Furuya Usamaru 51 Ways to Protect the Girl/Kanojo wo Mamoru 51 no Houhou (vol. 1-5)

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0 24017 1/2/2008
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{Please note ~ this is an import comic and is not available in English at the time of this review. It can be purchased with the ISBN number below through Japanese bookstores and amazon.co.jp}

Publisher: BUNCH comics
ISBNs: 978-4-10-771289-9

Jin, 21 years-old, is fresh out of college and on his way to a job interview at a tv station in Odaiba. Caught up in the crowd, he runs into a Gothic Lolita trying to buy some tickets for a Sarin Helnwein concert. It's hard to tell through the makeup, bleach-blonde hair and froofy angel wings... but Jin thinks she looks familiar. Looking closer, Jin recognizes her as an old Junior High classmate, Okano. Embarrassed to be recognized as "a normal", Okano brushes him off, insisting her name is "Loliko" and that she's never seen him before in her life.

Soon after, Okano finds herself on the bad side of her own fandom when the Sarin Helnwein groupies turn against her and try to dump her off a bridge. Against his better judgment, Jin comes to her rescue. The two of them reconnect riding the ferris wheel, but seeing each other again brings back memories for both. Okano was bullied to the breaking point... and Jin, in spite of having had a crush on her, failed to protect her.

Well he's about to get another chance...

Five minutes later, at 7:45 that same evening, Tokyo is hit with an M8 earthquake. The two 20-somethings soon find themselves in a landscape filled with shattered windows, twisted metal, injured people, and a street flowing with raw sewage. They have to join forces with each other (and everyone else in Odaiba) to cross Rainbow Bridge: the only link between the island city of Odaiba and the rest of Tokyo.

Little do they know that Odaiba wasn't the epicenter... and that they're heading into hell on earth.

From here on, 51 Ways is a predictable but remarkably believable survival adventure. The catastrophic earthquake scenario is plausible (if not inevitable). Based on a well-researched novel by Minoru Watanabe, the series paints a picture not quite as explicit and horrifying as ones in other apocalyptic fiction, but one that is frightening in it's detail. For once, we're given a disaster scenario in which hundreds of thousands of people live to populate the world along with our heroes. Tokyo proves a big and busy place, even in ruins.

Like many of Furuya's other works, we're also shown just how fragmented and superficial Japanese youth has become: gals, rock stars, Gothic Lolita's, otaku, salarymen, ganguro, and schoolgirls are all here in their self-imposed stereotypical, shallow glory. But while the ugliness of the fragmentation of Tokyo youth is striking - these people all come together in the face of disaster in a way that's ultimately hopeful. When you strip off the posing and expensive clothing: we're all the same.

In the end, 51 Ways is one of Furuya's most optimistic and mainstream works. It would make a lovely gateway drug for more timid independant comic readers or shoujo fans looking for something with a bit more bite.
Keywords: apocalypse, earthquake, Tokyo, gothic lolita, Visual Kei, gyaru, subculture, romance, survival
Illustrations and Layout Excellent
Entertainment Value Very Good
Replay Value Excellent
Plot Very Good
Genre apocalyptic, survival, romance, drama
Volumes Complete at 5 volumes


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August 2007

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