Shoujo – Comedy, drama, romance, slice-of-life
5 Volumes (complete)
Tanpopo is excited to be a new student at the prestigious Meio School. Just before classes start, she meets a boy who loves flowers. But when Tanpopo sees him again, the boy, Koki, denies meeting her and swears he has no use for friends — flowers or humans. Tanpopo is not going to give up. She’s going to prove to Koki that friendship is meaningful.
Imadoki! is a cute but unremarkable romance, but the translation and adaptation is downright awful.
Imadoki! is not one of Watase’s biggest hits, and it’s not hard to understand why: it’s short and pretty average. A country bumpkin wants to become friends with the seemingly stoic school prince, and they bond over gardening. The pair gain friends and face romantic rivals in order to discover their true feelings. You know the drill.
Imadoki! is pretty short, but the manga basically has two arcs: the “form the garden club” arc and the love square arc. Since the two sections are about the same length, neither part is really deep.
Let’s start with the first arc. Several manga feature a poor kid in a rich kid’s school, and several involve clubs (unofficial or not). Imadoki! is neither centered on the poor vs rich struggle a la Boys Over Flowers nor are the differences played for laughs like in Ouran High School Host Club. Somewhat surprisingly, many of the obstacles in the story come from Koki being wealthy rather than Tanpopo being poor. Tanopopo is freely herself and just doesn’t understand the world of politics and pressure. She ends up forming a gardening club, a rather unusual activity to be featured in a manga. That alone isn’t enough to make Imadoki! stand out. This part is more about a bunch of ragtags coming together and becoming friends. It’s a heartwarming theme found in major series from Sailor Moon to One Piece, and Imadoki! does this part well. The tone is light, and humor plays a big part in the story.
Then the romance takes center stage. Despite the increase in drama, this is one of those series that is about how the protagonist gets together with their future lover, not about who ends up with who. This may be good or bad depending on whether you like love triangles — well, love squares actually. Surprisingly, Tanpopo gets a choice of two decent guys; again, I doubt anyone really believed the other guy and girl stood a chance. The humor slows down as Tanpopo and Koki analyze their feelings and the funny club members take more of a back seat.
So we follow along Tanopopo and Koki’s budding relationship for five volumes. Well, not really. The final volume contains a side story starring new characters as well as an unrelated one-shot. These two tales take up about half of volume five. I didn’t care for the one-shot, and I don’t know why Watase wrote about Tanpopo’s Hokkaido friends when her Tokyo friends were much more interesting. Plus, hello, we actually care about them. The two stories taking up a bulk of the last volume make the manga’s ending seem even more lackluster.
Imadoki! does have its charming points. First, several comedy bits make me smile and laugh. I do love the scene where the gang is up on the roof. Tsukiko’s and the driver’s expressions are funny in that whole sequence. This is definitely not belly-busting comedy, but it’s hard not to find myself enjoying what I’m reading. Aoi’s behavior, on the other hand, ranges from funny to disturbing depending on your feelings about knife-wielding maniacs. Tanpopo’s misunderstandings and general ditziness can be humorous or eye-rolling depending on the situation. She can be outright dumb. Putting that aside, it’s rare for a ganguro (fake dark tan style) character to be a main character, and the manga also touches on some topics like teenage pregnancy and suicide. The issues aren’t delved into very deeply and may not fully explore the gravity of those topics, but the fact Watase even brought them up is pretty unique. Finally, as I mentioned, both of Tanpopo’s suitors are pretty good guys, a rarity in shoujo manga. Neither one are rude to her or abuse her. Imadoki! ends pretty typically, but at least the romance feels sweet. I did not feel like the couple didn’t belong together or that one didn’t deserve the other. This is a huge positive for the manga.
Tanpopo is a pretty standard protagonist. She’s cheerful, ditzy, and loyal. If you haven’t encountered a heroine like Tanpopo before, this must be your first manga. Tanpopo is a good-hearted protagonist, but she can be found in manga written well before and well after this series. Koki is actually more interesting. He tries to find himself as just Koki and not as the Kugyo heir, but his flower otaku Kansai-ben side needed to come out more. Meanwhile, their friends are made up of a lunatic, a shrew, and an outgoing ganguro girl. They each start off as loners, but I do like how they all find a place in the planting club. The main love rival for Koki’s affections, on the other hand, is unlikely to gain many fans. While a good rival can add a lot to a manga, she is really hard to like even as an antagonist. She’s weak but can be very strategic at points. Other than that, the girl has no personality or likable qualities. A lot of readers tend to hate the “other” guy/girl in a love triangle despite being a decent character because the person messes with their OTP. The girl really doesn’t do anything not to deserve readers’ ire. She’s just so annoying.
I admit I’ve never been a huge fan of Watase’s artwork. I doubt I could tell Tamahome, Koki, and all her other male protagonists apart in a lineup of their mugshots. Tanpopo’s design is also pretty unremarkable, but the manga does have a few unique characters like the aforementioned ganguro girl. The pregnant girl hardly ever looks pregnant (although the characters remark on this as well). At least Watase’s style shows great improvement here compared to her first major hit, Fushigi Yugi. The art here is crisp, clean, and easy to read. Some of the imagery is downright beautiful. There’s a profile shot of Tanpopo blowing on a dandelion that stands out to me. Her face is nothing but a dotted screentone, representing her uncertainty and conflicting feelings. The picture has more impact than if we were to actually see her expression. In addition, Watase and her assistants did a nice job on designing the layout of the school. It looks visually impressive and actually looks like a school for rich kids. I would want to go there! All in all, if you are familiar with Watase’s art, you’ll know what to expect. If you haven’t read any of her works and do want to read Fushigi Yugi and/or Ceres: Celestial Legend, I would probably recommend doing so first before Imadoki! or any of her later works. It’s just hard to go back in an artist’s career than forward. (Even Watase herself admits it.)
Imadoki! was the first manga that got me interested in analyzing translations. Years and years ago, when I first read Imadoki!, I probably knew about three words in Japanese. Even then I could tell that something was wrong with the series. The text repeatedly didn’t make sense. Of course, now I can detail exactly what is wrong with the dialogue, but parts will leave some readers scratching their head in confusion. I know this is an older series, but that doesn’t excuse the mistakes.
No honorifics are used. In Japanese, most of the main characters refer to each other by their last names, but in English, everyone pretty much uses first names. The male lead’s name is romanized as “Koki”, but one panel uses “Kôki”. Tsukiko also introduces herself to Koki’s family as “Tsuki”, but that’s her nickname. Tanpopo also has a habit of using “nyo” in Japanese, but all evidence of this is dropped in Viz Media’s version. Koki’s Kansai-ben is described as an Osaka accent, but his speech is basically rougher. Most adaptations usually use a American Southern accent.
There’s many instances of getting the speaker wrong, unexplained or dropped jokes, and wrong grammar/flow.
Let’s start with Tanpopo’s meeting with “Scoop”. She enters the school by basically flying over the fence on her bike. In English, Koki asks if she used the knoll as a ramp. In Japanese, I am pretty sure it’s Tanpopo speaking because a) the dialogue bubble is fluffy, which is much more common when Tanpopo is speaking, b) the text looks more like Tanpopo’s speech than an Osaka accent, c) it makes more sense that Tanpopo would explain what did rather than Koki guessing, and d) the next line makes more sense why he’s mad. In Koki’s line, the English is, “You think you’re a bird?!!” I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many birds that use a hill as a ramp. In Japanese, the line is much more direct; it’s something like, “How is jumping [over a fence] normal?!!”
Later, a student and Tanpopo have a conversation. Here’s a snippet featuring the original Japanese text, my translation, and the official translation.
生徒： って 。。。あなた「受験」入学！？
Student: “…Hey, did you come here from a ‘cram school’?”
Student: “So, you from a cram school?”
“Okay” can be another word for “yes”, but it doesn’t make sense in this context. In Viz Media’s version, Tanpopo comes across as either sarcastic (which doesn’t make sense since she has a cheery expression) or as someone not listening. But she is replying honestly! Using “yeah”, “yes”, or “that’s right” makes much more sense. This may seem like a minor error, but these start to add up. For instance, later in the first chapter, when Koki is about to give his speech:
“Yeah, Koki!” <–This means the student agrees with Koki, but he hasn’t said a word yet!
“Yay, Koki!” <–This is a cheer.
I guess you could argue he meant like a rocker/punk/sports “Yeaaaaah!”, but it still looks weird when written and not said. Usually, it’s in the context of “Yes, I/we/you did it!”, not before you actually do something. In addition, Viz Media drops the reason why Koki is giving the speech: he’s the student representative.
In a final example, Koki whispers he’ll join Tanpopo’s group if she proves she’s “honmono” (real, genuine). Tanpopo mishears this as “homo” (homosexual). Viz Media just ignores the fact Koki whispered his line and Tanpopo just asks how she can prove herself to be genuine.
There’s limited translation notes, so I hope you know who Nausicaa and Hikaru Genji are. When Tanpopo is being bullied, students put a vase of flowers on her desk. Veteran manga readers will know this is how students honors a dead classmate, but no explanation of this is given here. Some readers will miss why Tanpopo’s classmates did this and why they think she is an idiot.
In the team’s defense, they do keep some of Tanpopo’s mistakes or adapt them in a similar fashion (“sign” for “scion” instead of “monzoushi” for “onzoushi”, Tanpopo getting Tsukiko’s name wrong), but jokes like Tanpopo messing up the meaning for the kanji for “person” just don’t make sense here. Some Japanese terms are kept and provided a footnote, mostly in the later volumes.
In a final note, just before the end of the first volume, the font changes. Don’t get me wrong, the first one is horrid, but in the middle of a chapter, the font switches to Wild Words.
All in all, I found this adaptation pretty poor when it was first published, and it’s even worse when you compare it to most modern manga translations.
The manga has its good points, but it really is nothing special. You can find better manga in the author’s catalog, let alone all of shoujo manga. Imadoki! itself wouldn’t be a terrible choice to read, but the poor adaptation really just seals the deal. I would recommend manga fans pass on this series unless you are a huge Watase fan.
Viz Media has released several of Watase’s series including Fushigi Yugi, Ceres: Celestial Legend, Arata: The Legend, and several more.