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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Manga Review: He's an Absolute Doll

MANGA: Absolute Boyfriend by Yuu Watase

(This review is revised and updated from one that originally appeared in LA Alternative, 4/21-27/06.)

Women have been putting up with pop culture plots about sexy robo-females for so long, it's about time somebody came up with something the other way around for the girls. We've patiently waited through male-fantasy fetishes ranging from Weird Science to The Stepford Wives to Duran Duran and their "Electric Barbarella." Even the brilliant women of CLAMP joined the wish-fulfillment-for-guys trend with their Chobits manga.

Finally, for once, Yuu Watase has given us a woman's fantasy about a robo-guy, with her six-volume Absolute Boyfriend manga series. As a romance that combines fantasy, sci-fi, and comedy, Absolute Boyfriend may be a gimmick--but what sets it apart from the often insipid shojo (girls') manga is that it's actually funny and poignant at the same time.

"I had this vision in my head, a naked guy tumbling out of a box," writes Watase on her sidebar to the first episode. (As shojo fans know, this genre's artists always include a gossipy sidebar for their fans.) "Normally I'd just laugh it off as the wild fantasies of a single woman, but I'm a manga artist."

Bless the manga artist for turning her wild fantasies into a best-seller. Rika's a flop with guys until she meets a salesman who's not your average suit-and-tie type. He's some kind of fetishist or cosplayer, and he persuades the socially inept schoolgirl to try out his company's "Night Lover" model. Once the life-size, err, action figure comes out of the--box--and puts his clothes on, turns out Rika's stuck with him unless she can negotiate a deal. Further complications include absent parents, a boy next door and a treacherous best friend.

Watase has been one of the most popular of Japanese shojo manga artists since 1989, when she debuted with "Pajama De Ojama" in the Shojo Comics Manga anthology. Since then she's drawn long-running hits including Alice 19th and Ceres, Celestial Legend. Her manga works have spawned novels, anime, and two Japanese TV series.

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