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Imadoki
Synopsis | Review

Wow, Watase Yu actually wrote an upbeat story? Well, compared to Ayashi no Ceres and, to a lesser extent, Fushigi Yuugi, yeah, she did. But mind you, this is still a Watase story, and as such brought up issues such as attempted suicide and teenage pregnancy. Nevertheless, it's a feel-good manga, something to reach for after reading a really intense one, or after watching an intense anime. It's a good idea to have Imadoki on hand when you're checking out Haou Airen or Ayashi no Ceres. It's sort of the manga version of Pretear: short and sweet and relatively lighthearted. Oh yes, and in case you haven't noticed yet, I'm still pissed over Haou Airen. Hakuron's too hot...

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, this is about Imadoki now. Aside from being lighthearted, this is also about perfectly normal people. Nope, no mikos and hagoromos here. Then again, Tanpopo is so cheerful, optimistic and friendly, she's almost unreal. And doesn't she look like Aya? It's like watching a parade of previous Watase characters (which shouldn't be surprising if you've seen her other works and her anime). You'd think you're seeing Yuuhi and Chidori again, among others. After reading this manga, I became convinced that Watase's characters have general categories, which I would call molds. There's the Aya mold, which would have Riiko (Zettai Kareshi) and Tanpopo. There's the Tamahome mold, which would have Rimudo (Genbu Kaiden) and Tooya. There's the Yuuhi mold, which would have Kyou (Alice 19th) and Kouki. Hmm, can't see a Miaka mold, tho'.

This is also one of Watase's stories that had a mascot, a fox named Poplar. He's actually pretty cute and doesn't really steal the show. Sort of like Mitsukake's Tama-chan (whom Tasuki wanted to re-christen as Tasu-kitty. Gosh, that was bad... :D). Actually, doesn't Poplar look like Tama-chan to you? Gosh, there's even a pet mold! That mold would probably include Chichiri. Hey, that's a compliment.

Synopsis
Imadoki is about Yamazaki Tanpopo, who hailed from a small village in Hokkaido. She managed to get into the prestigious Meio School in Tokyo after being on the waitlist. She was so excited that she went for a bike ride with Poplar to check out the place the day before she started school.

When she got there, she unwittingly crashed into a guy who was hanging around the school grounds with a trowl. Huh? Yep. He was planting a dandelion by the school when Tanpopo came crashing over the banister and several feet below, where he was. By the way, tanpopo means dandelion in Japanese. Anyway, Tanpopo immediately dusts herself off and introduces herself to the guy. He notices that she had a cut on her hip from her fall and bandages it for her. After a somewhat amiable conversation, they parted ways. Tanpopo then realized that she didn't catch his name. She shrugged it off and decided to call him Trowl-kun. She's pretty excited at having already met a friend at her new school, which gives the readers a glimpse into her character.

The following day, she finds Trowl-kun at school and merrily comes up to him. But he just ignored her! Worse, everybody then starts ostracizing her for having the nerve. It turns out that he's Kugyou Kouki, and he's considered royalty at the school because his family is filthy rich. One thing led to another, and pretty soon everybody knew that Tanpopo's actually just a commoner who initially got waitlisted at their school. It appears that most of the students got in because they were either incredibly smart or incredibly rich.

Not to be defeated, Tanpopo starts pursuing Kouki, determined to be his friend (yeah, that part was cheesy), even going as far as volunteering to be the class gardener and trying to volunteer Kouki to work with her also. When he wouldn't be swayed, another classmate, Saionji, quietly stepped in and volunteered to be class gardener with Tanpopo. Everybody then sneered and revealed to Tanpopo that all flowers in the school are made of plastic. This shocked her, and she resolved to replace all of the plastic flowers with real ones.

The story's definitely lighthearted (it's about gardening, for Pete's sake!), but it also covers stuff like betrayal, outcasts, and family conflicts. Oh yeah, and it also has hackers, hermits, and families of foxes. Over five volumes, Tanpopo befriends not only Kouki and Saionji, but also Kyougoku, a computer genius (guess who the hacker is), and Uchimura, a total party girl. The penultimate chapter served as some kind of prequel, and is about Tanpopo's two friends back in Hokkaido. It also shows how Poplar was born. The last chapter was about an entirely different set of characters, but it was cute. The girl is a neat freak and has a problem with germs, and the guy helped her become more tolerant. Whoa, that was random.

Review
It was really weird reading about this very upbeat girl--created by Watase--with an eternal supply of cheer and goodwill. Well, actually, Tanpopo doesn't have an eternal supply, or else the plot wouldn't be as interesting. But in the beginning, she was just so annoyingly friendly and sweet. Like when Kouki kept on brushing her off (rudely) and she just kept on going after him. And when Saionji showed her true colors and Tanpopo just continued to be nice to her. That was nice. It's a refreshing change. After that, the whole triangle between Kouki, Tanpopo, and Saionji became a comic relief. Saionji's just so determined to marry into Kouki's family because of their money. Actually, their family had married each other over the generations. It's the whole money marrying into money thing.

This story had a few cliches. First, there's this whole arranged marriage thing. Kouki was actually engaged even before Tanpopo met him (much to Saionji's frustration). Kouki's older brother ran away and because of that, Kouki became the heir to the family business and to his brother's fiance. Of course, this didn't make Kouki happy at all. There's some more cliches reminiscent of previous Watase works (and previous plots that have been used and abused over time, period), but those two are probably the biggest. They're pretty forgivable, though. There's a lot of funny stuff in Imadoki that more than made up for the cliches. There's this whole thing with Kouki hitting people with a trowl--pretty bad, but it was just so bad, it's funny. And Kyougoku's a great guy who discovered it's fun beating up other people. He's really reminiscent of Frei in Alice 19th.

Don't expect this to be similar to Watase's famous works. Actually, this thing is so different that I don't think it'll have a sequel :D It's your quintessential schoolgirl meets gorgeous classmate, and then they fall in love with each other and live happily ever after. In five volumes. Gosh. It's something you'd want to curl up with in an old couch and a quilt, with hot chocolate beside you and rain falling outside. It's nice to read stuff like these every once in a while. Definitely something to make you all warm and fuzzy inside.

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