Manga Monday

Manga Monday #11: 3 Things that Make Parfait Tic!’s Clichés Unique

If you’ve read any young adult fiction, you’ve come upon their tropes.  If you’ve read tons of YA fiction (like me), then you’ve probably been sufficiently buried in them.  Now, clichés or tropes are what they are–you know, used to death–because they’re effective.  Especially in poorly written literature, they keep you reading for a just a bit longer.  They’re like the pizza of the entertainment world:  a food that almost everyone will eat up.

However, their real power isn’t from simply being edible, it’s really from the customization of them.  Just like a simple pizza can be taken new heights with an original recipe, so can a cliché.

Today, I’m going to show you a manga that covered pretty much every shoujo manga cliché you can think of, but managed to turn many of them on their head in a way that I enjoyed–and for other people just made them very, very angry.  Which sounds like a weird lead-in to my explanation as to why you should read this manga, but just hang in here with me.

3 Things that Make Parfait Tic!’s Clichés Unique

Parfait Tic!
パフェちっく!
Nanaji Nagamu
22 volumes (complete)

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Parfait Tic! (a title that the author admitted doesn’t have any real meaning beyond the French word parfait and the end “tic” to “romantic”) is about 15 year-old Kameyama Fuuko who, just as she’s about to enter high school, gets two new handsome neighbors in the apartment above her.  They’re cousins Shinpo Ichi and Daiya, sent to live on their own as their parents work overseas.

As they’re moving in, Fuuko mistakenly causes Ichi to drop a small box he’s carrying, breaking the mug that was specially stored inside.  Ichi is openly enraged about it, leaving Fuuko in near tears.

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Before she has a chance to recover, she is hearing the next Shinpo boy, Daiya, commenting on her underwear, which she has inadvertently flashed to him.  As Daiya leaves, she is left feeling no good feelings towards these new additions to her once happy apartment complex.  She dreads that her once bright future in her new high school has been dimmed with the knowledge of these cousins attending the same school.

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The proceeding 22-volumes of the manga follows Fuuko’s school life with the Shinpo cousins, the resulting love triangle that (of course) ensues, and how the three come to terms with that.  A very normal shoujo manga plot, see time and time again.  Even just within the first few pages, you see many cliches brought to light.  The handsome transfer students who are made up of the cool and quiet guy juxtaposed with the happy-go-lucky playboy.  All of this surrounds the happy and oh-so-regular Fuuko, again, this story isn’t anything new to speak of.

But I promise, Parfait Tic! has some unique features to what could be considered a very tropey drama, things that I think are worth highlighting.  Here are three things that make Parfait Tic! a favorite of mine.

#1 – The Use of Metaphor

Nanaji Nagamu does some really cool things with her use of basic storylines as a metaphoric example of the relationships that are building in the storyline.  Especially between Daiya, Ichi, and Fuuko, we see several metaphors used to explain the status of their running love triangle.

As Fuuko begins building a friendship with both Daiya and Ichi, a plot metaphor is brought up in the first five chapters.  At their apartment complex–which doesn’t allow pets–an abandoned puppy is discovered.  As Fuuko exclaims how exciting it was, Ichi quickly puts her excitement into perspective:  If she holds that puppy, she’s going to give it false hope.  She can’t keep it, so she shouldn’t be giving it reason to grow attached to her just because she pities it–she will only hurt the puppy in the end.

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The author uses this situation to mirror the situation that’s begin to bloom between the three protagonists.  Daiya is unthinkingly kind to Fuuko, including supporting her in finding a home for the dog.  Although his intentions are kind, that kindness can be misinterpreted.  In Daiya’s case, he is hurting Fuuko by leading her to believe that he cares about her more than he actually does.  Just as with petting a stray dog, Daiya repeated does this grand, gallant gestures that just make it harder for Fuuko to stay grounded in her feelings for him.

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When Fuuko is able to successfully find a home for the dog, she charges out of her apartment and up to Daiya and Ichi’s door.  She runs into Ichi, and tells him the news before running to the person she really wants to see, Daiya.

In the case of Ichi and Fuuko, Ichi is the dog and Fuuko has been unwittingly doting on him in a way that repeatedly has him feeling the same ups and downs that Daiya is giving her.  They are both experiencing the depressing circumstance when you realize that, just because someone is nice to you, it doesn’t mean that you actually amount to more than a friend in their life.  It’s akin to the stray dog–they may pet you and give you love for a moment, but they’re not taking you home.

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I really appreciate the use of metaphor like this throughout the series.  Nanaji uses a lot of visual metaphors and every time I would run onto one I would be stunned again.  Again, for a story that feels like it’s going to be troped-out at first, it’s refreshing when I see deeper thinking to storytelling like this.

My favorite metaphors she uses are later in the story–you know, full of spoilers–so I won’t exactly run my mouth about all of them, but they hold a lot of storytelling power.

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#2 – Both Guys Are Lovable

The way in which the relationship between Fuuko and each individual guy develops is unique while also being believable.  Rather than there being one guy that she obviously likes the most (which makes the whole idea of a “love triangle” moot, think Twilight), Fuuko clearly develops a very personal and unique relationship with both Ichi and Daiya.  And it’s not the whole who-do-I-want-to-kiss-more physical attraction; first and foremost, Fuuko is friends with each of them.

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For Fuuko and Daiya, their similarities I think are what make them both incredibly comfortable with each other.  Although Daiya is, at first, simply a playboy, it turns out he’s just as silly of a naive kid as she is.  They’re both young and exposed and develop a lot as people thanks to their friendship with one another.  They don’t struggle to get along, they pretty much click from the get-go.  They really treasure their friendship with one another.  Both of them work hard to keep their friendship intact, even as feelings erupt.

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What I think is the most enjoyable part of their relationship is the strength in communication that they build.  Their communication is so strong that the parts where they both suffer the most in their friendship is when either side isn’t fully communicating.  Both Daiya and Fuuko wear their hearts on their sleeves and are incredibly frank about how they feel about certain things.  As Fuuko begins to hide things, that’s when she hurts both herself and Daiya the most.  When Daiya holds back what he’s feeling, it’s the same thing in reverse.

They are a lovable and silly friendship, there’s a lot of real care and love between the two.  They have a real understanding of each other and read each other’s needs very easily, which makes their friendship all the more beautiful to watch.

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Fuuko and Ichi took a little more time to build a real friendship as Ichi is such a closed-off person in comparison to Fuuko’s more open attitude.  However, it is Fuuko’s genuine personality that finally had Ichi allowing her in bit by bit.  Their relationship involves a lot of silly arguments and teasing, but eventually it begins to take shape into something very real and dear to both parties.

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Fuuko and Ichi’s relationship is interesting because, although Ichi is at first wonderfully upfront and honest when he realizes how he really feels, Fuuko is still unsure about what she’s feeling.  The progression of their relationship is slow to get to its peak, but it feels natural.  Ichi is keen to put himself always in Fuuko’s line of sight and that proximity allows her feelings to become more clear.

They’re almost combustive in their antics with each other, full of misunderstandings, but they both work hard to maintain what they feel to be very important feelings.  They both find each other more confusing that I would say Daiya and Fuuko, but I think that the strength of their building feelings has them fighting to understand, which is important in a friendship.

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It is, I think, the likability of both guys that makes this series argumentative for fans who have read it in its entirety.  Both Ichi and Daiya are dear characters, but they both screw up throughout the series.  They’re all just a bunch of kids dealing with adult emotions, so to me I appreciate the misgivings between all the couplings.  They all lack experience and maturity to fully grasp how they should be handling things; I think that Parfait Tic! has flawed characters who react to things in a very real way.

For me, the ending makes the most sense in terms of who really loved Fuuko, but I appreciate that there it was a struggle, as a reader, to allow her to choose who she wanted to be with.  I know a lot of people have frustrations with Fuuko’s reasoning but I think that’s why it’s great.  If we always agreed with and loved the main character, a story would be boring.  For me, this was the tension the story needed–Fuuko’s uncertainty because she has built strong friendships and real feelings with both of these boys.

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#3 –  Its Archetypes of Love

Another thing that I really appreciate over the course of Parfait Tic is its exploration of different portrayals of how we can fall in and out of love.  The whole story isn’t just this love triangle puttering around, it’s got multiple layers of people and their own stories.  Side characters aren’t simply shuffled along when needed but find real grounding as the series proceeds, offering more input to this whole love thing that they’re all dealing with.

We even see contrasts in how each of the three leads approach their entrance into the love triangle.  For Fuuko, she fell for Daiya quite quickly.  As their relationship was built bit by bit and they grew closer, the love just grew stronger, but its basis was weak to begin with–Fuuko falling in love with a guy simply being he was nice to her wasn’t strong enough to sustain a quick confession, no matter how close their friendship had grown.  In fact, it was after her confession that they grew the closest.

For Daiya, his focus was building a friendship which would then build them into close friends.  When Fuuko’s confession jars that, he isn’t sure how to approach it, not only because he’s never experienced love before, but because he wasn’t gearing himself up for that quite yet.

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With Ichi and Fuuko, Ichi was the one who fell first, and fell as quickly as Fuuko fell for Daiya.  Fuuko was the friendly face that Ichi was missing, someone who was befriending him simply to be his friend, nothing more.  He was in need of someone to be a longtime stronghold after a past relationship.  Thus, these newfound feelings were conflicting but warm for Ichi.

It took Fuuko a long time to figure out what she was feeling with Ichi, especially considering the fact that she liked Daiya first.  It’s an interesting conundrum as she realizes that she doesn’t like the feeling of just jumping from one cousin to the other.  Also, previous heartbreak prevents Fuuko from allowing herself to quickly fall in love again, but her friendship with Ichi has them growing closer and closer and she can’t deny what’s happening.  (Basically, the drama is just so good.  Trust me.  Best kind of pizza!)

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Side characters also have unique love stories.  I love Fuuko’s senpai in tennis club, Akio, as well as her budding romance later down the road (won’t spoil that).  I enjoy the commentary that Nanaji makes on youths in love and the many, many varied ways that can happen.  She touches very nicely on the after effects of a rejection, and beautifully displays the strength in which a friendship has to have in order to overcome that.

The story works very naturally between the varied attempts characters make to move on and move forward, whether that’s to new love or not.  It also, in later volumes, Parfait Tic! touches quite heavily on the darker feelings and actions that come with loving someone who has moved on.  I would work into that more, but obviously–with a 22-volume run–Parfait Tic! has a lot of spoilers that I’ll avoid in consideration of future readers.

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Parfait Tic! is a frustratingly wonderful series.  A lot of people don’t like the relationship turmoil and, yes, it’s all so dramatic (come on, it’s a manga, people), but I enjoyed the drama.  I loved the tropes because surrounding them was a lot of lovable characters with chemistry that could kill you with their realness.  Even the more manufactured scenes are enjoyable in the beginning, it makes the stronger story of the elder volumes even more enjoyable.

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(Side note:  You will see Nanaji’s art style mature and refine by the end of the series.  I LOVE IT.)

Are you one of the haters of the ending of Parfait Tic!?  Am I the only one who loved it?

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