Monday, August 3, 2009


Recently I decided that my Japanese has been languishing and that it's time to step up my study efforts. You may be able to relate if you've been learning a language for a long time - after a while you start to search for new and varied methods of study. I have textbooks and kanji lists that I could be using. I also have Harry Potter still checked out from my school's library, but I haven't been able to break through that invisible barrier I hit on page 67. I needed something that would expose me not only to new grammar, vocabulary, and kanji, but do so in a context. Books are great for this, but unfortunately they are also an extraordinary effort for me at the moment.

I've never really been able to get into comic books. As a kid I had a few - maybe a dozen or so, tops. I love books, and I like art (assuming the two to be different things here for the sake of my point), but for me, comic books have always been a watered down combination of the two. Much of the appeal of a good book is the ability it has to fuel one's imagination. When you provide the reader with pictures, it seems to me that you are "doing the work for them," so to speak. I mean, what is a comic book but a half-assed cartoon - less illustrations than an animation and no voice work. Sure, comics have redeeming factors, such as their standalone medium, and don't get me wrong - some comics have truly beautiful artwork. I have just always preferred a good book. Maybe it's for that reason, plus the desire to connect somehow to Japan without becoming a "Japan fanboy" that I have avoided manga for all these years. The three key elements necesary for the genesis of such an entity are manga, anime, and video games - the cornerstones of the temple at which they worship. Once all three are present, the building blocks are in place for that "anything Japanese is awesome" mentality. I prefer to avoid absolutes like that outside of the spiritual realm.

The other day I decided to break with my tradition for the good of the language. Yes, I bought some manga. My selection method probably leaves much to be desired, and I'm sure comic book and manga connoisseurs would be disappointed in me. I checked out a local specialty recycle shop, for lack of a better term, which deals chiefly in clothes, video games, and manga. A recycle shop, by the way, is for our purposes a used goods store, although the place I'm talking about has new products, as well. This place has aisles and aisles of manga. Aisles and aisles. What's a guy to do? I approached it the way I approach shopping for clothes. I looked around for a few minutes, seeking something not too dull but not too gaudy, which would serve to get the job done. Search time was a major consideration. I'm pretty satisfied with the results.

Behold -- Rangeman!

Skimmed the first first book and it seemed acceptable, so I bought (all? the first?) six on the shelf for a neat 1008 yen (roughly $11). I'm a decent way through the first one now, and it hasn''t disappointed. The book tells the story of a 16-year-old boy named Renji (in English it would probably sound more like "Range," hence the title), opening with a scene in which he declares his affection for a girl and is rejected, resulting in his 99th successive "defeat." As the story progresses, we see both that Renji is desperate for a girlfriend and that he doesn't know how to deal with ladies. Not only is he desperate to the point of obsession, but he has some strange, if not overly romanticized ideas about how to sweep a girl off her feet. Add to this a sprinkling of social awkwardness and inexperience and you have a recipe for failure, as his track record demonstrates. You would think he'd have learned by now. I must say, though - 99 cracks at getting a girlfriend by age 16 is quite impressive.

At the point I've reached, he has finally secured his first real date (kind of...he tells her to meet him at a certain train station and runs away without waiting for an answer) with a cute but coarse girl who was underappreciated by her ex-boyfriend because of her unladylike manners. Incidentally, Renji met her by being hit by her motorscooter...twice. After consulting with and ignoring the advice of his friends, who tell him that his plans are dumb, he decides to go wait for this girl 3 hours early, so that he can brag to her that he waited a long time for her arrival. He oversleeps, however, and wakes up with, *gasp*, less than two hours to spare. This is where things turn from Japanese romance cliche to a different kind of Japanese flavor. On his way to the train station where he's meeting her, he cuts through a park and is bowled over by some scrawny Power Ranger-looking dude. All of a sudden, some professor with a striking resemblence to Dr.Wily rolls up in a heart-shaped, mini UFO-thing and begins arguing with the Power Ranger guy, as a huge badass-looking robot appears out of nowhere and starts ambling towards them. The Power Ranger and Dr. Wily have some kind of argument - the Power Ranger yelling that he wants to quit and have a girlfriend, and Dr. Wily trying to persuade him to stick with it. Ultimately the Ranger runs away, and Dr. Wily notices Renji, who is sitting on the ground trying to figure out what's going on. Thinking that this is part of a movie scene being filmed, Renji tries to run past the metal goliath, only to get smacked down robot-style. Dr. Wily grabs him with one of his claw-arms and tells him that his only choice is to take the Ranger's place. Renji starts to get seriously PO'ed - he just wants to make it to his date. Then the robot steps on the flowers he had brought for the girl and there is murder in his eyes. Literally, the kanji for "to kill" replace his pupils. The good doctor promises that if Renji does as he asks, he will replace the flowers (which cost roughly $150). He gives Renji a ring and tells him some magic words to say, then turns him loose. Renji puts on the ring and shouts the magic words and all of a sudden is transformed into Rangeman - a jacked Power Ranger. After making short work of the robot, he collects his cash from the Doctor and runs away to his date. After a moment, however, his powers fade and he is left naked and feeble in the street. He hides in some bushes and misses his date.

I have to go back and reread that part, but it seems that the Rangeman's powers are fueled by love or lust or some kind of romantic passion.

Anyway, it's an interesting comic, and I am planning some follow-ups for this stay tuned.


  1. Hmm, is that so? Well then, I will have to make an edit!

    Oh, and I don't know about that slang - you may be right but generally I prefer to be safe rather than sorry.

  2. Thanks, Patricia - very encouraging to hear!

    I look forward to future feedback. =)