Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
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Bad Girls of Manga

Gokusen , Tokyo Crazy Paradise ,
Oresama Sensei and Yankee-kun to Megane-chan

By McCamy Taylor

When you think of Japanese manga, what kind of women and girls come to mind. Soft spoken, sweet natured  Orihime from Bleach? Maybe Hinata, the quiet shinobi who secretly loves the title character in Naruto? How about the girls of Gantz, sweet, shy and big busted (except for Kai’s girlfriend, Tae who is just sweet and shy)? Serena/Usagi, from Sailor Moon , a superhero who is obsessed with her boyfriend? Or Belldandy from Oh, My Goddess ? Put these all together and what do you have? Beautiful, soft spoken, sweetly shy women who love their men.

This week, I am not going to talk about girls like that. This week, I am going to write about their bad sisters, girls and women who lead gangs or belong to Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) families. Girls who could kick your butt. These bad girls are the stars of their own manga---manga that is not licensed in the United States, presumably because Viz, Tokyo Pop, Dark Horse and the others think that we want to read about good girls.

Gokusen is an (underground) manga smash hit in the United States. The anime derived from the series has been released in the U.S. It even aired on television. It is almost always near the top of every “Manga I would like to see licensed in America” list. So, what has domestic publishers scared? Well, for one thing it belongs to the josei category, meaning it is intended for young women.  U.S. publishers seem to have a phobia about josei. They  assume that boys (shonen), girls (shoujo) and young men (senein) like manga and anime, but grown up women do not…

Have these guys ever actually been to an Anime Con?

  Gokusen is about  Kumiko, the female heir to a yakuza family, who must hide her past (and her fearsome martial arts skills) in order to fulfill her ambition to become a teacher for troubled kids. Her students are delinquents and deadbeats whom everyone else has written off. Though Kumiko tries to be a good teacher, she is invariably forced to resort to her old bad girl ways in order save the day. A similar title GTO was licensed and released in the U.S. years ago. Why not Gokusen which is equally funny? Your guess is as good as mine, but I think the bad girl heroine has a lot to do with it.

Tokyo Crazy Paradise is also at the top of many “Manga to license in the US” lists. The story is set in a futuristic Japan, which is so violent that girls are commonly raped and assaulted. Therefore, the police officer parents of school girl Tsukasa have raised her as a boy. She is tough, smart and an awesome fighter. When she and her brothers are left orphaned, Tsukasa takes a job as a bodyguard for Ryugi, a classmate who also happens to be a Yakuza boss. The results are hilarious. The author of this series also writes Skip Beat which has been licensed in this country.

In Oresama Sensei , Kurosaki was the head of her school gang before she got expelled. Now, she is at a new school, trying to create a new image as a “good” girl. However, her best friend is a  teacher who also was a delinquent back in his younger days, and his idea of setting a good example is attempting to draw her into fights. Funny, funny.  

In Yankee-kun to Megane-chan the glasses (megane) girl of the title is also a female gang leader in disguise. Adachi Hana puts her hair in pigtails and wears glasses that she does not need in order to pass for a  quiet, studious girl in her new school. However, she is drawn to and draws to herself all of the most troubled delinquents and former delinquents at her school. And like the other girls and women described above, she is often forced to resort to her “bad” girl ways in order to save the day. This manga is also hilarious. One of the most recent story arcs has the “bad” student council lead by Hana visiting a rich and extremely well behaved school, where the Yankee-kun (i.e. bad boy) of the title guest teaches  by showing the kids how to skip class and hang out on the roof.

If the idea of girls and women who can kick the ass of any man they meet seems implausible, remember the rules in oriental martial arts. Women fighters are always stronger than men. Gays are even stronger, and eunuchs are at the top. Why? Don’t ask me. Maybe it is a repressed anger thing. Maybe those who have less to lose are more likely to fight harder.

Each of the “bad” girls described above has a “bad” boy (or boys) who loves her precisely because she is so tough. While the rest of the world pressures them to put on “good” girl facades, these bad boys  encourage them to be true to themselves, even when the emotions that they are being true to are angry and violent ones. When people are forced to repress their emotions---especially their anger---they tend to develop self esteem problems. This is especially true for girls. So, the message from these mangas is something like “It is ok to be yourself. People will like you for what you are”, something that girls and women in this country need to hear, too.