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Bitter Virgin May 26, 2009

Posted by gtoproject in Manga.
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Bitter Virgin (ビター バージン?) is a seinen manga presented by Kei Kusunoki and serialized in Young Gangan.

Bitter Virgin is the story of high school student Daisuke Suwa and his classmate, a girl named Hinako Aikawa, and the relationship that develops between them soon after Daisuke discovers a tragic – and very personal – secret that Hinako has been forced to bear on her own.

Plot

Daisuke Suwa is a high school student living with his widowed mother in a small Japanese community. Unwilling to spend the rest of his life working at their family-owned restaurant, his ambitions are to leave the town he grew up in by gaining acceptance at a city university and to enjoy the life of a bachelor.

Daisuke is also a bit of a ladies’ man. In a discussion with a classmate about which of the girls in class he would choose to date, he declares that while he makes no distinction, he would pass on only one: Hinako Aikawa, a beautiful but shy girl who displays an unusual degree of aversion to men. Daisuke is put off by what he calls her “sweet virgin” act and is annoyed by her extreme reactions to physical contact from men.

Working after school one day, Daisuke takes refuge in a “haunted” church building to avoid a pair of girls who ask to join him on his food-delivery run. Just as he is about to head back to work, he hears someone entering the building. Believing it to be one of the girls he was trying to avoid earlier, he hides inside a nearby confessional booth. To his surprise, the newcomer turns out to be Hinako.

To avoid an awkward moment, Daisuke remains inside the confessional and pretends to be a priest. He tells Hinako that mass has ended and asks her to go home unless she wants to confess, believing this will make her leave. He is startled when, instead of leaving, Hinako asks him to hear her confession. Believing her confession will be about a trivial matter, Daisuke agrees. She proceeds to tell him a story that completely changes his view of her.

As a junior high school student, Hinako was sexually abused by her stepfather and became pregnant. Her mother learned of the pregnancy when Hinako miscarried, but refused to believe that her new husband was the father. As a result, the abuse continued, and Hinako soon became pregnant again. Because the doctors warned her that she might lose the ability to bear children completely if she had an abortion, she carried the baby to term and her mother had it put up for adoption immediately after birth without Hinako ever seeing the child.

Hinako ends by saying that although she never wanted the child and was relieved to have it adopted, she wonders whether she should at least celebrate its birthday, which is today. As she breaks down in tears, a stunned Daisuke, desperate for a proper answer, assures her that she has the support of God. This manages to calm Hinako down, and she thanks him and leaves.

Returning home, Daisuke cannot bring himself to believe Hinako’s story. He decides to follow her home from school secretly the next day to confirm whether her story was true or not. Along the way, Hinako stops to look at a baby in a carriage. As she turns to go, the carriage brakes slip, and it begins to roll down on its own. She runs forward to save the child, and Daisuke instinctively leaps in front of Hinako to protect her. As a result, both the carriage and the baby are saved, but the two teenagers are knocked to the ground. In the process, Hinako’s skirt gets hitched up, revealing a scar on her stomach. Daisuke recognizes it as a Caesarean-section scar, similar to one he saw on his mother’s stomach as a child.

With Hinako’s story proven true, Daisuke realizes that her ordeal was the cause of her aversion to men. Unable to get her out of his mind and worried for her well-being, he resolves to keep her secret safe and to help her in any way he can, and soon finds himself falling in love with her.

Characters

Names in Japanese order.

Suwa Daisuke: The main character of the story, Daisuke is quiet, but has an eye for the ladies, but doesn’t really like any of them to the point of asking them out. Aikawa Hinako is the only girl he can’t stand because of her shyness towards him and all other men, which agitates him. But when he accidentally hears her confess to the priest (him hiding) that she’s been raped, pregnant, and a mother, he begins to soften towards her until he comes to love her. They become friends and he continues not to tell her that he knows of her past, which he is constantly haunted by, thinking that she is completely off-limits to him and that as a man, he can never draw her attention. He has caught Kazuki, his “girlfriend,” trying to harm Hinako a couple times and puts up with the girl and her jealousy to protect Hinako. He is not aware that Hinako has grown to love him back, but he finds himself blessed as the only man she can stand to be around. As time progresses and Hinako’s past tragedy influences him, Daisuke quickly changes from a typical teenager into a strong, mature, and emotionally sensitive if conflicted young man who places Hinako’s welfare at top priority and even nearly killing a rapist who tried to attack her. When he was woken up by Hinako and still believed he was dreaming, he accidentally confessed to Hinako, where she quickly ran off after hearing but the next day she returns his feelings. However, after he tells her that he has always knew, being the ‘preacher’ when she confessed, she is horrified that he learned her secret she didn’t want anyone to know and runs home. There he finds out Kazuki was listening in and is blackmailed to go on a birthday date with her to keep her quiet. After Kazuki gives up on him, Daisuke wonders he could do for Hinako. Hinako is scared of Daisuke for a little while, because he knows all her secrets. Soon, Hinako realizes that her feelings for him are too strong and makes up with him. Daisuke says “I’m sorry, you can hate me for this,” and then kisses her and the two are together. Daisuke thinks that one day the two will part, because he thinks he’s not suitable to take care of her, but until then, he will stay with her.

Aikawa Hinako: The main female character of the story who has developed extreme trauma towards men caused by her stepfather sexually abusing her when she was younger, making her pregnant twice. As the story begins she is only 16 years old, indicating she was actually much younger than that when the abuse began. A year before the story takes places, Hinako actually gave birth to a boy. Her mother never stopped the violence because Hinako tried to protect her mother’s happiness and not say anything about it. When she had her first pregnancy, her mother believed her to be lying to cover up the real father when she said her mother’s husband had gotten her pregnant. When she had her second pregnancy (she was already too far along to have an abortion), the doctor told Hinako’s mother that Hinako was covered with bruises and he did not believe she’d chosen her partner. Her mother soon threw the man out by threatening him. Hinako then went to a far away school, not telling anyone but her mother, and that’s where the story takes place. Hinako does not know that Daisuke is aware of her past but overcomes her androphobia from including Daisuke and becomes a close friend as Daisuke’s gentle nature is displayed towards her. Daisuke is seen by Hinako as unique as she admitted to never knowing any man like him before and living proof not all men are as bad as Hinako’s stepfather was. As the story progresses after Daisuke saves Hinako from a molester, she comes to realize that she is in love with Daisuke and now believes that he could never be hers because of her past and his clingy “girlfriend” Kazuki. Later, Hinako revealed to Izumi she gave birth to a boy a year before (unaware that Yuzu was eves dropping). When Daisuke was woken up by Aikawa and still believed he was dreaming, he accidentally confessed to Aikawa, where she quickly ran off after hearing but the next day she returns his feelings. Feeling so happy that Daisuke loves her but is worried about the fact that he might hate her if she discovers her secret. Planning on telling him herself, she arrives just in time to hear Yuzu yell it to Daisuke. She runs crying to the nurses office, prompting Daisuke to bring her book bag she left in the classroom. There he pretends that he doesn’t know and states that Yuzu was just under a lot of stress. However she then confirms to him that what Yuzu said was true and wants to end what they had, believing Daisuke will hate her after telling him this. He then tells her that he knows everything as he was the preacher that she confessed to. This statement horrifies her as she didn’t want anyone to know that she was raped and flees home. Later she gets a call from her mother, causing Hinako to break down in tears and speak of returning to her mother. Afterwards, Hinako enters the abandoned church only to find Izumi weeping inside. Izumi tells Hinako that she will always love her hometown, and no matter what, she will have people that love her here. Hinako is still scared of Daisuke the following day, and then is harassed by a boy that had try to ask her out before. The boy yells that Hinako doesn’t think about the feelings of the people she turns down, and Hinako realizes that this is true. When Daisuke arrives and the boy leaves, she tells Daisuke not to move, no matter what, and hugs him. Daisuke says “I’m sorry, you can hate me for this,” and kisses her. The two get together afterwards, Hinako thinks that one day they will have to part, because she thinks he’ll find a better girl than her, but until then she will stay with him.

Ibuse Kazuki: She is Daisuke and Hinako’s classmate. She is quite flashy and would love to have Daisuke as a boyfriend and is quite friendly with him. She seems to dress in the ganguro girl style, but lacks the artificial tanned skin to prove it. She latches herself onto Daisuke as his girlfriend and obsesses about him, growing bitter towards Aikawa when her feelings towards Daisuke seem to be largely unrequited. She goes so far as intending to stab Aikawa with scissors, before Daisuke intervenes. She has also, however, shown signs of being a good person. When Suwa’s sister pretended to be in pain, she showed signs of concern, and offered to call an ambulance, but she soon forgets the good deed and when Izumi’s baby is stillborn, she believes that it served Izumi right for tricking her. Daisuke is presently going out with her to protect Hinako. He recently tried to break up with her, but went crazy at the thought and isn’t willing to back down, citing that Daisuke may eventually grow to love her if they are together long enough. She later eavesdrops upon Hinako and Daisuke’s chat in the nurses station and uses this to blackmail Daisuke into going out with her on a birthday date. The date was actually a ploy to prolong the farce of a relationship and Kazuki tells Daisuke she would let him go to Hinako yet still loves him. She says that she will wait for him, when Daisuke and Hinako part. In part of the manga it is shown she used to be a rather ‘geeky’ person in middle school, wearing her hair in two braids and having a pair of non-stylish eye glasses. She claims that she wears all her makeup and dresses the way she does because she wants Daisuke’s attention and for him to love her, saying ‘he’ll come to love me in time’ Yuzu also believed this at once and tells Kazuki that it will never happen.

Yamamoto Yuzu: She is also one of Daisuke’s classmates, Daisuke’s next-door-neighbor, and childhood friend, also secretly harbouring feelings for him. She sometimes works with him in his mother’s restaurant. She’s the traditional girl-next-door and constantly badgers him like a “henpecking wife” to do his school chores or other assorted tasks (of which, of course he will constantly try to escape). She was Daisuke’s main source of solace after his father’s death. She appears to work out the strength of feeling that Daisuke and Hinako share from an early stage. She knows that Daisuke likes Hinako and may be starting to figure out that she likes him back. She is not aware of Hinako’s past, but she does know that Daisuke is not interested in Kazuki, but wants to protect Hinako. It is implied that she also has feelings or Daisuke, but keeps them to herself. In chapter 25, she overhears that Hinako once had a child but doesn’t know it is because of rape from Hinako’s stepfather and believes that her innocent act is just to fool Daisuke. At first, she was willing to keep Hinako’s secret as she didn’t want to attack her unhealed wounds like that, but after fully realizing her own feelings for Daisuke and hearing that they both already confessed to each other (and believing it is to stop Daisuke from ending up in a tragic love) she can’t hold it back any longer and screams Hinako’s secret to him just as Hinako shows up. After watching Hinako run off she feels completely horrified at what she did and worse when she discovers that Daisuke has always known. This also causes Yuzu to understand that even though she was always standing by his side for over ten years, that wouldn’t get Daisuke to fall in love with her. She and Kazuki say that they will wait until Daisuke and Hinako separate.

Suwa Izumi: Suwa Daisuke’s sister is 37 weeks pregnant as the result of an affair with a work colleague. She is a strong-willed woman who has resolved to take care of the child as a single mother and returns from Tokyo to have the baby at her mother’s home. Even with her baby’s birth imminent, she constantly teases her younger brother, but sometimes her teasing can be all too accurate. She was able to figure out that Hinako has been pregnant before, but apparently, she was only kidding around with her brother, not knowing that what she said was true and instead believing Hinako to have had a pregnant relative. But when she gives birth, it’s a boy and is stillborn, having been strangled by his umbilical cord. Her grief almost overwhelms her but she tries to stay strong. At the end of the third book, she becomes angry at Hinako for saying that she understands the pain of coming to the hospital for tests without a baby and Hinako ends up telling her that she gave birth the year before and ends up helping her through her depression with her story as they are both woman that had babies but never got to hold them. After her one month check up she is planning to move back into the city, then stating to Daisuke (under the impression that he doesn’t know of Hinako’s secret) that he needs to be stronger if he wants to love Hinako. However, Izumi gains a higher opinion of her brother when Daisuke admits to always knowing Aikawa’s secret. Izumi would later enter the abandoned church crying. In the end she goes back to Tokyo to find a husband that will accept the fact that she had a stillborn, and if she does she will come back home.

Mrs. Suwa: She is a caring mother who struggles to run the family shop. A widow, she constantly badgers Daisuke to impregnate some girl in order to get someone else to help out with the family business. She also doesn’t act her age from time to time which frustrates her son who usually refers to her as Baba (Japanese for old woman).

My Rating: 8.5

Kei Kusunoki May 26, 2009

Posted by gtoproject in Manga, Mangaka.
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Kei Kusunoki (楠 桂, Kusunoki Kei, born March 24, 1966), real name Mayumi Ōhashi (大橋真弓, Ōhashi Mayumi), is a Japanese manga artist best known for her horror and comedy manga series. She debuted in 1982 in Ribon Original with Nanika ga Kanojo Tōri Tsuita?. Her twin-sister Kaoru Ōhashi also works as a manga artist. Their styles are quite similar.

Works

Kusunoki focused most of her career on anime production. Just recently she returned to manga, drawing Bitter Virgin. Most of her works have not been officially translated and published in English.

* Yagami-kun’s Family Affairs (1986)
* Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma (1989)
* Ogre Slayer (1994)
* Dokkan Love (unknown)
* Donmai Princess (2000)
* D no Fuuin (2000)
* Girls Saurus DX (2003-2008)
* 100 Ways of an Exorcist (2005-ongoing)
* Bitter Virgin (2006-2008)
* Diabolo (manga) (2005)
* Innocent W (2006-ongoing)
* Sengoku Nights (2006)
* Vampire (manga) (or Kessaku Tanpenshuu Vampire)
* Koi Tomurai