manga bookshelf

BL Bookrack: Wild Adapter Roundtable

MICHELLE: In celebration of the Manga Moveable Feast, we’re devoting this month’s BL Bookrack column to a discussion of Kazuya Minekura’s Wild Adapter. Joining Melinda and me is our fellow Manga Bookshelf blogger and Wild Adapter enthusiast, David Welsh.

There was a time when I’d visit bookstores several times a week to assess their new manga acquisitions, and I vividly remember spotting early volumes of Wild Adapter lurking on the bottom shelf. It wasn’t until 2009, though, that I was sufficiently swayed by public opinion and actually read them. I’d been borrowing a set from one of Melinda’s friends but knew very quickly that this series was something I would have to own for myself. Its vast reread potential was already evident.

What was your first experience with Wild Adapter?

DAVID: I was an early Adapter adopter. I’ve always found Lillian Diaz-Przybyl to be a very reliable source of recommendations, even when she was editing a book and obviously had a heightened personal stake in a given title’s commercial success. She’s a straight shooter, and our tastes often overlap, so I tried the series right out of the gate. Obviously, I’ve had no reason to regret that.

MELINDA: I was still quite new to manga when my friend Deanna Gauthier reviewed the first volume of Wild Adapter here in this very blog. I had never even heard of the series, but she was a huge fan, and after she had read all six volumes, she put them in the mail and sent them to me.

She had wrapped them in plain brown paper for shipping, and when they arrived, bundled up neatly in a anonymous little brick, my husband jokingly asked if she had sent me a package of cocaine. Later that evening, as I emerged from our back room, having ravenously devoured the first volume and eager to begin the second, I told him that he’d actually been right after all, because Wild Adapter was like crack.

MICHELLE: And then you sent that same package to me and got me addicted. It’s a vicious cycle!

As mentioned in the introduction to the Wild Adapter MMF, the series is composed in such a way so that each volume is self-contained, with the first volume serving as prologue and the fifth later filling in the gaps between volumes one and two. As I stated in the post referenced above, the fifth is my favorite (and remained so on a reread), partially because I love Shouta so much. Do either of you have particular favorite arcs?

DAVID: For me, it’s a dead tie between the first and the fifth. I think the thing that they have in common is that they objectively should not work. The first is all about characters trying to convince the reader that the protagonist is fascinating, which is such a recipe for failure in so many cases, but Minekura’s work is so subtle and assured that I found myself nodding emphatically. The fifth runs the very great risk of lapsing into Cousin Oliver Syndrome, inviting readers to see the leads through fresh, adorable eyes. Of course, Shouta is as complex in his own way as Kubota and Tokito are, so another common land mine is sidestepped. Minekura is amazing.

(click images to enlarge)

MELINDA: I agree with both of you, and probably I have the same answer as David, but I also am fairly fascinated with volume four, which is partly seen through the eyes of a lonely salaryman who snaps after killing a prostitute in a drug-induced rage. That volume uses the Japanese concept of kotodama as its overarching theme, and uses it better than any of the more supernaturally-themed series I have mostly seen it crop up in.

There is a quote at the beginning of the volume that stuck with me for a long time. “In this country, we have something called ‘kodotama.’ The spirit of words,” the salaryman says. ” Whatever you say with intent becomes… real. When I was in elementary school, we had to write essays on what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wrote, ‘Section Chief.’ My teacher laughed. ‘What a small dream.’ Those words hit the air, and I breathed them in and just as the teacher said… I grew up to be a perfectly small man.” He later tries to harness kotodama himself by repeating over and over again how he’ll get away with his crime and how everything will be fine. It’s kind of heartbreaking to watch, even though he’s not an especially sympathetic character, and it completely shatters the pattern we’d usually see in a supernatural manga by suggesting that the power of kotodama really is just all in our heads. It’s startlingly true to life.

One of the things Minekura does so brilliantly in this series is that she doesn’t just use her side characters as windows into the protagonists’ lives, but also as windows into the lives of her readers and their world, for better or worse, and sometimes that can be just as revealing.

MICHELLE: And sometimes their interactions with Kubota and Tokito actually affect how they relate to the world at large. Going back to Shouta, there’s a scene where he casually mentions to Tokito (unnamed at this point) that his first name might be Minoru. It’s obvious that Shouta thought he was going to be springing a good surprise, and is completely stunned when his comment instead triggers a traumatic memory and sends Tokito into violent freakout mode. The experience stays with him, and later informs his decision not to ask his parents about the arguments he’s been overhearing. “But I don’t ask them anything about it. I can’t. The moment I touch that subject, everything will fall apart.”

One of the things I like about volume five so much is that here are a couple of guys who arguably would be a bad influence on an impressionable kid, but because of the context in which he knows them (Shouta never learns the details of what Kubota does for a living, for example) they end up being a good influence. When Kubota, surprised by Shouta’s insightful observation, “Saying you don’t want to hurt something because it’s precious isn’t fair. Because it’s not an object… it’s a living being with a heart,” tells him that he’ll be a great writer, it brings to mind the kotodama idea all over again. Maybe Shouta will believe it and come to embody it, just because Kubota expressed confidence in him.

DAVID: I think you’re getting at something that’s at the core of the appeal of the series: the protagonists don’t really fall anywhere on the hero/villain continuum. They’re fascinatingly amoral in that they’re extremely focused on their own interests. Pretty much everything else is kind of collateral. It’s incredibly interesting to see these two do what amounts to the right thing and know that the rightness of that action is only a small component of why they chose to do it.

MELINDA: Your discussion here reminds me of a scene in the fourth volume in which we’re given a glimpse into Kubota’s past and his acquaintance with a woman named Anna who turns to him for consolation after her abusive boyfriend has run off with all her cash. Anna laments the fact that she always falls for “guys like that” and wishes that she could have fallen in love with Kubota (just a young teen at the time) instead. Later, when Kubota has beaten Anna’s ex-boyfriend nearly to death with an iron pipe, he says to her, “See? Aren’t you glad it wasn’t me?”

As a reader, we’re on Kubota’s side. He’s protected his friend from an abusive guy and (from our perspective) avenged her for wrongs done up to that time. But from another perspective, he’s just terrifying, calmly beating a man to a pulp with no real concern for what’s “right” at all, outside of the way things affect him and those he cares about in some way or another. And he’s far more brutal when protecting Tokito, whom he cares about much, much more.

MICHELLE: When Kubota kills in volume one, his mentality can be summed up by the line “It was him or me, and I always choose me.” After he meets Tokito, the jobs he takes may be dirty, but they’re not deadly. This side of him reemerges in volume six when his old boss, Sanada, orders Kubota’s replacement, Osamu, to kidnap Tokito and grill him for information related to Wild Adapter. Kubota’s revenge is swift, sure, and incredibly, incredibly lethal. Osamu realizes that he’s to blame for “baiting the monster,” which ultimately leads to an absolutely haunting page when Tokito and Kubota together take aim at Osamu and fire. They’ll leave you be if you return the favor, but provoke them and they will do anything to protect what they care about.

DAVID: And I think the key phrase there is do. I’m a big fan of talky manga where characters really articulate and examine their feelings, like in so many of Fumi Yoshinaga’s works. But the way that Minekura has these characters express the depth of their feelings for each other in actions is so effective and fascinating. It’s a brilliant execution of the “Show, don’t tell” mentality of storytelling. There’s terrific, astute, consise dialogue in Wild Adapter, but Minekura’s techniques in sharing the emotional truth of her leads is just amazing. It’s an appropriation and subversion of stereotypical masculinity, the whole “You touched my stuff” thing, and it’s been given so much urgency and truth.

MELINDA: That’s exactly it, isn’t it? That’s how Minekura so successfully creates such intimacy between her characters without ever having to pull them out of character by forcing them to reveal themselves with words they’d never say. In your post about volume three, David, you described the series as containing, ” improbably sexy characters posing through mostly outlandish scenarios, all of which manage to be unexpectedly involving beyond their considerable surface sheen.” And this is really how she manages that. Whatever else is going on–all the crazy plotting and stylized sensuality–it’s always grounded in emotional truth, which allows us to enjoy the cracktastic plot for all the fun that it is without sacrificing any of the stuff we’re really reading for. It’s satisfying on multiple levels.

MICHELLE: And it’s that very intimacy that helps the series to function as boys’ love without containing any scenes of overt sexuality. The art helps, too, of course. My favorite sexy pose is at the very beginning of volume six, where we first see Kubota lying shirtless in bed with Tokito’s discarded glove next to him, and then on another page see a shirtless Tokito holding Kubota’s glasses in his beasty hand. The glasses are such a part of Kubota, that for Tokito to be holding them in so familiar a manner is positively suggestive.

DAVID: Not to derail anything, as everything we’ve just been talking about is entirely true, but I feel like we’re neglecting the fact that the series is frequently, intentionally hilarious. There’s character-driven humor and some extremely clever scene construction.

MELINDA: I was thinking about that during our introduction, and trying to find good examples to scan in, but I realized that so much of it is hilarious over the course of a really well-crafted scene, it was often difficult to capture in a single page or two. Minekura’s humor is so much more clever than just a series of gags or punchlines.

MICHELLE: She does play with readers’ BL expectations a few times, though, by having Tokito make suggestive sounds while Kubota is beating him in a video game, or having them both play out a seduction scene for the benefit of the guys in a surveillance van outside. One of my favorite amusing things isn’t actually laugh-out-loud funny at all but just really neat, and that’s seeing the characters depicted in the style of the shounen manga Shouta is drawing. I especially loved Kou’s scientist persona.

MELINDA: Michelle, I’d say that Kou in general is some of what I find most funny in the manga. I absolutely adore his coded conversations with Kubota.

DAVID: Kou is a treat, no doubt. And that surveillance scene is still possibly the funniest scene I’ve ever read in a manga, just slightly ahead of the school festival in Flower of Life and the synchronized swimming in Sgt. Frog. It’s funny because that dialogue is note-perfect BL, right down to the faux-reluctance.

Minekura is an amazing mimic, and not just with BL tropes. Her seinen credentials also seem particularly strong, and I don’t think Wild Adapter would be out of place in something like Big Comic or Ultra Jump, especially with contemporary catering to a fujoshi audience. Frankly, her capacity to render credible, dramatic violence is right up there with the stars of the noir seinen category.

MELINDA: I absolutely agree, David, and I’ve wondered if there are regular MMF participants who have decided not to try Wild Adapter because they generally don’t like BL. I’m hoping that’s not the case, but I expect it might be. If so, that’s a shame. Not that there’s any guarantee they would like Wild Adapter, of course, but it’s definitely not exclusive to that audience in terms of appeal.

DAVID: I can honestly think of few series with BL elements that would cast as wide a net as Wild Adapter could.

MICHELLE: There’s definitely a lot about Wild Adapter that isn’t typical of the BL genre, and I totally agree that it would not be out of place at all in a seinen magazine. Fujoshi would see what they want to see, but for everyone else, the relationship between Kubota and Tokito could be read as a kind of intense bromance, like the one between Ban and Ginji in the thoroughly seinen GetBackers. In reality, though, the series run in a BL magazine (Chara). I’m wondering what about the series (if anything) does seem like typical BL to you.

DAVID: For me, the thing that’s most BL-ish is the lack of examination of sexual orientation or identity. It’s merely an intense and surprising relationship that happens to be between two men. There are asides where supporting characters wonder whether Kubota is gay or not, or prefers guys to girls, if that’s their reference point, but that’s just one component of the character’s mystique that people around him find puzzling. But Kubota and Tokito are both so enigmatic that a definition of their specific sexual orientation doesn’t really matter, though. For me, it’s one of those rare cases when that kind of real-world consideration wouldn’t make the BL elements any sharper or more interesting or persuasive. Minekura delivers their relationship without delving into specifics.

MELINDA: I agree with David about this being the most prominent BL element in the series, and I’ll also add that I actually quite appreciate the fact that other characters speculate about their sexual orientation, because it softens this issue for me a bit. Generally I dislike this aspect of BL, but at least Minekura acknowledges that same-sex orientation exists in the world and that people are thinking about these characters in those terms. Actually, along these lines, there’s a scene in one of the uncollected chapters of the series in which Tokito asks Kubota what kind of relationship they have, because somebody has asked him. Kubota’s reply is basically to say that it’s fine to just tell people something casual and vague, at which point he abruptly changes the subject. It’s a pretty interesting little moment, and it does make one wonder if Minekura might have planned to revisit the question later on in the series.

Other than that, I think the next most BL-like aspect would be the vilification of the series’ actual gay characters, Sanada (the yakuza boss who comes on to Kubota in volume one) and Sekiya, the youth leader from a rival group who is overtly feminized (in the Japanese version, he refers to himself with the feminine “atashi”) and frequently insulted by other characters using anti-gay slurs. The fact that both these characters are villains in the story actually reminds me a lot of Banana Fish, in which all the gay characters are rapists or pedophiles. Not that Banana Fish is BL (we’ve discussed that at length in this blog already), but you get my point. I’m not saying that Minekura intends to vilify gays. I don’t think she does. But homophobia is pretty common in BL, in my experience, so it does spring to mind.

MICHELLE: Wild Adapter does seem to have a touch of the everybody-is-gay syndrome that one sees in BL from time to time. Even though this isn’t overtly specified for the leads, you do have Sanada and Sekiya right off the bat, with each of them (in varying degrees) seeming to expect sexual favors from their underlings. So I don’t know that it’s a case of Minekura vilifying gays so much as the villains are just gay, too.

On the other hand, we do see plenty of other characters whose sexual orientations are not known or even part of the story, like Kou, Kasai, and Takizawa. And there’s some hetero boffing going on as well.

DAVID: For me, part of the appeal of the series is that Minekura is so vague about the specifics of the core relationship. It’s not that she’s entirely being a tease, because the emotional architecture is entirely clear, but she clearly has her own idea of what constitutes necessary detail beyond that. She either trusts her readers to come to their own conclusions, or she wants to leave the potential spectrum of those conclusions wide open, and she’s talented enough to get away with it.

MELINDA: I think you’re right, she does get away with it, and beautifully too. In that way, it’s more successful than Banana Fish and most other manga I’ve read in which the mangaka deliberately keeps the specifics of the main relationship vague. And actually, given the characters’ particular circumstances and personalities, I think it’s entirely possible (maybe even probable) that the specifics are vague on their part, too, which aids the believability of the whole thing.

MICHELLE: I’m conflicted a little on this point, because although I definitely think Minekura has skillfully crafted their relationship, I’m still a fairly literal-minded person, so I simultaneously wish for some kind of confirmation while being glad that Minekura isn’t giving me any. Does that make sense? Until I see proof otherwise, I’m going to assume they aren’t sexing it up. That obviously doesn’t preclude loving each other, of course.

DAVID: Count me among those who assume that they are sexing it up all the time, but I think your point is totally fair. And I’ve certainly enjoyed titles where we know exactly where the potential couple is on their road to intimacy. I’d list Sanami Matoh’s Fake (Tokyopop) as my very favorite from that subcategory. But I do have a weakness for mangaka who are confident and skilled enough to leave things unspoken.

MELINDA: And just to clarify my position, I’m assuming they probably are, but that it’s none of my business. So I suppose I’m in-between.

MICHELLE: And thus we provide a bit of something for everyone! :)

DAVID: And thus confirm Minekura’s genius.

MICHELLE: Earlier, Melinda mentioned that some regular MMF participants might have decided not to try Wild Adapter because they’re not big fans of BL, but another deterrent for some potential readers might be the fact that it remains unfinished (though, I stress, it does not end on a cliffhanger). How much does that impact your enjoyment of the series?

DAVID: It does make me sad that the series is on hiatus, but it doesn’t leave me dissatisfied with the series itself. As you both noted in the introduction to the series, the volumes are largely self-contained, and they can be enjoyed individually. (I can’t really understand how someone could read one volume of Wild Adapter and not want to read all of them, but that might just be me.)

There are so many reasons that readers of translated manga may not see the end of a series — the publisher cuts its losses on a commercially unsuccessful property or goes out of business altogether — that can result in perfectly legitimate complaining, but I always feel reluctant to get up in a mangaka’s business when he or she is facing health issues. I mean, I’d love to read more Wild Adapter, volumes and volumes of it, but I don’t feel any sense of grievance about it. Does that make sense?

MELINDA: That makes a lot of sense to me, and I feel much the same way about it. Wild Adapter could go on forever, and I’d be thrilled. And yes, I’d very much like to get to the bottom of the W.A. mystery and learn the truth behind Tokito’s past, but the overarching plotline was never really the point. So while I’d read as much of it as Minekura and Tokuma Shoten were prepared to give me, I don’t feel left in a lurch at all. I do wish we would see some official release of the five chapters that have been left hanging. I’d buy that in a second, whether they filled an entire volume or not.

I will admit a bit of utterly unjustified pettiness over the fact that various incarnations of Saiyuki (which I like much, much less) demanded so much of Minekura’s time when she might have been producing more Wild Adapter, but I realize how ridiculous and entitled that sounds. I mean, seriously.

MICHELLE: I’ve only read a tiny bit of Saiyuki (the first three volumes) but I definitely understand your grievance.

And, like you say, the plotline is not really the point. I’m less interested in W.A. and Tokito’s past (though of the two, the latter is far more compelling) than I am in the characters’ reactions to this. There’s a particularly poignant scene in, I believe, volume six where Kubota has engaged Kou to look for Tokito and says something like, “If he’s regained his memory, then you don’t need to tell me where he is.” He also believes there’s a chance that Tokito, like some amnesia patients, might forget everything that happened while he was “ill.” Kubota isn’t hindering Tokito’s quest for answers, but at the same time, he realizes that when Tokito gets them, things may be over for both of them. That is the part of the story I’m most sad we haven’t seen and maybe never will see.

DAVID: And I am becoming leery of series about hot, emotionally disturbed, possibly romantically involved boys who are linked in some way to illicit pharmaceuticals. Between Wild Adapter and CLAMP’s Legal Drug (Tokyopop), I’m wondering if these series ever get finished.

MELINDA: You do have a point. Sadly.

MICHELLE: I guess the only thing left for us to do at this point is wish Minekura-sensei a full and speedy recovery.

MELINDA: Well said, Michelle. Thank you, David, for joining us for this special edition of BL Bookrack!

DAVID: It was my pleasure!

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  1. Haven’t read this yet, but I appreciate you putting all those images in!

  2. I LOVE Minekura, so I was really delighted when you guys chose this for a Roundtable. One of things I like about it is how the very intentional style and layout and tone of Wild Adapter make it age so brilliantly. Minekura is known for taking several year long breaks (right now she’s recuperating from a disfiguring surgery for a medical condition she seems to have had for a long, long time), and there have been lots of gaps between various chapters and arcs. If you look closely, the art is VERY different between volume 1 and 6. But because Wild Adapter is drawn and structered the way it is, it’s less startling than say Fruits Basket or Naruto or even Saiyuki.

    Also, I noticed how casual the more mature elements were handled. The violence is there is all its gory glory, but it’s so laid-back about all the other yakuza-ish things, you don’t stop to think about it. You just except it as easily as the other characters. Like how anyone can just walk into Kou’s drugstore and buy a gun, or Komiya with the prostitute. It’s like “nothing to see here, just normal everyday [yakuza] stuff”. I didn’t really notice it until after I finished reading.

    I also have always liked how Minekura has always shown moral dilemmas. Not particularly sided one way or the other. Not concerned with the “right” side or the “wrong” side, just the “hard” side. [WARNING: SPOILERS] In volume one, Komiya is suplying drugs to his mother. But only so she doesn’t whore herself out for even more dangerous drugs. But it’s her drug addiction (which he has, in a way, been actively fueling) that is repsonsible for his death. We never know if her son’s death was able to convince her to quit drugs.

    In volume 2, we get a pregnant teenage girl with a rough homelife and a deadbeat boyfriend. She’s trying to decide whether or not to have an abortion. She eventually does, and she seems happy with her decision. But the last we see of her is her walking away crying her eyes out.

    They are really tough problems, but they’re real problems people face every day, especially in the every day of the world Tokito and Kubota live in. It makes the city feel alive, as if it were it’s own character. Kind of like the Tokyo of Tokyo Babylon. Or the Seoul of Let Dai.

    I feel I must disagree with the comments on Saiyuki though. It’s true that the beginning is no where near as good as Saiyuki, but i think that it is at least as good as Wild Adapter. By virtue of eventually get to the level of Wild Adapter and staying there for the rest of its 23+ volume run. It’s true that it is basically 4 guys in a jeep forever squabbling on the longest roadtripe ever across a pseudo-ancient China while hunting demons. They do eventually get to India, and there is a LOT more plot that evolves over time, but that was never the point of Saiyuki. It was more of a character study of four different characters whose karma/destiny is irrevocably bound to each other over the course of 500 years (particularly this life, and the end of their previous one) and the relationships between them. They had much more of the “don’t show, tell” than was in WA, as the story slowly onion-peels the relationships between the four and the plot. There is as much development before the story as after it begins, and that may be a weakness, but I felt much more for the Saiyuki boys who are forever trying to “be” while “being” than the WA boys who simply “are” (not that I particularly loved the SY boys more than the WA boys, mind you). Though while comparing them, i noticed that Kubota reminded me of a fusion between Koumyou Sanzo and Ukoku Sanzo, while Tokito reminded me a bit of Nataku.

    Saiyuki is not as self-contained as WA (by virture of what it’s trying to do, it can’t be) and was deliberately divided into thirds/fifths. 2/3, or 3/5 depending on how you look at it, through the story, it would be downright cruel to leave such a linear story unfinished. Especially with all the teases of future events. It may not be a gritty noir-esque tale, but as a lovely coming-of-age (in a way) fantasy with murder, zombies, and demons, it’s pretty darn good. And I think it does deserve some respect for that.

    • “It’s true that the beginning is no where near as good as Saiyuki.”

      I meant, no where near as good as Wild Adapter. They need edit buttons on these things.

    • Thank you so much for coming by and joining us! I think you’re absolutely right, by the way, on Minekura’s presentation of moral dilemmas. Her characters do face them, but she doesn’t necessarily take a stand on what’s “right” or “wrong.”

      For the record, I didn’t say I thought Saiyuki was a bad comic or not as good a comic as Wild Adapter. I just said that I don’t like it as much as Wild Adapter. And the truth its, I simply don’t. :)

      • I concur! Thanks for mentioning the dilemmas faced by Komiya and (I think her name is) Saori. That’s just another example of how the “observational characters” are not just devices through which readers view the main characters, but have their own issues and problems that offer some reflection on the world at large.

        • I also wondered at Minekura’s choice of side characters. It’s not that each character is unique and fleshed-out (which they are) but they seem very deliberate in how they play into a story. Komiya is Kubota’s friend (for lack of a better word). He is a character that Kubota responds to and eventually comes to care for. Kubota grieves for him as much as he can probably grieve for any human being before Tokito came along. Notice for he avenges his underlings, but he not only avenges Komiya, but leaves the yakuza all together. It is the reader’s best example of Kubota showing affection to anyone outside Tokito. Kubota knew Komiya for one year before Komiya dies. In volume two, Kubota and Tokito have been together a year, but he shows Tokito way more affection than Komiya, really hammering how much Toki means to Kubo, even though we don’t know much about their relationship just yet. He also serves as “the perspective of an ordinary yakuza.”

          Takizawa represents the perspective of the media (as a journalist), Osamu is the perspective of an enemy, Saori is “the perspective of a bystander affected by WA,” while Shouta is the perspective of a bystander (particularly an innocent) who is completely unrelated to WA at all.

          Volume 4 is particularly weird in that instead of focusing on a single side character in particular, it spends a lot of time on three in particular: the salaryman, Anna, and Hasebe.

          By the way, no love for Hasebe? Really? I thought he was brilliantly done. He really plays up the bad cop routine and we feel antagonistic towards him because of how he treats Kubota and Kasai, but we’re woken up when Kubota himself tells Hasebe, “You’re not wrong, you know. This world is crazy . . . if it allows people like me to exist.” And all of a sudden we have to see Hasebe’s side of things. Kasai is a crooked cop who harbors his nephew from the law as best he can. And Kubota is a not only ex-yakuza, but a cold-blooded killer responsible for who knows how many deaths and yet never seems to get any punishment for it. From the perspective of a respectable policeman, they probably would be “trash”.

          Also on a complete side note, that page at the very end of the main story of volume 4 (the one where Kubota lays his head on Tokito’s shoulder in the snow) is almost the exact same shot from the very end of the first chapter of Junjou Romantica. Just thought I’d point it out.

          • P-chan, I begin to feel that you should be submitting essays for this MMF! :) You make some great points about the perspective provided by each of the observers. I’d agree that it seems very deliberate indeed.

            And I do like Hasebe! I think maybe the reason he didn’t get mentioned is because he isn’t the sole POV character for that volume, but one of several, as you pointed out. It’s less overt with him than Saori, Shouta, or Osamu.

            • No, it was nothing. I just have an overactive analytical mind. I think it comes with being an English major . . .

              And I just love old guys in manga. I don’t know why. I really liked Max and Casablanca in Banana Fish, for example. But I also liked La Zulo in PSME, which is hands down my favorite manga ever.

              I usually hide out around Slightly Biased manga since Connie likes a lot of the same manga I do. In fact, I think I found Manga Bookshelf from her blog. I Also stalk The Manga Curmudgeon but I don’t usually comment. I do read every review looking for recommendations though. I think I posted some commnent under my real name on his review of Dengeki Daisy volume 1 comparing it to classic 1970s titles. Yes, I am that weird.

          • P-chan, I begin to feel that you should be submitting essays for this MMF! :) You make some great points about the perspective provided by each of the observers. I’d agree that it seems very deliberate indeed.

            I agree with this comment! :D

          • Funny, by the way that you bring up that image in volume 4. It’s one of the images I chose for my post today, and it’s been so long since I read the beginning of Junjou Romantica, I hadn’t thought of that at *all*. Now I have to hunt up that volume in my apartment and look! :D

            • My mind is funny that way. I saw that and said “Man, I KNOW I’ve seen this before . . . but where?” Five seconds later, Junjou Romantica came to mind. I didn’t actually get to check it until about five months ago though, when I finally got Wild Adapter (all six volume for $35 dollars in great condition, thank you ebay!) And I was right, The scene is really really similiar. I told my friend about it and she said, “Simple, Nakamura copied Minekura.” But JR chapter 1 was published before Dice 25. I think it’s just one of those funny coincidences. Maybe the Japanese just really like snow.

              And thank you for the link! I’m heading over to take a look. XD

      • I hear you on Saiyuki. I just got really defensive, but I know KNOW it’s a really well done comic (post-volume 3 or so). It’s not for everyone, and it’s really up to the reader if they prefer it (i personally like WA and SY equally), but Minekura does sooooooo much better than a LOT of contemporary mangaka out there today as far as her strengths go. It’s a lot like Adachi, R. Takahashi, or Yoshinaga. Even a lot of their worst stuff is still better compared to a lot of other manga out there. Especially when SY is a story that she’s been working on and carefully crafted for approximately 16 years. The original manga started in 97, but there is a dj dated back to 1995, making it her oldest series original series.

        By the way, the actual art for Wild Adapter is gorgeous. I actually went out and got the artbook Sugarcoat. Her series tend to be really visual in their emotional element. Tokito and Kubota don’t really talk about their feelings much, but once they get over WA and Tokito’s occasional breakdowns, they don’t seem to even have the concept of personal space concerning each other. In the manga it’s not quite as in your face, since they are usually doing “something,” usually moving, but in art (title pages, covers, promotional posters, and artbook pages) they are all over each other. The only way it doesn’t come across to the reader as sexual is that we know it’s Kubo and Toki. Any other characters and it would be like, “Whoa, get a room you guys!” But their suggestive poses and intense gazes do something beyond teasing the reader. They show the absolute trust and comfort the two of them have. Kubo would never let another living being touch him like that. And from evidence from volume (was it 5 or 6?) if it weren’t Kubo touching him like that, Tokito would probably have a traumatic episode.

        Also, and this is true with all of Minekura’s stuff, there’s a LOT of english in the manga outside of the dialogue. Most of it is really bad Engrish: the arc words for every volume are in english, among other things. In the artbook, the english is, as far as I know, corrected (it’s the Japanese edition). Still, the words really point towards Kubota’s death, but the images often show Tokito with his eyes closes and/or wounded. It makes me wonder what Minekura’s intent was. Also, why couldn’t Tokyopop have fixed the Engrish for the domestic releases, if the Japanese did it for the artbook? And another thing, why would Minekura have her arc words in English in the first place? Agh, I hope Minekura gets better soon so she can finally put an end to the Saiyuki saga once and for all and give us some more Wild Adapter!

        • I can at least say that I recall liking the original Saiyuki series better than Saiyuki Reload, enough so that I obtained my own copies after having initially borrowed them from a friend, and I’ll plan to do a reread of that in the near future. It’s been a long time since I read those series, and I couldn’t even tell you know why they had so much less impact on me than Wild Adapter did, but I read them *after* WA, so it may just have been as simple as them not being what I really wished for at the time. And really, it’s not that I didn’t like them. I just liked them less.

          I’ve been wanting to pick up a copy of Sugarcoat, indeed!

          • Definitely get the Sugarcoat artbook if you can find it cheap. I picked it up for a good price at a convention in mint condition. And I didn’t have to pay outrageous shipping prices either. It comes with a CD-ROM, but i don’t know what’s on it since I’m far too much of a wimp to break open the cardboard seal for it. Even so, it’s very very beautiful and the very back has some illustrations unrelated to WA (maybe another series? I don’t now). All in all, it was definitely worth the money I forked over for it.

            The Saiyuki saga has a weird structure to it. Saiyuki is the four guys becoming a team. Reload is them growing as a team. And [incomplete] Blast seems to be them getting the job done. And this is while juggling 3 different interconnected plots (the Kougaiji/Gyoumaoh plot, the Missing Sutra plot, and the 500 years ago stuff). For the 9-volume Saiyuki series itself, the first half seems to be introducing the four guys. Volume 1 introduced the story, volume 2 does more the same while giving some background on Gojyo’s Past. Volume 3 is Sanzo’s past. Volume 4 is Hakkai’s past. Volume 5 is how they all met for the first time. And volumes 6-9 is how these 4 hard-headed, independent, seemingly incapatable people are going to have to learn to work as a team without sacrificing their individuality. It’s very neatly done.

            In comparison, Reload is different. First we get 2 and half volumes of short arcs, then what amounts to a whole volume flashback. And then we get a 5 and half volume arc which finishes the series. Usually in Saiyuki, you get about 1-2 arcs per volume. But more than the second half of Reload is one continuous arc with lots and lots of buildup, but no real payoff until the last volume or two. The last of which was never published in english (at least in the US, Singapore is another story). Which may have been why you didn’t like it. There was no point to everything that happened in Reload without the last part which shows how it was worth it to the boys. How they changed from the original SY series boys because of those experiences, the effects of which they mostly keep bottled up until the second half of that final arc. I mean, I wouldn’t have liked it much either without that final volume. Not to mention, no one has published Saiyuki Gaiden which is becasically Goku’s Past arc.

            But underneath all of Minekura’s skill and charm, Saiyuki is still just a coming-of-age adventure/fantasy. WA is more . . . seinen-ish, maybe? I think you just might like the genre more. Or maybe it’s the characters who are in a completely different area. Kubo and Toki (even with his memory loss) have a strong amount of confidence in themselves and their actions and their feelings. Like Tokito’s conversation with Anna (above) or his cutting words to Saori when she first comes to the apartment in volume 2. While Sanzo, Gojyo, and Hakkai are weighed down by denial, guilt, and hopeless as they struggle to find a place where they can be totally free from it all. In a lot a ways, as introspective as they are, they are so full of doubt that they seem to lose sight of what’s in front of them. At the same time, it’s through their interaction with the other 3 guys, that they show signs of their potential that’s weighed down by all that karma. A lot of of their “confidence” is really just bravado to hide just how lost they are. I think Kubo and Toki are beyond that point, even when they’re troubled, they remain confident in themselves, which is probably why they’re still alive at his point. For example, Sanzo and Kubota are in similar situations in volume 1 of Wild Adapter and volume 3 of Reload. It’s a “them or me” situation. Kubota shoots unhesitatingly because he simply values himself over the life of the other person. No guilt. No shame. Just a decision. While Sanzo is constantly thrown into kill or be killed situations, he shoots because “I don’t want to die.” It’s a survival instinct. He’s terribly shaken by it. Constantly has nightmares. He’s ashamed and unsure he’s done the “right” thing. It takes him 4 years before he gets a decent night’s sleep. While Kubota is totally, genuinely, calm about the choices he’s made.

            All right, I’m going to shut up now.

            • Miss Smilla says:

              The Sugar Coat CD contains a bunch of goodies featuring images from the artbook — desktop wallpapers, icons, greeting cards, and two slideshow screensavers — one with art from the Executive Committee version of the boys, one with the WA versions. (It’s really similar in format to the Saiyuki Gaiden bonus CD that came bundled in Zero Sum Ward when Gaiden was coming to a close.) As for the handful of non-WA images at the end of the book, I think at least some of those may be coming from illustration work Minekura has done for other people? The one with the two guys on the ripped orange armchair is definitely from a BL light novel called “Trouble Trap” by Yuko Ikedo — Minekura did the cover and interior illustrations; and the smatterings of English in the art credits make it look like the other four non-WA images are things that were done for specific issues of Chara or Chara Selection…

              • Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! That disk was some sort of Pandora’s box for me. I wanted to know really badly, but I also didn’t want to wreck my book. So thank you for letting me know!

                • Miss Smilla says:

                  Hee, it’s not just you — I think I had that on my shelf for well over a year before I finally worked up the nerve to do surgery on the cardboard disc-holder page. ^_~

        • As mentioned in the roundtable, I’ve only read the first three volumes of Saiyuki, but it did seem that the fourth volume was going to be interesting, especially as it was to feature my favorite dude. (Sorry, no idea of his name. He has glasses.) I truly do intend to finish it. So many books, so little time.

          I noticed that about the “static art” being far more suggestive than the sequential art. Even on the chapter splash pages it’s evident, and I still think that glasses-grasping page of Tokito in the beginning of v6 is striking, because it’s so personal. Tying in with what you said, only Tokito would ever be permitted to remove Kubota’s glasses. It’s so…. intimate.

          • “[…] only Tokito would ever be permitted to remove Kubota’s glasses. It’s so…. intimate.”

            Except that he lets Anna take off his glasses in volume 4 . . . (why did I have to notice that?)

            • That doesn’t count ‘cos he was all young and stuff. :) But also, maybe he was trying to feel something for her, but failing.

              • Yeah, but I still like Anna just the tinniest bit less. Which is a shame because she’s an awesome character who should show up more. But then that goes to show how much I adore Toki.

                I noticed that Anna sets the glasses aside, while Tokito hold them tenderly in his beast hand. Keeping your “Kubota’s glasses are an intimate part of him” in mind, visually shows that Toki can know and accepts all of Kubota, while Anna clung to her image of him. And thus, I found something to squee over today.

                (it’s too bad that picture was published AFTER the artbook. I really want a big color version of it.)

          • Miss Smilla says:

            Bit late to the party here, apologies — I’ve only just stumbled across this roundtable.

            Michelle, for what it’s worth many if not most of the Saiyuki fans I know felt that the series didn’t really begin to hit its stride until Volume 4 — and yes, the main story arc there is very strongly focused on your favorite, Cho Hakkai. You’re in for a real treat whenever you get back around to it. ^_^

  3. Wow. That was a fabulous roundtable, folks! You brought up nearly everything I love about the series, and you even published some of my favorite pages! (That “Aren’t you glad it wasn’t me?” one gives me chills every time. It’s one of those moments where you are forced to remember that Kubota’s a sociopath, and you just don’t understand how his brain works.)

    I’m glad CLAMP was mentioned a couple of times because one of the character types I find fascinating (Kubota’s) is one that reminds me of Tokyo Babylon’s Seishirou Sakurazuka. Characters who are trying out this love thing they’ve heard about it but might actually be great actors simply going through the motions are intriguing to me. Certain characters call Kubota on this, and I find his responses both telling and unhelpful at the same time. It’s just one of the many layers that make this series have such high reread value.

    Thanks for your discussion. I really enjoyed it.

  4. Miss Smilla says:

    “I do wish we would see some official release of the five chapters that have been left hanging. I’d buy that in a second, whether they filled an entire volume or not.”

    FYI, if folks here haven’t heard the news already, Minekura-sensei has just announced that Ichijinsha now has the rights to WA and is preparing to re-release the series: has the most complete English summary I’ve seen so far, and there’s also a summary of the posting from Minekura’s own blog here:

    There’s still no firm date as to when new chapters will come out — Minekura-sensei has been doing more and more writing and illustration work as she continues to recover, but judging by her blog postings she’s not yet in a place to resume the rigors of manga production; but the story’s no longer in editorial/contractual limbo in Japan. That still begs the question of when we’ll ever see an English licensed rerelease/new volumes now that TokyoPop’s gone under, of course… *sighs*


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