon.

Tramps Like Us 10

November 29, 2008

Going between Hellsing and Tramps Like Us is more than a little weird.  Tramps Like Us is pretty engrossing though, and I tend to forget about the other as soon as I start in on the next volume.

The more volumes I read of this, the more I grow to like it and realize how unique it really is.  It focuses more on the lives of the characters than their relationships, even though the relationships are the biggest part of the story.  Sumire and her struggle between the two men in her life is secondary to a lot of other things in many chapters, and always these other things are enjoyable and shed more light on Sumire’s situation.  It has a very casual tone despite some earnest situations, and even though Sumire is getting herself deeper and deeper into a situation she seems like she will regret, the tone is still fairly light at this point.  It’s incredibly human, as I’ll mention later, and it’s just a joy to read every single volume.

There are two really, REALLY great chapters in this volume.  The first is “Woman of the Cancer Sign,” which is a short story about Sumire’s paper getting horoscopes and her believing them.  Hers says something along the lines of “you will lose something old and gain something new,” and when another part of the horoscope proves to be true, she starts to wonder how it applies to her relationships with Hasumi and Momo.  Hasumi, in Hong Kong, has the same sign, and he wonders the same thing about Sumire and his pet.  There’s some really hot and heavy scenes that fall in between, but it ends in a very silly way.  I really like this title’s ability to balance the serious with the light like that.  I don’t point it out very often, but it happens really frequently.  A lot of times characters will read too much into something that turns out to be no big deal.  I like it because… well, it’s pretty realistic, and it makes for some very human characters.

The other chapter I really liked was one called “Some Kind of En,” which was interesting because the characters explain the Buddhist concept of “in,” a direct cause, and “en,” an indirect cause, and talk about how there is no English equivalent (which was a great conversation that could be appreciated on many levels).  The rest of the chapter went on to talk about how the people in Sumire’s life are all there as a direct result of “en,” and how if she hadn’t met them in the way she had, she would have met them some other way because there was always “en.” Conversely, there was likely a whole circle of people she encountered every day but would never meet, which was “in” in the absence of “en.”  All the main characters and their relationships are examined using this philosophy, and there’s even a gratuitous flashback scene that I enjoyed even though it was highly unlikely.  Once again, there are many, many themed chapters like this, but I don’t point them out even though I should.  It’s something this series does that once again puts it head and shoulders above most other casual relationship manga.

One more wonderful chapter in brief, just because it nearly made me cry.  While covering a news story, Sumire and her coworkers meet an artist who has a wife in a coma, and he asks that they speak English to her since she speaks very little Japanese.  The story is actually more about Sumire’s work and how journalism can both help and hurt people, etc, and the story is good.  It’s the end, where they write a love letter for the man and spell it out phonetically in English so that he can read it to his dying wife that really got to me.  It was one of those bittersweet situations, and it takes a light touch to make it come across as well as it did here.

Oh my god, I was just reading the commentary in the back where the Japanese editor of the series mentions that one of the new characters is like James from “From Eroica With Love.” THAT’S NOT TRUE AT ALL.

Tramps Like Us 9

November 29, 2008

I don’t want to say too much about this volume, but I finally got what I wanted.  Sumire finally starts thinking about it.  I like it.  It was a great scene too, where it finally hits her.

I like the situation between Hasumi and the girl in Hong Kong, too.  I really don’t remember her, but she clearly has been to Sumire’s house, because she decides to recreate the situation there.  Of course, she’s nothing like Momo, and really just seems to be taking advantage of Hasumi.  On one hand, I really hate her and feel bad for Hasumi.  On the other hand, seeing Hasumi freak out like this is pretty funny since he’s normally so level-headed.  She also has the added bonus of being an eventual diversion so that I feel less bad about him later on… you know, since he’s such a nice guy and all.

Also towards the end, focus shifts back to Sumire’s job since Momo takes a trip and Hasumi tells her she can’t come over for the week.  She gets lonely and starts hanging out with her coworkers and trying to change her image.  Her and the girl that don’t get along in her department… well, things sort of come to a boiling point, and then good things happen.  The guy involved is a real jerk, and I don’t have that much to say about him, but other than that it was a cute story.

The female co-worker has a pet pig in her apartment, which is very cute, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that can imagine it making a mess all over the floor before I imagine it doing anything cute.

Tramps Like Us 8

November 28, 2008

It’s been almost three years since I read the last volume of this series, which is something that it really doesn’t deserve.  It’s fantastic, and I can tell you I remembered the last page of volume 7 really, REALLY well over these three years.  I actually had no problems getting back into things.  It’s got a small cast of characters, I remembered everyone’s names, and I remembered everything that was going on, which is sort of unheard of for me.

This series works really well simply because the characters are fantastic.  Picking it back up after so long made me realize this even more, because even after three years, I still remembered how Sumire felt about Hasumi, I still remember Momo’s feelings toward Sumire and how his current situation was affecting his life, and I still appreciate Momo and Sumire’s bizarre and sweet relationship.  The situations that milk these things for all their worth are really all I ask in a shoujo/josei manga.

We get a few really fanservice-y chapters here.  One chapter is about Sumire losing a bet with Momo and having to be his pet for a day.  She resists, because she’s Sumire and she’s sort of a stick in the mud, but then she… relents, and acts more pet-like.  Sort of.  It also makes her realize a bit what position she puts Momo in, but I don’t know if anything will come of that.

The series is fond of showing you situations that run parallel to a larger theme, and sometimes the parallel is immediately obvious, sometimes a little less so.  There were two in this volume, one was explicitly pointed out and the other was heavily, HEAVILY implied (read: it might as well have been pointed out.  it also worked on several levels).  One was a favorite of mine, about an older woman who walked her dog where Momo exercised and talked about how she wouldn’t have anything to live for if she didn’t have her dog to take care of.  The woman reminds Momo a lot of Sumire.  The other situation involves a man Sumire works with and a girl he sleeps with but doesn’t want to date.  Sumire thinks that you should make it clear and not take advantage of people like that… but of course she’s got Momo.  At the end of the chapter, a former one-shot character is re-introduced (I don’t remember her, but she’s not a recurring character or even a minor character, so I don’t think she counts for what I said about remembering everyone earlier) and… well, it looks like she might be hanging around with Hasumi.

The relationship between Sumire and Hasumi is surprisingly healthy, which is unusual since a series like this usually has a weak relationship that eventually crumbles and the protagonist turns to the real love interest (Momo, in this case) in the end.  Hasumi is never down and out, and the two clearly love each other.  I’m still very curious how that will work out for everybody.