電脳少女(サイバーアイドル)☆Mink (Cyber Idol Mink)
Shoujo – Comedy, magical girl, romance, sci-fi
6 Volumes (complete)
Mink is excited to buy the debut album of her favorite singer. But a simple trip to the store goes off-track: not only does a strange boy save her from a falling display, but the album she buys turns out to be computer software. Her friends install it and jokingly create an idol persona for Mink, but she transforms into her digital alter ego — and winds up on TV!
Have you ever bought something, and when you opened the package, it was the wrong thing inside? Well, Mink buys the new debut solo album of her favorite singer and gets computer software inside. While none of her friends know this when installing the program, it’s actual software from the future, and using Wanna-Be actually causes a person to become who they wanna-be for three hours.
That’s useful, but it’s also illegal. Because this program wasn’t meant to exist in this time period, Mink, her fellow idol-crazy friend Mahoko, her computer friend Kanoka, and Wanna-Be’s mascot/guide Om could all be arrested by police. Obviously, the safest route would be to not use Wanna-Be, but Mink learns that the crazy motorcycle guy who helped her at the CD store is Mahoko’s older brother who is trying to revive his family’s talent agency. Mink, who initially doesn’t understand the difference between liking idols on TV and romantic love, finds herself drawn to Motoharu, and she agrees to join Bird Music under the condition he never asks about Cyber Idol Mink’s identity.
And that’s the whole story. It’s a bit like Corrector Yui (magical girl with technology) crossed with Full Moon o Sagashite (non-fighting magical girl turning into an idol) with a dash of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch (three often silly friends and the power of song). The first three and half volumes features Mink adapting to being an idol while keeping her identity a secret, and there are a bunch of misunderstandings as Mink and Motoharu both struggle with jealousy and doing what they think is best for the other. Then the switches its focus to the sci-fi aspects on using illegal software from the future. So she has to face idol rivals as well as police from across time. Her two best friends assist on both fronts, and Om, Wanna-Be’s mascot, can pop out into the real world to help as well.
One of the standouts of this series is its paneling. The story seems rushed and sloppy at points, but I think this is more to blame on Tokyopop than Tachikawa. (More on that later.) But there are some layouts that I love, like the film strip-esque awakening of “Mink” and Motoharu discovering her. Although I had only hazy memories of Mink as a whole, this two-page spread still stands out in my mind. In addition, Mink’s transformations come with a variety of outfits and poses, and the Wanna-Be software can make shoujo staples like angel wings a reality. This is series is getting up in years, but I wish more manga had this kind of mid-animation-like art.
Otherwise, Mink doesn’t do much to reach outside its target demographic of young girls. “Mink” finds immediate success, and she gets to do a lot of neat things like going to Hawaii as part of her idol work. Plus, unlike a lot of other manga, Motoharu is actually a good guy. He has his flaws (lying that “Mink” is a part of Bird Music before even meeting her, assuming Mink will go to Illiya’s label), but he puts 100% effort into the agency (missing a lot of school in the process, I might add). Readers might also find him pretty cool because he’s a motorbike rider, but Motoharu isn’t one of those manga heroes where the heroine melted on first sight. So it is nice as well to not have to constantly read about how girls are stopping and staring at how gorgeous the male lead is — or even go the opposite way and get a lot of comments about how nerdy and ugly he is.
Meanwhile, Mink herself is on the dumb side, with all her one-track mind space-outs and originally thinking that it was a standee that saved her. “Mink” has a more outgoing personality, but otherwise, she doesn’t have any notable attributes outside of repeating things over and over in her head when she’s excited or emotional. Her friends are also rather generic: a computer nerd and an idol fanatic. But these aspects fade in the second half of the series, and Kanoka and Mahoko lose much of their individuality to become Mink Jrs. Meanwhile, there are a couple of antagonists, and Azumi in particular is a real piece of work.
Mink started off in the late 90s, and it does look dated. The series also shares a lot of similarities with Tachikawa’s hit St. Tail. Characters tend to have baby faces with large eyes and wide faces, and it’s still a rather distinctive style. I do love some of the layouts however. The first appearance of “Mink” still sticks out to me, giving an old-fashioned film feeling as she and Motoharu appear on the scene without any words. It can be busy, so if you’re not used to the fast pace of some older manga, things can be unclear and rushed. However, it’s not like the story is complicated or anything. Otherwise, Mink tends to go SD a lot, much like other babyish heroines like Usagi (Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon) or Miaka (Fushigi Yugi). Instead of drooling over food though, she tends to space out and get stuck in a loop whenever she thinks about Illiya or, later, Motoharu.
If you’ve ever read an old Tokyopop manga, Mink‘s adaptation should be familiar. There are incorrect subjects, swapped speech bubbles, lack of SFX translations, etc. Parts also make it seem like Mink and friends are in high school (“our high school”), but they’re actually middle schoolers. Other lines just clearly don’t match the art, and a couple are almost incomprehensible given what’s going on.
One thing that isn’t clear is that the heroine’s name is みんく, Minku, which sounds like the English word “Mink”. Her stage name, however, is Mink, written in English. Obviously, pronunciation-wise, there isn’t a difference, but all the Cyber Idols have names written in English versus Japanese. In fact, at many points, Tokyopop just leaves the Japanese English text as-is, so the font is clearly different from the more cutesy font they use for most dialogue. Johnny Hotta is also angry when Mink and company call him, which makes no sense in Tokyopop’s version. That’s because only one volume uses his hated shortening of his name to Johni-Ta (ジョニ田). The adaptation also keeps switching between Mink addressing the one she likes as “Motoharu” and “Senpai”.
While Mink has a few standout visuals, it otherwise is a fairly subpar manga for anyone over the age of 12. Even for that demographic, it’s probably not worth tracking down.
Tokyopop also released Tachikawa’s St. Tail and Dream Saga.