Manga-ka: Yuu Watase
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: June 2004
Synopsis: “For Tanpopo Yamazaki, life at the elitist Meio Academy seems way out of her league. The daughters of wealthy families snub her, other students make light of the fact that she actually tested into Meio instead of relying on family connections, and the cute boy she saw tending a dandelion the day before wouldn’t even acknowledge her existence. Hoping to make friends and have some fun, Tanpopo starts up a gardening committee, but will this help her survive in a school where superficiality and nepotism reign supreme?”
It’s Tanpopo Yamazaki first day seeing her new high school and she’s eager to make friends. After crashing landing on her bike, she meets her first acquaintance, an attractive fellow student with a passion for plants named Koki Kugyo. She’s taken in by his kindness but meets with a cold truth the next day when he completely ignores her! What gives? What gives is a story that’s light on originality and heavy with the overdone quintessence of its genre, but can famed manga-ka Yuu Watase take a story riddled with predictabilities and make it work?
Yes and no. It’s hard to see the proverbial forest through the trees when a peppy transfer student, enigmatic rich boy with an injured past and a school of nasty female bullies all arrive to greet you for what reads like any other shoujo story. In attempts to add a much needed quirk to an otherwise dry tale of high school affairs, Koki is given a strange attachment to plants, a love affair that he hides from fellow students so as not to open his angsty self up to others. Instead of adding depth, it just made him all the more uneven, with a personality shift so severe that it made him more infuriating than anything, and I failed to be charmed by him when he suddenly stepped up to the nice-guy plate and did something decent for the obviously tormented, but classically stubborn, Tanpopo (whose first name happens to be ‘dandelion’, convenient no?).
But for its failings, Yuu Watase managed to string together an uneven pair of characters in an uninspired scenario and still keep me entertained. Seriously, how does she do it? The logical side of my brain was annoyed every time Koki made a sudden personality shift, and I wasn’t wholly impressed by Tanpopo’s overly outgoing attitude when it served to make her seem more ignorant than it does admirable. Throw on top of that a conniving pretends-to-be-your-best-friend bully that you can see coming a mile away, and Tanpopo failing victim to the shoujo-heroine fever that never fails to leave them coddled in the love interests’ arms, and you can see why I’d have trouble grasping the more subtle entertainment points. Still, my curiousity to see Tanpopo continue her tirade of friendship upon the school, and how the MPD Koki will evolve from here, kept me interested enough to see the book through to the end, and have thoughts of continuing through to volume two on top of that.
The artwork will be familiar to Yuu Watase fans of course, though as one of her newer works it leans more towards the stylistic looks of her other recent series, such as Alice 19th more than her popular classic, Fushigi Yuugi. I’ve always thought it was a bit of a pity seeing the direction her art has taken in recent years. Though I still like her style as a whole, things like anatomical proportion seem to be off consistently in this rounder incarnation of her art, and overuse of the same character designs remains an issue that she can’t seem to break so expect some very familiar faces.
Ultimately while it may not break any new barriers, or risk trying anything out of the ordinary, there’s still just enough shoujo charm here to be somewhat successful, coupled also with my faith in Yuu Watase to present an entertaining story despite stereotypical misgivings. Volume two will likely be responsible for making or breaking my interest in Imadoki! as I wait to see if Tanpopo and Koki can remain interesting after their initial shallow character quirks have already been exposed here in volume one.