Tokyo Crazy Paradise and Breaking Through the Genre Box
I recently finished Yoshiki Nakamura’s 1996-2002 shoujo manga Tokyo Crazy Paradise, and it got me thinking about the confines of genre tropes and standards. See, this manga (henceforth TCP) is very much a romantic comedy about highschoolers, much like any other shoujo romance series. What makes it stand out, however, are the other story aspects the series touches upon, even if they never receive full focus. The premise of the story is that in futuristic Tokyo (2020, to be exact), women are scarce and as such are often victimized, to the point that many are openly attacked in broad daylight. In addition, our protagonist ends up as the bodyguard to a mob boss, who is the primary love interest. So, with this context, let me list some of the more standout content present in TCP:
- Numerous instances of near rape
- Drug dealing
- Drugging girls on hallucinogens, then forcing them into cage deathmatches and betting on who dies first
- The love rival getting her right arm sliced off at the elbow
- Gang wars
- And an active attempt by supporting characters to get one of the protagonists to cheat on their fiancé
. . .All wrapped up with a bow of light-hearted comedy and soap-bubbly teen romance. And you thought romcoms were all the same.
What I find so interesting about all this is that all of these things are (obviously) well outside the realm of typical shoujo romcom material. TCP is very much a shoujo romance—that’s undeniable. It’s got the school life, the love rivals, the unrealized feelings of love, the soap bubbles, all of it. Despite this, science fiction, action, martial arts, and as noted above, many dark, borderline nihilistic elements are present in the manga as well.
This is a series that exists within a genre (shoujo), but repeatedly and abruptly leaves that genre’s conventions without a care. That’s as refreshing as it is awkward. The romance is the overarching plot, and there are times I found myself wishing it would just step away from the gang & drug wars for roughly three arcs and just develop and advance that plot. But instead, the actual chapter content usually involves action and fighting and terrorist bomb plots, and the romance develops as a result of that content. That’s why it still succeeds as a romcom; it’s consistently “about” the romance, but it tells its story through action.
That a mid 90’s shoujo manga does that in the first place is certainly attention getting, but that it does so with such reckless abandon is even more interesting. It’s hard not to experience a little mood whiplash in this series. The so called “shoujo feels” can be less than 15 pages away from the life & death action. In the same way, it can be hard to transition from the main character being stripped nude and put up for auction as a human art exhibit to her and the male lead hugging tenderly.
In spite of this, I can’t call this manga “bad.” Indeed, it is hard to deal with the mood whiplash, and the series helps you get used to it. It works up to things like the teenager getting her arm sliced clean off so that you don’t freak out and go back a page and wonder if you’re still reading the same manga. I think. . .not “arrogant,” but “strong-willed” would be the best description for TCP. It does whatever it wants, whether you can keep up or not. It tries to help you along, but won’t stop or change directions altogether if you can’t handle it.
Tokyo Crazy Paradise doesn’t care about what you’re used to. It tells the story of its outrageous, violence-filled romance without flinching. To say it abandons its genre’s standards might be going too far—it does, after all, deal with the listed content in a relatively “clean,” shoujo-esque way (it’s much more disturbing in hindsight than it is to actually read)—but it certainly doesn’t care if it leaves them behind for extended periods of time.
This is a manga that has broken through the genre box, and if only for that reason, it deserves some attention.