Title: Romance Godan Katsuyou
(Four Steps to Romance)
Author: FUJITA Kazuko
Flower Comics, 1989
I have had this cute 4-volume set of manga for a long time, but for some reason I never sat down and read it. I sometimes actually forget I own a series, and then when I see it mentioned elsewhere and become interested in it, I am startled to discover I already own it ^_^; Such was the case with this series. I picked it up at a manga sale, and then it got lost in my manga piles. The thing that made me dig it out of my stacks of books was the realization that there is a Taiwan live action drama made not too long ago based on it. The drama is cute enough, and I was surprised to learn it was based on a manga I already owned! I am glad I was able to dig it out now, because it is a cute little series. I was originally attracted to this one because of the cover of volume 1. Both characters there look totally adorable to me! The covers for volumes 2-4 are nice as well, but this one is my favorite.
This manga was published starting in 1989, and the story and art style are a perfect example of the typical art style from that late 80’s early 90’s period. Compared to 70’s manga, the character art is more loose and wispy. There is heavy use of screentones, as if the author just discovered what they are and felt compelled to use them in every scene. However, the screentone usage is simple, and she seems to like using all of the “silly” tones — polka-dots, those little cacti, plaids, sprinkles, English newspaper clippings, etc. The pages are just as cluttered as in 70’s manga, but the structure is loosening up more, too, with art spreading out of clearly defined panels, or a lack of distinct panels at all.
This is a rags-to-riches Cinderella type of story. Our heroine is a cute, cheerful, 15 year-old girl named ICHIMURA Mugiko. At the beginning of our story, she lives happily in a very small apartment with her adopted mother and father. Her father works hard as an ordinary salaryman, but they don’t have much income. Nevertheless, Mugiko is pretty happy.
As this is not really a slice-of-life story, these normal, happy days will soon take an unusual turn for poor Mugiko. When she was little, she wrote an essay for school about wanting to be rich. She is very money-minded, always saving every penny, determined to help her family. She sometimes jokes with her parents about how one day her real parents will appear in a black Mercedes. They will be super rich and take her away to a mansion somewhere, and all of their money problems will be over. It was a nice fantasy for Mugiko. However, she never imagined that it might actually happen!
It all begins with the arrival of some men in black. They arrive at Mugiko’s house just like how she always imagined it — in black Mercedes. Mugiko has no idea who these men are, but they are eager to inform her that they have been searching for her for a very long time on behalf of her real grandfather. Even more amazing, her bilogical family isn’t just some average household. Mugiko is, in fact, actually a member of the Shidou clan, a huge and influential family that is so wealthy, Mugiko can’t even begin to imagine.
Without further ado, Mugiko is swept away from her mundane life and into the Shidou house. At first, Mugiko is curious and excited. The Shidou family mansion is HUGE! When she is introduced to her grandfather, he is hard to resist because he is so happy to see her. However, his news is overwhelming — she is now the heir to the Shidou family fortune, and he wants her to come live with him! Naturally, Mugiko is happy about all the wealth. But to leave her family who raised her? How can she do that? Besides, she already has a life! Friends! High school! Unfortunately, Mugiko’s grandfather is very firm on this point. Mugiko will no longer live in poverty. She will come live in the mansion!
Mugiko ends up making a cautious transition from a boring life to one of wealth and privilege. But of course it is not all rainbows and happy endings there. The Shidou family household is very interesting. They treat Mugiko with outward respect, but there are those that don’t trust her, and think she is a fake who is out to swindle the grandfather. In particular we have SHIDOU Yoshiki, who, until now, had been the heir to the Shidou family. He is the oldest of several handsome Shidou cousins Mugiko is later introduced to.
Although he is very handsome, Yoshiki’s personality leaves a lot to be desired. He insults Mugiko, and doesn’t trust her a bit. He is so rude! She hates him! His mean attitude, combined with homesickness for her parents, make Mugiko miserable in spite of her amazing new wealth. Yet when she tries to visit her parents she discovers they are being well taken care of by the Shidou family and have even been given a new house! She owes so much to the Shidou family now, how can she leave them? She is really trapped, and even amazing things like the new bank account and gold card aren’t enough to make her feel better.
Desperate to escape this golden trap, Mugiko ends up making a deal with her grandfather to borrow some money to buy the house for her parents with. She has 5 years to pay the sum back. If she fails to repay the money, she must agree to live there and marry the person chosen for her by her grandfather (most likely the dreaded Yoshiki, ugh!). If she succeeds, she and her family can own their house and live freely.
This series follows the adventures of the cute, determined, straight-forward Mugiko, as she struggles to find a place in her new family and to deal with her handsome new cousins, including the infuriating Yoshiki. The sum of money she borrowed is huge. Finding the money to pay off her part of the bargain won’t be easy!
It is kind of amazing how a lot of the Taiwan drama follows the manga plot. There are differences that develop, of course, but the setup is very similar. Anyway, even though this series has a very “1989” feel to the artwork, I still recommend checking it out, it’s fun! Mugiko is a pretty strong character. I like series where the characters start out as enemies. 🙂