Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Clean-Freak Fully Equipped Volume 1

By Touya Tobina. Released in Japan as "Keppeki Shounen Kanzen Soubi" by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Tokyopop.

In reading this short shoujo series, I noticed immediately a fair number of similarities to the also recently licensed Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko. Both start off with what is clearly meant to be a one-chapter story that wraps everything up, only to have to dial it back and send certain characters away in order to continue the basic premise when asked to make it a longer series. And both series have the love interest stick around, be it by gratuitous stalking (in Kanoko's case), or by constant letter writing (in Clean-Freak's case). And they're both the same sort of fun, light-hearted and not entirely realistic shoujo comedy that we've come to expect from the folks at CMX... sorry, at Tokyopop. (I do wonder if the recently-departed Asako was responsible for licensing these two series, as they really do seem like CMX bait.)

That said, the protagonists in the two series differ quite a bit. Senda, the lead male and title character,l is a hypochondriac and has a bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder, owing to a trauma he had when he was a boy. (To be honest, the trauma doesn't seem too traumatic, but hey, whatever sets up your plot.) The humor of the volume lies in his over the top ways of protecting himself from anything that could possibly infect or interact with him, ranging from going on field trips wearing hazmat suits to a giant square "bubble boy" type environment that he walks around the school in. How much you enjoy this depends on how much you can suspend your disbelief - much of this borders on the ludicrous - but I found it fun after I was able to get into the author's groove.

The supporting cast fall into the 'introduce one new character every chapter' cliche that typifies much of this genre. In the opening 'one-shot', we meet the super-cute Aiuchi, who is popular and outgoing and seems to like Senda and see beyond his off-putting exterior. In return, she really brings out the best in him, and helps us to realize that beyond his obsessed exterior is a nice guy with a strong moral code. They bond after he discovers she has motion sickness, and defends her from some boys "grossed out" by her throwing up on the bus, but then the author shunts her off to New York so that Senda can stop loosening up and we can have an actual plot. She's still very much present throughout, though, both via letters (the pictures of her with various animals is hysterical - I presume she must visit the Bronx Zoo every day) and Senda's thoughts (when asked to consider why he likes Auichi rather than, say, the girl throwing herself at him).

As for the others, Anzai is there to be Senda's opposite, and is fun, even if his over the top antics can grate a bit. The backstory with his mother was quite serious, and I appreciate the fact that it wasn't resolved neatly. Yumeno is the aforementioned girl from the previous paragraph, who also sees beyond Senda's exterior to the real person within, but is more pushy about it, and has the basic problem of showing up after he's started crushing on Aiuchi. Sotsugu probably gets the least development here, being an animal lover, but maybe he'll have more to do in the next volume. All three of them serve the same basic purpose, which is giving Senda a reason to start interacting more with the world and stop living in his own sterile environment.

There's a one-shot at the end, the author's debut which ran in The Hana to Yume a year earlier, but it's really pretty bad. It does serve to show that her art has improved, at least, though it's not terrific. But the series is fun, and at only two volumes it's not that much of a time sink. No doubt Volume 2 will see Auichi's return from New York, and hopefully will wrap things up with a nice sweet bow while leaving the main reason to get this title, which is watching Senda's amusingly over the top freakiness.

1 comment:

  1. I think Clean Freak was "announced"/listed on Amazon before Asako Suzuki was hired by Tokyopop, so I'm grouping it and Kanoko in with Stellar Six and Skyblue Shore as "shoujo titles chosen by someone who shares my brain." (Lillian DP?)

    This first book was a lot of fun, and I loved the overloaded visual style (soooo much screentone!) I miss Anna, so I hope you're right about her return in the next book! I thought her "New York" claims were lies or took place in some bizarro alternate dimension of New York, but I guess a zoo would be plausible. (but there was that suspicious sentient(?)-blob-thing...)