Tokyo Alice, Vol. 1

By Toriko Chiya. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Kiss. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Production by amimaru.

(Note: Tokyo Alice has no translator credit, but also has a “production” credit I rarely see, so I’m considering them equivalent for now.)

The number of times I’ve started a review by saying “I’ve never seen _______” is starting to number in the hundreds, but it has to be said. No, not the Tokyo Alice live-action drama that went out last year. Something a bit more relevant: I’ve never seen Sex and the City. As such, I’m not entirely sure how similar this series, about a group of four friends who live in the big city, whose lives we occasionally follow, and who are (mostly) living together by the end of the first boo9k should remind me of said series, except it does by sheer cultural osmosis. The sex so far is on the light side (one of the lead women has a different guy in her bed every night, and says she’s never had an orgasm, but we don’t see this beyond guys coming and going), but the bond between the four friends is strong, and if the series can keep it up I’ll be pleased to follow along.

Of course, some heroines are more equal than others. The lead here is clearly Fu, a 26-year-old woman who works for a design company and loves shopping. Somewhat surprisingly, at least at the start, men don’t really apply to her, something that bothers her when she dwells on it. She is otherwise the classic ‘ditzy’ shoujo lead, only this is josei so she’s all grown up. I imagine the reader may find her a bit frustrating, which is something of the point. Her friends include Mizuho, a shoujo manga artist with a loser boyfriend who finds that she has trouble drawing real love; Rio, a stylish doctor who has lots of suitors but rejects them as she’s got a crush on… well, the answer surprised me; and Sayuri, who I mentioned above, who will one day have to marry who her parents want her to but in the meantime plans to fool around and have fun.

When I mentioned Fu loves shopping, it’s possible that I wasn’t emphatic enough. shopping consumes Fu, and much of the first volume deals with her buying things and then living to regret it when she sees her bank balance. (I wonder how long she’ll last living with her friends before she’s thrown out for missing rent.) This feels very much like a josei manga catering to its readers, who are also likely twenty-somethings living in a big city and wondering what to do next. We get the occasional flashback to the friends when they were in junior high, talking about the type of guy they want to end up marrying. Reality has ensued for most of them (and Fu is rather startled to realized the sweetest, most idealistic one of them became the somewhat hedonistic Sayuri), and Fu in particular needs to be more aware of the situations (and men) around her. But if you don’t mind that, then Tokyo Alice is a good start.