Shoujo – Adventure, comedy, romance, mystery, smut
10 Volumes (complete)
Superfan Yuniko loves to collect the possessions of a deceased actor — all with a five finger discount! Her next target is a statue owned by Ryu, a young actor being compared to her favorite idol. During her mission, her cover is blown, but Ryu encourages Yuniko to try again?!
A lot of us love celebrities who have, either because of illness, age, or, injury, passed on. But I don’t think too many of us love them enough to turn to a life of crime!
Well, meet Yuniko, a self-proclaimed Akira maniac. Akira (based on the actor James Dean) died at the height of his popularity, and unscrupulous individuals descended upon his estate to either claim mementos for themselves or to make some quick cash. Almost two decades later, Yuniko decides to hunt down these items. Her training at a theater group (UAT) has helped given her some athletic skills, and with the help of her flying squirrel Kamui, she goes on these missions. How do her parents not know she’s sneaking out? Simple: she pretty much doesn’t have them. She has no idea who her father is. Her mother was a famous actress who often starred in Akira’s movies, but Yuniko has never met her because she’s been ill. A member of the UAT, Sanae, acts as Yuniko’s guardian. He’s nearby, but he doesn’t live with her.
At the start of Wild Act, Yuniko has stolen many items. But the manga’s day of destiny arrives when the up-and-coming actor Ryu (often called the “New Nanae” as a comparison to Akira) gets the same award and statue that Akira once received. Yuniko sees this as an opportunity, but things don’t work out so well. Most people would call the police if someone tried to steal such a valuable item, but Ryu doesn’t care about it. He’s more interested in the girl who wants it so badly. The fact that she doesn’t see him as the New Nanae cements his interest in her, and while he could just hand it over, he’d rather see what kind of plan Yuniko would come up with.
Thus begins the story of the thief and the actor.
Wild Act is a very fitting title: it’s a manga featuring characters acting wild. Of course, the “act” part also (or primarily) refers to Ryu’s career and Yuniko’s heritage. But Wild Act has a lot in common with American sitcoms: the love interests that squabble all the time but love each other, the protagonist getting into some extreme situations, cute animal mascots, and a bit of raunchiness.
Let’s tackle that last aspect. This is not a manga for young readers. First off, both, quite frankly, are horny teenagers. Often in shoujo manga, reaching the intimate level is the end of an arc, and it’s rarely or never brought up again. Here, however, Yuniko does want to hit the sheets again and is disappointed when they can’t. Before and after their first time, Yuniko does like to blast Ryu off for a perverted come-on or getting off track (like playing doctor while dressed up as a doctor), but later, she gets in on the risqué behavior as well. For instance, one time, she bumps into Ryu who has his shirt off. He says it’s no big deal, and Yuniko decides to make a point by opening up her blouse (with her underwear still on). While the manga is hardly realistic (all of an actor’s goods go missing, get restolen by a teenager), the attitude that teenagers want to get physical is a fairly realistic one. Of course, I don’t advocate for this type of behavior and not everyone can relate but it’s nice to see a story where a) the heroine clearly enjoys doing it and b) it’s a part of the main couple’s relationship helps make Wild Act stand out.
There’s another issue that makes this not appropriate for children. I won’t discuss it because of spoilers, but there’s a huge barrier between Ryu and Yuniko. There were only two ways to that problem to be resolved: either their relationship will be forever changed or it’s a fakeout. As such, much of the manga is spent on trying to unravel mysteries about the past. The phantom thief aspect a la Lupin III or Cat’s Eye is always present because of this, so that helps keep it from becoming another “regular girl meets famous guy” story. Once a certain character shows up, readers will probably guess what’s going to happen, but even when the truth comes out, it still involves quite a few mature — if not illegal — situations.
In short, the OT rating is right on point. It could even be argued into an M rating based upon what happens — not so much because Wild Act is graphic but because of some themes.
Back to the overall plot.
Considering Yuniko is a thief, readers are supposed to treat Wild Act as more of a fantasy series than reality. Sure, everyone would love to have her martial arts and thieving skills (and most of her “victims” are criminals themselves), but she is still breaking laws and managing to escape capture. To go along with this unrealistic setup, Yuniko has two squirrels that are anthropomorphized to help in her escapades. In addition, technology is a bit more advanced than what would have been around in the 90s, and Yuniko and her allies do break A LOT of items and laws. At times, Wild Act feels like a manga adaptation of a big budget Hollywood movie thanks to all the stunts and perfect timings.
But that’s much of the fun of Wild Act. There are other phantom thief manga for both female and male demographics, but it’s not often the romantic lead knows the thief’s true identity. Plus, the heavy focus on acting adds another unique layer. Even after all these years, I can think of similar manga with some of its themes, but not all combined. Wild Act is a series with its own plot, not a clone of another series that chased the popular trends of the time.
The length is also good, giving plenty of time to bond with the characters while not feeling like things move too fast or slow. The last few volumes are set in another location, and there is a story shift that goes along with it. With the latter half focusing on Hollywood and acting over thievery, the ending goes a bit fast. Most notably, Ryu and Yuniko are free to act like lovers, which they couldn’t do in Japan. This is a sign of its dated age, as nowadays, someone would have leaked a picture of them on social media. However, it’s not too much of a strike against the story. Twists in the plot actually feel like curves that were prepared by the author in advance and not stall tactics to extend the manga.
Plus, when it comes down to it, the two leads are just outrageous enough to balance each other out. Yuniko is a proactive heroine, almost always choosing to take action, whether it’s punching out someone or deciding to undertake a mission. She does have an overactive imagination that can get her in trouble along with moments of “duhhhh”, but we do see her mature and start to recognize she needs to stop jumping to conclusions. Meanwhile, Ryu can change from a mature man to a little boy and back again, just like real 17 year olds. It’s fairly uncommon for a male love interest to be smitten from the start and not a player — especially since he’s a famous actor. Ironically, he’s more of the idealist in the relationship rather than Yuniko. Again, nice to have a hero who is a romanticist rather than a sleazy playboy.
Unfortunately, most of the secondary characters are nothing special. They exist to fill a certain role in Yuniko’s (and, to a lesser extent, Ryu’s) life and do not develop any further. Sanae is the effeminate and gay guardian, and Tokio is the perverted inventor. In fact, Yuniko’s squirrels, Kamui and Cinnamon, get more attention that anyone else. They’re the beta couple in this story. Yes, you read that right: the only other couple that gets together in this manga is a pair of rodents.
Going back to Ryu and Yuniko, there are some romantic rivals in the story, as you would expect from a romance manga. The shocker is that they fight for Yuniko. That’s right; 10 volumes, and there are no real females fighting for Ryu. And it’s not like he’s in disguise most of the time — he’s just not interested in anyone else. The action revolves around Yuniko, so that’s probably why the author didn’t have someone from Ryu’s past or something pop up.
The art reminds me of the artist of the manga Butterflies, Flowers. Like Yoshihara’s style, Wild Act has a lighthearted sex comedy feel with the heroine often going super-deformed in heated moments. So there’s a bit of nudity here. The guys all look alike. Most of them are supposed to look like the actor Akira, but there’s a difference between similar and a copy. Lines — particularly eyelines — are quite thick. With the choices for backgrounds and screentones, I sometimes thought a different guy was speaking because the colors would invert male characters’ hair color. Some scenes feel like they could have used a few more panels for the action to flow smoothly. But Wild Act still holds up today, although you’d have to track down some physical copies which might show its age.
No honorifics are used. I was actually surprised the English kept pretty much tried to keep things like Maki using Yuniko and Ryu’s surnames instead of turning it all to personal names considering a lot of the dialogue is Americanized.
There are times where I think the wrong person is being referenced in a statement — like it should be “I” instead of “he” or whatever. Early volumes have some horrible redraws and retouching. Some English text is directly on top of the Japanese, making it extremely hard to read. In another case, the text is printed twice, one under the other, like a shadow. Besides the usual Tokyopop swapped speech bubbles and typos, some information is skipped. For example, the speech bubble is supposed to be a blush sound effect (“kaaa”) but it includes text that was outside the speech bubble. Sound effects are untouched and mostly untranslated, including kanji. Yuniko’s fighting style is named differently in later volumes. Sometimes Cinnamon’s “kyuu” is kept and other times not. But things like that happen when you go through several different translators and adaptors.
Outside of the errors and some unnecessarily punched up dialogue, this is a decent translation for the time period. But there is at least one use of the r word, used in the final volume.
It’s not quite a phantom thief story a la Cat’s Eye or Lupin III, a journey to be a star like Skip Beat, or about dealing with a mixed up family like Marmalade Boy, but Wild Act has an admirably unique twist on the cat burglar and “girl meets famous boy” archetypes.
VIZ Media published Takeda’s Gaba Kawa, Happy Hustle High, and Punch!