Title: Tokyo Rock Shounen
Author: KIKUCHI Kamaro
Flower Comics, 2009
There is something I really enjoy about Kikuchi Kamaro’s works. Her art is clean and distinctive, and her stories are fun. She seems to really like rock and roll stories. This book is a spinoff of another series which started as a one-shot ane eventually expanded into a 2-volume series called Nousatsu Rock Shounen. That series already had one spinoff, Nousatsu Beat de Utawasete. (Which I talk about it on this site over here.) The original series featured Neji, the lead singer of the popular indies rock band East Robo and his romance with Mirai, a classmate at his school. In this book, we get to learn more about the other members of the East Robo. They only appeared briefly as supporting characters before, but now each member gets his own short story and shot at romance. So, each story is a one-shot, but they are all related to the original series. I don’t think you need to have read the first series to enjoy this one, it all stands alone just fine.
The first story has a similar set up in a way as Nousatsu Rock Shounen. In this case, we have a rocker girl named MORIOKA Mai who plays guitar and wants to be a successful singer. She was inspired to become a rock star a few years ago when she saw East Robo in concert. Now she has her own band. However, they don’t have much of an audience, in spite of her decent guitar skills and voice. One day, after a particularly bad show (2 people in the audience) the band decides to break up, leaving Mai to sing by herself on the street with just her guitar. Once again, she doesn’t have much of an audience except for one scruffy guy in glasses who says she has a nice voice. What will she do without her band?
Mai is depressed until she hears the sound of an amazing guitarist at school the next day. She rushes to the room and find the scruffy guy from before! He plays guitar so well, that Mai begs him on the spot to be in her band. He is very hesitant to go along with Mai, but he eventually gives in. His name is Suzuki, and he helps Mai by performing with her on the street. He plays back-up guitar, encourages her, and gives her advice about her image. Mai begins with a very rock/tomboy image, but at Suzuki’s suggestion, she softens it up a bit, wearing more feminine clothing. The public reaction is noticeable, and she soon begins to draw a crowd.
When Mai is scouted to participate in a big concert, she accepts right away, but is hurt when Suzuki says he can’t perform there with her. Can she do it by herself? Why can’t Suzuki help her? He has been her support all this time? His reason ends up coming as a shock to Mai, and to everyone at the concert. Will Mai be able to make her dream of becoming a rock star come true?
The second story stars another character from Nousatsu Rock Shounen. This time it’s Lily, the cute and popular idol singer who initially tried to get Mirai to break up with Neji for an unexpected reason. Lily used to be the top idol, but a minor scandal a year ago has hurt her career. Since then, Lily has acted out. She is stubborn and prideful, and driving her management crazy. Thus they have fallen to a last resort- a watchdog. A young man named SAGAMI Kei has been assigned to Lily to keep her out of trouble. Kei is a tough taskmaster. He and Lily don’t get along, but his no-nonsense attitude helps to spark her fury and whip her into shape. It’s a good thing, too, because there are rivals out there who would seek to harm her before she can release another album…
Next up is a cute story about a high school girl named TOKIOKA Asako. She is the producer for a high school rock band made up of some of her classmates (It looks like the vocalist is none other than Yuriko, aka Lily, so this story takes place a few years prior to Nousatsu Rock Shounen and the previous chapter in this book). The band has been practicing for the school festival, but with only a short time until the event, they suddenly lose their bass player. Asako is in a panic. This was their big chance to debut! They need a new bass player fast! High schools in Japan must be swarming with random hot talented musicians playing their instruments just loud enough for their destined girl to hear them, because right when Asako needs a bass player, she finds one on campus! His name is Midorikawa-kun. He is really cute, and a fabulous bass player. But there is one problem… he can’t play in front of people. He has serious stage fright. When he plays bass in front of people or with a band, he gets so nervous, that he sounds awful! Still, Asako thinks that if he just gains more confidence, he could be great, so she asks him to join her band. Asako has plans to help him gain confidence, a training regimen, so to speak, but will her plan backfire? Will she be too successful?
Rounding out the back stories of East Robo members, is the story of Ryouta, a drummer, and Haruka, a vocalist. They play together in their high school band, but are facing problems when two of their band mates announce they are dating, and quit the group. Doh! Thy are all childhood friends who shared this dream of debuting together, so their quitting really hurts Haruka. Now that it’s just the two of them, Ryouta wants to disband, but Haruka can’t imagine doing that. He is the one who convinced he to join the band in the first place! Besides, she has a huge crush on him. She has always liked him. After an argument, Haruka plays her guitar and sings out on the streets by herself, and amazingly enough, she gets scouted by a talent agent! She agrees to debut at a show for him, and tries to convince Ryouta to play too, but he will have nothing of it. He is even reluctant to attend the show to watch Haruka. Unfortunately, this agent isn’t as honest as the one who scouted Mai. This guy is totally shady, and has some suspicious things planned… what will happen to Haruka? Can she make Ryouta realize she likes him? Will she ever reach her dream of becoming a star?
With these stories are about people who ended up either joining East Robo, or becoming friends with them, it’s obvious that we have some dreams of stardom coming true here. However, it’s fun to see how each person worked hard to achieve these dreams. It’s funny, I used to scoff at shoujo manga where the characters would be approached by a talent scout on the streets, but I have to say that this seems to be one true thing that shoujo manga depicts. Several years ago when I went to Japan, I was approached by a talent scout in a train station who wanted me to be a model for a CD cover. (Apparently they were looking for a scary foreigner, lol). I couldn’t do it, as the photo shoot was after I had to leave Japan, but I swear, that experience fueled my fangirly shoujo manga dreams for years afterward 🙂 Anyway, it’s nice to see supporting characters find love too!