Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Merry Month of Manga Review: EIKEN

I've put it off as long as I could, but it's time to finally review one of the weirdest, grossest, most tasteless things to ever grace the North American manga market.

EIKEN, by Seiji Matsuyama.  First published in 2001, and first published in North America in 2005.


Densuke has just started at Zashino Academy and he's ready to find a place for himself amongst the student body.  The choice is made for him when he stumbles into the sizeable chest of sweet yet shy Chiharu.  Afterwards, Densuke is whisked away by Chiharu's friends, a collection of busty young ladies who call themselves the Eiken Club.  No one knows just what they do, but their Amazonian president Kirika is determined to bring Densuke into their fold and pair him up with Chiharu.  As for Densuke, he's simply hoping he can survive the club's activities with his life and dignity intact, much less find a way to communicate how he feels to Chiharu.


Have you ever read a manga that was so stupid and pandering that at first you presume that it HAS to be satire?  Did you then realize that there was no joke to be found within and that its perversion was completely and utterly serious and it simply is one of the worst things you've ever read?  Well, then you must have done the same stupid thing that I did by reading Eiken.

I don't doubt at least that Matsuyama was at least trying to be amusing.  If there's one rule here when it comes to the story, it's that wackiness reigns, so it's perfectly OK to teddy-bear-shaped mech suits or make a running gag out of the Eiken Club stealing things from the other school clubs.  The problem is that Matsuyama is under the misapprehension that fanservice counts as a joke.  Believe it or not, I don't have a problem with raunchy humor.  A well-timed sex joke or double entendre can be great fun, but I do have a problem with people who think that you can substitute a lot of cleavage and bulging crotches for actual jokes.  If anything, it's just one lame joke repeated over and over: Densuke sees giant boobs/butt/panties/whatever, freaks out, falls down, and gets a nosebleed.  The only thing that distinguishes this particular version is the outrageousness of the fanservice, but more on that later.

If the plot summary didn't give it away, the plot is little more than a flimsy excuse to give Densuke a harem.  Most of the girls get a dedicated chapter to ostensibly bond with Densuke, but the most prominent plot thread is Densuke's ongoing, awkward flirtation with Chiharu, which in turn is constantly complicated by Kirika doing her best to embarrass the boy with elaborate stunts or just pushing him into the nearest set of boobs.  This might come off as a bit cruel if it Densuke were anything other than the story's punching bag.  He's a bland nebbish who lives in constant, fretful embarrassment, and his lack of personality extends to the Eiken club as well.  Each girl is defined by a single archetype or quirk: Chiharu is shy, Kyoko is obsessed with science, Komoe is motherly and moe, Lin Grace is...um...er...foreign?, "Teddy" is a little girl who hides her tininess and shyness in a giant bear suit, and Kirika has her fondness for theft and public embarrassment.  Each girl gets her chance to hammer her particular quirk into the reader's face, and given enough time they'll hammer that same quirk straight into the ground through sheer repetition.

Eiken is nothing but a hollow exercise in harem clichés.  Every single element of the story, be it character, plot, or humor, has only the barest minimum of effort applied and it mistakes randomness and fanservice for good humor.  Honestly, if it weren't for the giant boobs on display, no one would remember this at all.


So let's talk about that fanservice, shall we?  It's not just that Matsuyama shoves it in at every single opportunity, it's that he seems to prefer the sort of fanservice that most would regard as grotesque.  The proportions on the girls' chest are the sort you never see outside of hentai, with boobs that are easily 2-3 times larger than the girls' heads. Sometimes he tries to compensate for that by give the girls big hips or big, virtually sentient hairstyles, but that just makes things look worse.  What makes it truly bizarre is that Matsuyama isn't terribly consistent with the level of detail.  Sometimes he clearly spent ages doing his best to realistically render each seam and wrinkle in Chiharu's panties, and he wants to show off that effort by take each and every opportunity to show them off.  The rest of the time, though, he lets things get shockingly off-model.  Heads and bustlines can grow and shink wildly from panel to panel, faces go off-model near constantly, and any piece of clothing that isn't panties is crudely rendered and no matter how tight it's meant to be, it's all worn with the grace of a burlap sack.  I'm kind of surprised that the backgrounds in and around the school are as nicely drawn as they are, considering everything else.  Maybe Matsuyama handed those off to the assistant so he could focus more on the panties.  Eiken is just a visually appalling book.  It's so inconstantly drawn that it doesn't even work as spank material.  It's just hideous and lazy from cover to cover.


Don't read Eiken.  This can't even be enjoyed on the so-bad-its-good level.  It's an ugly, by-the-numbers harem that's distinguished only by the frequency and bizarreness of its fanservice, and if Media Blasters had any sense, they would have never brought it over in the first place.

Oh what am I saying?  Media Blasters hasn't had any good business sense about anything for the better part of a decade.  They still shouldn't have released this, though.

This series was published by Media Blasters.  This series is complete in Japan with 18 volumes available.  12 volumes were published and all are currently out of print.

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