Monday, September 29, 2008

Kimi wa Petto: Of Pets and Lovers

It's been a while since I reviewed something on this blog....but I don't really feel like reviewing an anime at the moment. I was thinking of Denno Coil but my memory of that series is so good that I just want to preserve it for some more time before I have to re-watch it and make a proper review. So putting that aside, I thought, aha! Why not review a manga?

Of course, this blog is supposed to be an anime blog but why make such rigid distinctions between two essentially similar genres, right? Don't answer that.

So anyhoo, I recently got into this TokyoPop manga by Ogawa Yayoi called Tramps Like Us. Eh, that's the English version. The Japanese title is actually Kimi wa Petto (lit. You Are A Pet). I think the Japanese title sounds better so that's what I'm going to use.

The manga is josei -- that means it's for women in their late teens or higher so the themes are slightly more mature. Come to think of it, I think NANA is also josei. Sorry. Does it show that I don't read much manga? No matter.

The manga is composed of 14 volumes, with about 82 chapters in all. There are scanlated versions available online but I don't think whoever's doing the scanlation ever completed the work. But don't worry. The English version by TokyoPop is actually pretty good.

In a nutshell

Kimi wa Petto is about the helplessness that a woman on the career path often feels against the pressures of society. It's also about finding love in the oddest sort of places and at the oddest time. And it's about what pets probably think if they could talk. It's about a million other things actually, but basically: it's about a certain woman and her pet human. That's it.

What it means to have everything

Twenty-seven-year-old Iwaya Sumire is not only tall and beautiful but smart as well, having graduated from Tokyo University and educated in Harvard. With such formidable qualifications, no wonder she makes a quick ascension on the career ladder to the prestigious External Affairs department of the big newspaper company she works for.

Just a few minor problems:
  • her co-workers hate her
  • her boss targets her for sexual harassment
  • and her boyfriend of five years decides to break it off with her so he can marry his pregnant mistress.
You can say both her life and her career are teetering on the edge. But when she decides to finally take action and put a stop to her boss' ways by punching him in the face (and knocking off his false teeth in the process), she ends up getting transferred to the "dead-end" Lifestyle section where there's little hope for career advancement.

Even so, things have a strange way of working themselves out. On the same day, Sumire comes home to find a box outside of her apartment and in there she discovers a boy who will eventually turn her life around and teach her a few lessons in trust and love.
The Pet

The boy's name is Gouda Takeshi, a child prodigy in classical ballet and a genius in contemporary dance. But to Sumire, he is simply "Momo," her pet. That's because his curly hair reminds her of an old dog she used to have, whose name was also Momo. The dog was her one and only confidant when she was younger but because she passed away, Sumire lost her only friend too soon.

That's why when Takeshi begs her to let him stay at her place for a while longer, Sumire decides to cut a deal: she will let him stay, feed him and generally take care of him, and in exchange, he will become her "Momo," simply a pet with no human rights whatsoever and certainly no sex. Will Takeshi agree?

He does. Perhaps, a little too promptly.

And this is how Takeshi gets a new home and Sumire gets a pet. It's a strange relationship, indeed. One that is heartwarming and endearing and at the same time fired up with sexual tension. After all, both master and pet are humans -- good-looking humans, at that, and their attraction is undeniable, despite the eight-year age gap.Enter the Dreamy Hasumi-senpai

But the peaceful life of master and pet is disturbed when Sumire's senpai, Hasumi, returns from his foreign post to Sumire's department and immediately expresses a romantic interest in her.

Sumire has always held a torch for Hasumi since their university days and now he has become even more dreamy. He has all the three H's that Sumire is looking for in a man: height, high salary and high education. They start dating and it looks like their relationship is heading towards marriage. But what will Sumire do if Hasumi finds out that her Momo is not a 'dog' but a human boy?

"Tramps Like Us" Graphic Novels @ Amazon
Kimi wa Petto (live-action) OST @ Play-Asia
Kimi wa Pet items @ Yes Asia

Romance, drama and a healthy dash of sxe humor

...makes for a highly entertaining read.

This is the first manga by Ogawa Yayoi that I ever read but I must say that I took to her story almost immediately.

'Almost' because I wasn't totally sold on the idea of master and pet having some kind of taboo relationship. LOL, I actually thought the story was just a poor excuse for writing a dirty fic.

I only really took the time to read the plot after I found out that there is a TV drama adaptation of this manga starring Koyuki and Jun Matsumoto. Koyuki, of course, starred opposite Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. Jun Matsumoto is supposed to be some kind of idol.
Koyuki plays the "cool but occasionally clumsy beauty" character to a tee. This is the only other work I've seen her do, the other one being 'The Last Samurai' and the difference between that character and Sumire in 'Kimi wa Petto' was kind of an eye-opener for me. She can do hilarious, too.

Hmm, I guess the sheer naughtyness of the premise might have been a factor, too. But Kimi wa Petto is nothing of the sort, actually. I mean, yes, the tension between Sumire and Takeshi is so obvious you can't help but feel that sooner or later something's going to happen between them. But it's not all about that. Their relationship is...more, somehow. More than that of mere master and pet and more than that of lovers.
I don't find Jun Matsumoto cute but I suppose he plays the character convincingly enough. Honestly, he reminds me too much of a college classmate.

The wonderful thing about Ogawa Yayoi is that she does not put labels on relationships. She simply unfolds them and lets you, the reader, decide to call it however you want. That's actually what I love about this manga.

Another thing is the humor. Oh my god, ZEE HUMOR! XD I don't know. Maybe, it's just a Japanese thing, but the combination between drama and humor is so infectious, I found myself alternating between laughing my a** off and bawling my eyes out the entire time. I notice the same thing with almost every manga that I ever read.

Then again, Ogawa's special brand of humor is gem. For one, Kimi wa Petto is populated by cooky characters, especially Sumire -- beautiful, brilliant career woman on the corporate ladder...who happens to be a die-hard fan of K-1 wrestling, anime and game consoles. LOL She's also quite clumsy and often does things without thinking them over first. The funniest scene with her in the manga has got to be how she gets introduced to Takeshi's sisters and she bows, right? Because she's Japanese and all, and when she looks down, she finds to her horror that she's still wearing the hotel-issued slippers. LOL That was too funny. I actually laughed out loud when I read that and I was on the bus and people were giving me strange looks, but I thought, who cares? Too funny.

There are also randomly funny scenes sprinkled all over the manga. You can't miss them. Like that one with Sumire (again!) sitting as though in a daze and the shop owner standing behind her accidentally knocks off a jar from the shelf right onto Sumire's head. Sumire is like: "What happened?" LOL Ogawa draws the funniest faces.

Beautiful Art

Do I need to explain myself on that? It's beautiful. Ogawa's art. Not particularly brilliant but I like the faces of the characters enough and I like how she portrays corporate fashion. I especially enjoy looking at Sumire's outfits -- very "power" woman look and yet still very feminine and elegant.

I guess I have a little problem with the mouths of the character. Too wide, perhaps. But I like how the characters' bodies are evenly proportioned. Ogawa draws the most beautiful feet. I mean, really, they're beautiful -- the characters' feet. Feet are actually harder to draw than hands. At least, that's based on my own experience. So when I see feet drawn in such an attractive way, I am half in love with the art already.

The style actually reminds me a bit of Mars and Eternal Sabbath. At the moment, I forgot the name of the mangaka...but yes, the style is very similar. Lots of attractive people. Little ugliness. As a matter of fact, there aren't any ugly people in this manga, with the possible exception of Yuri's mother-in-law, and that one was more hilarious than ugly. Of course, this makes the entire setting unbelievable but I wasn't looking for that anyway. I wanted to be entertained and this manga did more than expected.

The score

I give it a seven out of ten. The ending was all...warm and tingly but also a bit predictable. The story is perhaps two volumes too long. There were some portions that I felt were unnecessary to the plot -- e.g. the mermaid arc and that one with the kid and her cat. Sure, they were fun to read but they actually did nothing to advance the story along.

Kimi wa Petto is not classic material, to be sure. Just a story. A very entertaining and heartwarming one, that is. The drama never gets over the top. That's the biggest plus. Too many romance stories these days fall into the trap called 'drama' that before you know it you're watching a soap opera on paper. Kimi wa Petto does not make that mistake. There are tears and some neurosis, but ultimately the story maintains its light-heartedness.


Absolutely. If you like romantic comedies with a slightly more mature twist, that is. Be warned that this is not for the prude. If you find the idea of a grown woman making a human boy into her pet too offensive, you'd best steer clear of this manga.

Kimi wa Petto Wikipedia Entry
Kimi wa Petto (manga) @ ANN
Kimi wa Petto (live-action) @ ANN