Phew, so my last assignment for the year is now done, now I only have to do my exams...sigh why did I decide to do a double degree, I really did not think this through. Well, thank goodness it's nearly all done for the year. On a sidenote, my mum is currently watching Breaking Dawn. As mentioned in my very first post, the Twilight series is a bit of a Taboo subject, so not in the best mood...
Anyways moving on, as promised last time, I will talk about Kuragehime by Higashimura Akiko, it is currently ongoing at 11 volumes, and the scans are pretty up to date, I think they are at the beginning of the 10th volume at the moment, and it is Josei, so older female readers are intended (not 10 year olds).
The story is about Tsukimi, a girl who moved from the countryside to live in Tokyo, she doesn't have a job or go to school, so she is technically a NEET (acronym used for people who are Not in Education, Employment or Training).She shares a house with 5 other girls, Masaya, Chieko, Banba, Jiji and Mejiro sensei (sensei in this context means Yaoi manga author). All these girls are also NEETS, who don't work except Mejiro, and all have strong social anxiety, strong dislike for men, naturally they are virgins and are otakus of some form. They refer themselves as Amars (pretty similar to nuns in a convent) and petrify when in the presence of men or beautiful people.
The story begins when Tsumi meets Kuranosuke, a beautiful girl who looks like a princess that helps her out when Tsukimi is trying to save the life of a jellyfish (Tsukimi is a jellyfish otaku). Kuranosuke stays the night at Tsukimi's despite her objections because the others feel she is too beautiful. Tsukimi discovers that Kuranosuke is actually a guy, and despite this chooses to keep his identity a secret.
Kuranosuke decides that he is now friends with Tsukimi and as such she ends up being dragged by Kuranosuke and given a make over. With make up and something other than track suits on, Tsukimi is quite a beautiful girl. Upon being made over, Tsukimi has a brief encounter with Shuu, Kuranosuke's older half brother, and he immediately falls for her, despite being a 30 year old virgin (this becomes kind of an ongoing joke through the series). Ironically, when Shuu returns Tsukimi's clothes, he does not recognize her in otaku mode.
Later the three of them go to the jellyfish aquarium, Tsukimi is dressed in a Kimono and doesn't suffer from 'petrification' around Shuu, mainly because she is not wearing glasses, so she can't see. Tsukimi starts crying at the aquarium about what her now deceased mother said, and this somewhat upsets Kuranosuke.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that the Amars place of residence in Amamizukan is in the process of being sold in order to make way for a redevelopment of the area which includes a high rise hotel and shopping mega complex. Kuranosuke along with the Amars decide to try and raise the funds to buy the building themselves.
At the redevelopment meeting, the Amars attend, along with Shuu, who represents his father (their family is a political family) and other local residents. The host of the meeting is the Amars worse enemy: A beautiful woman. The amars feel uncomfortable and leave early but as it is raining, Tsukimi left her umbrella at the meeting, so she goes to retrieve it. Outside the meeting hall, she sees Shuu and Inari (the beautiful host) close, sharing an umbrella. Later Shuu and Inari are at a bar discussing the redevelopment, when Inari spikes Shuu's drink. She takes him to a hotel room and strips him and takes photos of the two of them together. Although nothing happened, Inari uses those photos as a blackmail tool.
After a while, Shuu's father wonders why Shuu is acting differently. He bribes Hanamori (I think that was his name), the famliy chauffer with a new BMW (he is a BMW fanatic) if he reveals the information. Shuu's father uses this information and tries to force Inari and Shuu to go steady even though Shuu doesn't want to. Again Hanamori is another ongoing gag, different people bribe him with BMW products to reveal information.
In the meanwhile, Kuranosuke works with the Amars in efforts to gain funds to save their home. One idea is to open a stall at the local flea market, where the group sell various items. Tsukimi makes small jellyfish weather dolls which prove to be quite popular. After selling all the jellyfish dolls, Kuranosuke suggests that they advance the jellyfish idea to clothing, as he believes there is nothing out there with a jealyfish motif.
Back to Inari and she continues to blackmail Shuu to spend time with her through the photo, but he eventually has enough as he only wishes to discuss the redevelopment when Inari only does things out of spite. He slaps he then leaves, leaving Inari to ponder if Shuu is actually a virgin (this is kind of done in arrogance, as Inari believes that someone with such little experience could make her feel the way she does, I feel that she is kind of masochistic).
Kuranosuke and the gang start making a jellyfish dress, and after much effort, they accomplish making one. Upon seeing it, Kuranosuke's university friends who are performing a play also want to wear the dresses as the 25 Othello's. After an all nighter, the group manage to finish all the costumes. After the performance, Kuranosuke drags Tsukimi on stage so the audience can see the designer of the dresses. Shuu and his father, and uncle (who is meant to be prime minister/ex prime minister) are in the audience, generating publicity for both the play, and the costumes.
Afterwards, Kuranosuke urges Tsukimi to redo the dresses from the play, hold a fashion show and start a clothing line in order to raise the money needed to save the Amars home. While working on the clothing, an 'awakened' version of Tsukimi emerges, who basically ignores anything not clothes related. It is during this time that Shuu finally makes the connection that Tsukimi otaku mode is the same girl from the aquarium and such.
Tsukimi, Kuranosuke and gang manage to get the clothing made in time and hold their fashion show to a huge success. It was filmed and put on the internet, with orders coming from all over the world, including from Kuranosuke's biological mother in America. Because she doesn't want Kuranosuke to find out, she asks Shuu to order her a dress without his knowing. This brings Tsukimi and Shuu closer together.
In the meanwhile, Inari is off in South Korea, trying to convince Chieko's mother, who is in South Korea idol chasing, to sell the Amars home, Upon her return the Amars, Kuranosuke and an ederly couple who run a candy shop protest about the redevelopment with the help of Shuu and his connections. As a 'reward' Hanamori sets them up on a date (He also loves women, but he states that if he had to choose, BMW's would win). Later on the date, Shuu confesses to Tsukimi, but she seems to misunderstand, this leads to Shuu writing a letter to Tsukimi saying that he 'would like to date her with the intention of marriage'. Again, there are some jokes about a virgins idea of dating and such. Kuranosuke laments over how could he have romantic feelings for Tsukimi given how no-one from his past has made him do so (he basically says that despite all the women he's had sex with and so on).
Due to the overwhelming demand for the jellyfish dresses, Kuranosuke and Jiji organize for the dresses to be made and outsourced in India to save time and money and because the Amars ability is far below than required for dress making (Although Chieko can sew at rapid speeds, she can only do say with traditional clothing such as Kimono's). The first delivery arrives back in Japan, and Tsukimi takes Lina's dress (Kuranosuke's mother) to Shuu. Shuu asks Tsukimi for her answer and in semi-petrified mode tilts her head in a 'yes' direction (Because of Shuu's idea of what dating is, he has already planned to go buy an engagement ring, lol).
Meanwhile, Kuranosuke is reflective of his feelings for Tsukimi and draws to the conclusion that it won't happen between them, because the in all the other fairytales, the sorcerer is always the sorcerer and can never become prince charming. He reminiscences on how he has helped Tsukimi from her former self to the point where she is now and acknowledges that he loves her too.
Anyways, I really liked this series, I think all the characters are quite quirky and it is not the standard story, so it was an enjoyable read from that aspect too. I liked how the the lead, Tsukimi, is not a 'cute girl' (not in the conventional sense) and is an otaku. Despite what has happened to this point, I still think the romantic part is somewhat open ended, as in it is not over yet, given Kuranosuke's playboy image, I think he will make a huge pass at Tsukimi at some point. I also feel that Inari might start playing some more of her dirty tricks sometime in the near future. I also liked the art, I need to make a point of this. The art isn't dissimilar to Glass Mask, very retro style, and it is amazing to look at.