WILD ONES (Arakure, “Wild Ones”) (????) • Kiyo Fujiwara • VIZ (2007-ongoing) • Hakusensha (Hana to Yume, 2005-2009) • 10 volumes • Shôjo Romance • 13+ (infrequent violence, mild sexual situations)
After her mother dies, 15-year-old orphan Sachie is taken in by her grandfather, only to discover that he’s a traditional yakuza boss in charge of a whole clan of tattooed, brawny tough guys. Although these yakuza don’t do anything more illegal than gamble and have bad fashion sense, her doting grandfather assigns her a bodyguard her own age, Rakuto Igarashi, an inscrutable charmer who calls her “my precious princess.” Soon, she and Rakuto slowly, slowly fall in love, or rather, slowly come to realize that they’ve loved each other ever since they met briefly when they were children. (Rakuto, whose cool exterior conceals deep depths of angst and neediness, remembers the incident, but he isn’t talking.) A bland fantasy about being protected and cared for (by guys who’ll make death threats to your enemies, no less!), Wild Ones uses the yakuza concept in the shallowest way, making Sachie into a den mother to a bunch of pure-hearted idiots who can’t even cook hamburgers, while Rakuto is the only good-looking one in the bunch. After a first volume full of repetitive one-offs, the story introduces some straw-man romantic rivals, but there’s little tension; the only real obstacle to their love is Sachie’s obliviousness and Rakuto’s tormented self-denial. The yakuza jokes, which rely on the Japanese equivalent of “Guido” stereotypes, fall flat in English, and the series is uninterested in black humor or crime-related plotlines. The art is pretty, however.
Today’s winner is Adriana G. of California. Congratulations, Adriana!