天然パールピンク (Tennen Pearl Pink)
Shoujo – Comedy, romance
4 Volumes (complete)
Kanji is shocked to learn the top idol at his father’s talent agency has a teenage daughter. But Tamako insists they’ve met before and made a promise. Kanji and his dad take Tamako in to hide her from the public, and Kanji just can’t get used to this monkey-like girl. Tamako, meanwhile, just has one goal: to be Kanji’s ideal wife!
While the series is likely to always be in the shadow of Tanaka’s later hits, Peal Pink is a cute romance without either being too rushed or too dragged out.
I remember passing on this years ago before I knew I became familiar with Tanaka’s work. It just didn’t sound or look that interesting. After reading it, I did find a lot of the story to be fairly typical: someone from childhood returns to marry their beloved, someone surrounded by show business decides to enter the entertainment world, crazy parents, etc. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by Pearl Pink thanks to two things: its cuteness and the subversion of some usual tropes.
Firstly, Pearl Pink doesn’t try to present itself as a heartbreaking drama or insane comedy; it just naturally incorporates aspects of both genres. Kanji is understandably shocked when the young, hyperactive tomboy Tamako declares herself his fiancee. But he doesn’t angst, monologue, or protest repeatedly when his feelings start to turn serious. I got to give credit when a series can smoothly transition from a grandmother letting her grandchild make her own decisions and then having Grandma take a naginata and stab the ceiling to half-comedicly, half-angrily attack her daughter. Even when Tamako decides to try to be an actress, it makes sense since she’s surrounded by people in the entertainment field. It makes a lot more sense then stories like, “I saw a hot guy on TV! I’m going to be an idol, too! Oh, look, I get to work with him! What a coincidence!” Even when the story approaches it climax we get some fanservice (or anti-fanservice, depending on your view) of Kanji’s father, Kinichi, who willingly crossdresses for a laugh. The story is just plain enjoyable.
Secondly, Pearl Pink mixes up some of the standard shoujo archetypes. Kanji, the lead male, not only can cook and clean, but he easily gets obsessed with doing girls’ makeup. And yet, not once does anyone in this story think he’s girly or uncool. Kanji himself is also comfortable with his interests (except for when he gets too into doing a makeover). Kanji also questions Tamako about wanting to marry him, but it’s a serious question, not a dismissal. So many love interests are arrogant, and here we have someone who is somewhat stubborn but not rude. Kanji does yell at Kinichi for wearing women’s clothes; interestingly enough, I don’t think Kanji would really get mad if his father actually looked good in female idol outfits. It’s less of, “Ewww, you’re a man in a skirt!” and more like, “You’re too ugly for it!!” Even a character I assumed would be reduced to be the required “other” guy in a love triangle was not! That’s right, love triangle haters, this is a series for you. Raizo is actually more attached to Kanji, but he enjoys hanging out with Tamako and is a good friend to her.
However, Tanaka is still relatively experienced when she started this manga. In fact, this was her first serialized story. As you might expect, there are some flaws here. Let’s start with Tamako’s pet monkey. What was his purpose? Manga mascots usually are cute and get some special attention (if not special abilities). Kanta was a waste of space. The only thing he did was hang on Tamako’s shoulder and get a bath from her new friend. Tamako is called “monkey girl”, but she certainly could have gotten the nickname by the way she jumps and climbs trees. The monkey served no purpose. Kuroneko-sama from the Trigun anime is a cute, non-obtrusive mascot. Kanta is just dead weight.
The manga also feels like it’s divided into two parts. The first two volumes (well, volume and a half…the second volume includes two lengthy shortcuts) is more of a screwball comedy surrounding a guy, a younger girl, and an idol agency. Tanaka includes lots of shaded exaggerated expressions and author’s side comments. The first is pretty funny; the second is annoying. I didn’t need addendums like, “First time I’ve used this joke!” Save those comments for the sidebars. Volume two is rather short, and then volume three starts the “Tamako wants to be an idol” arc. Again, we get some of the typical plots (wacky races, strange director), but I ended up missing when it was just the core cast. At least Tamako’s debut doesn’t go smoothly, but I liked it better without the rival-becoming friend or the eccentric director. I do applaud how Tamako realizes she wants to support Kanji as more than just a domesticated wife. There’s nothing wrong if you want to be a homemaker, but it’s nice for a shoujo heroine to actually find a career and work for it.
Also in each chapter, Tanaka includes 4-koma of Tamako’s mom’s show about an idol doubling as an agent trying to stop the mysterious Thief Handsome from stealing idol merchandise. I would totally read that manga thanks to the not-always-so-cheery behavior of “Momoko”.
I won’t talk so much about the characters since I’ve already discussed them a bit. Shinju is pretty much the doting mother. Raizo is part of a singing group, but the other two members just basically hang around once in a while. One of them doesn’t even speak; he eats! We get a little bit of information on them, but they are definitely relegated to supporting characters. A couple of potential rivals for Tamako also appear and then pretty much disappear. The scriptwriter mainly exists to mess with Tamako, but I was surprised he wasn’t the final obstacle for the main couple. Even Kinichi is pretty much a one-trick pony, but at least his schtick is funny. Hisame, one of Rain’s members, might have been funnier if the series had gone on longer. His being upset at crossdressing is lost with the limited amount of pagetime he had. After finishing this series, you are not likely to hate anyone. That in itself is quite an accomplishment.
This was Tanaka’s second serialization, published back in 2002. The art definitely looks older than her later works, but it certainly holds up. It starts off very 90s and looks a lot like Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances. If you’ve never read that series, the art is very wispy, like a pencil sketch. Tamako looks very much like a young boy normally, but she sometimes dresses up. Her boy and girl forms sometimes look quite different, but at least Tamako isn’t focused on staying beautiful all the time. Meca sometimes draws Kanji with glasses, and I think he actually looks better with them on. At times, you can see shades of her later characters, like Kanji sometimes looking like Sensei from Kiss Yori mo Hayaku aka Faster Than a Kiss. As is typical of comedies, the final panel in each chapter often involves a joke. Of course, as expected of a romance manga, Tanaka also draws some very fluffy love scenes. The art may not be her best here, but it is more than tolerable.
Honorifics are used. Actually, I felt like this was one of Tokyopop’s better efforts. There were some mistakes (especially when they kept mixing up “Momoko” and “Momono”), but it read pretty smoothly overall. Sure, at times I didn’t like their word choices (too American slangy), but it isn’t nearly as error-filled or cringe-worthy as some of the company’s other titles. Although, based on their translation of the author’s notes, I think they thought Tanaka was a guy. I think they also called this series her first serialization, but that’s got to be a misunderstanding.
Pearl Pink is a short but nice read. Don’t dismiss it just because it’s old in age or you are wary of Tokyopop’s reputation.
Tanaka’s Meteor Prince and The Young Master’s Revenge was released by Viz Media while Omukae desu. was published by CMX.