I‘m a huge fan of this mangaka! I’ve worshipped Skip Beat! (Nakamura’s other manga series) for the past 3 years! I’ve re-read Skip Beat! so many times that I’ve completely lost count. But, I read Tokyo Crazy Paradise for the first time just this month. Why did I wait so long? I AVOIDED this series, I ADMIT IT! Why? Well…I’ve been reading manga for many years now, and I’ve often found that when I love one series, and go to read another series by that same mangaka, I end up feeling disappointed by it. Nakamura and Skip Beat! meant so much to me that I couldn’t bear the thought of being completely disappointed with her other series. Most of the time when I’m disappointed by how similar the characters/plot are to the original story I loved, it’s like the same main characters have been copied and pasted into a different environment with different hair styles.When I see that I allow it to affect my image of the characters from that first series, they suddenly seem a lot less unique and it lessens my love of the series. Plus…why isn’t Tokyo Crazy Paradise being released officially in the US? That particular detail nagged at me the most, it seemed like it was almost saying…this series isn’t so great.
I’ll be making many comparisons to Skip Beat! throughout this review, I’m sorry if this is bothersome to the readers who haven’t read Skip Beat! but this is how I wanted to write the review. Especially since I feel that those most curious about this series will be those that are fans of Skip Beat!
Tokyo Crazy Paradise takes place in a fictional 2020 is, it’s a futuristic society, complete with advanced technology. The medicine advancements are probably the most notable feature, our characters are back on their feet after serious injuries in no time. It’s a time of intense moral decay. When others are in trouble people will duck their heads and pretend they didn’t see. There are also far fewer women than men, and there is a lot more pronounced violence against women. As a result of this world and its danger to women, Tsukasa’s parents had her raised as a boy.
Tsukasa’s parents were cops that were killed investigating an important case, they left behind her and her 3 brothers. While on the street Tsukasa decides to try and get a free meal out of her classmate Ryuji, who happens to be a yakuza boss, the Sandaime. He inherited the title after his father was murdered. He uses the opportunity to tie her into being his bodyguard until the debt of the meal is paid off. But Ryuji becomes intrigued by her and increases her debt at every opportunity (including force-feeding her and causing her to break things), insuring that she will always be tied to him by the debt and thus by his side.
Heroines of shoujo manga that meet MY definition of strength are few and far between. Love is not their #1 focus, tears are rarely shed, and they’re doing their best to live their life despite negative past/present situations. And perhaps most important of all, they make me laugh. It’s rare that I like a shoujo series where comedy isn’t one of the main aspects of the series. I consider Nakamura’s heroines the strongest and most admirable heroines in shoujo existence currently, they meet all my criteria. Although in an actual fight Tsukasa would win, when I refer to Kyoko’s strength it’s more of a mental strength.The heroine Tsukasa is a real fighter, and as a result she gets injured pretty badly in the series, I like that this series doesn’t go easy on the women fighters. When they win it feels like a REAL hard earned win, not like they tricked their way into a win…I get that feeling from a lot of female fighters in manga. Don’t let Tsukasa’s boyish image fool you, when she unwraps her breasts and puts on a wig she is a smoking hot babe. Also the “hero” Ryuji is a pushy pervert that tries to sneak in on Tsukasa when dressing. It’s kind of a refreshing change of pace to have someone like him as the hero of a shoujo series. But both Tsukasa and Ryuji are diamonds in the corrupt disgusting rough that is Tokyo.
This series is darker and has more exciting action than any shoujo I’ve EVER seen! I love shonen, the fights are thrilling! I love shoujo, the relationships between people trying to succeed in love are moving. But…in the world of anime/manga I rarely see a successful combination of these two elements. In fact, it seems like it’s rarely even tried! Tokyo Crazy Paradise is a successful combination, I can hardly even understand how this series is in the shoujo category, ESPECIALLY because there is quite a bit of nudity (specifically boobs). I was wondering why this series hasn’t been released in the U.S. yet, I can’t say for sure but if I had to guess it would be that the manga companies aren’t quite sure how to handle all the female nudity/violence in a series that is supposedly shoujo? That’s just a guess though, it’s not like I have any way of knowing for sure.
The art of TCP evolved as the story went on (see Tsukasa in the images below). By the end I was more frequently pausing and thinking to myself how beautifully similar the art is to Skip Beat! Hell the 3 main characters even REALLY looked like Ren, Kyoko, and Sho to me by the last few chapters. NOW I know I just criticized how I usually dislike such similarities among main characters in different series,but there were enough differences in their appearances that didn’t make me feel like there was an uncomfortable amount of overlap. Reading TCP hasn’t changed my opinion of Skip Beat! at all, if anything I like it more because I think of TCP when I see Skip Beat! showing its darker sides.
It didn’t take Nakamura long before she became a hit, she only did a few short series before Tokyo Crazy Paradise took off. And right after TCP ended she started up Skip Beat! right away. I really admire this mangaka even more now after reading TCP. It’s clear to me that she really deserves her success. She is one of the few shoujo artists that has the privilege and skill to have a bi-weekly series.
Now I won’t lie, as much as I enjoyed and admire TCP, Skip Beat! is still #1 for me. BUT this series is far more worthwhile than almost every other shoujo series out there. But its only enjoyable to those that love strength in their heroines. The violence and nudity present in this series will put off those who like their shoujo series more soft. This series probably avoids almost every shoujo cliche by BARELY being a shoujo series. I recommend this series to fans of shoujo and shounen! If you can accept that the beginning art style is a bit dated, you’ll be in for an exciting ride that is the most unique shoujo series I have ever encountered!