In my last post, I talked about how I tend to experience fiction by total immersion. Then for two days after, I proceeded to immerse myself once more by reading all 21 volumes of Please Save My Earth. It was like a nostalgic visit to my very own young teen brain, and that’s something pretty incredible. Four volumes in, I said to friends, “It’s like they removed my teenaged brain and stuck it on paper for all of Japan to read.” This only became more true as I continued through the series.
Please Save My Earth, for those who don’t know, is a classic shōjo science fiction manga about a group of teenagers who share common memories through their dreams about their former lives as alien scientists observing earth from the moon. The plot is dense and complicated, mostly revolving around the tangled relationships and jealous rivalries that extend far beyond the characters’ past lives and in to the present, particularly concerning the one non-teen in the group, eight-year-old Rin Kobayashi, whose past life persona manages to make him both the villain and the hero of the piece, which is actually extremely well done.
What’s really stunning about this story is how well and how believably the young characters carry their adult past-selves. As far-fetched as some of the plot manages to get, I absolutely believed every word and look from these characters, particularly Rin, the little boy with an angry, half-insane scientist inside him, and Issei Nishikiyori, a teenage boy who is struggling with the feelings brought on by his past life as a woman madly in love with the man who now lives in the consciousness of his best (male) friend. Yes, god, yes this is a shōjo manga, and it can’t be mistaken for anything else, and I mean that in the best way possible. I would have eaten this up with a spoon as a 12 or 13-year old, and it says a lot for the writing that I pretty much did now, at the advanced age of 38.
There are some elements in the story I know I should find disturbing, like a woman who is in love with a man who rapes her, a romantic relationship between a teenager and an elementary school student, a heroine with the personality of a brown paper bag, and I did find these things disturbing, or at least I tried. Yet I still spent two days utterly mesmerized by the soap-opera intrigues and flowery art, and I’ll probably do it again whenever I’m able to purchase the books, because the relationships are really more complicated than disturbing, and the weepy heroine’s conflicted, neurotic past life character more than makes up for her present-day insipidness.
If you’re reading this, and you think your youthful imagination was anything like mine, or frankly, if you were ever a teenager and/or a girl, give yourself a treat and dig into Please Save My Earth. You will not regret it.