Genre: Drama, Josei, Crime
The protagonist of the manga is Ririko (last name unknown), a naive girl turned Charisma Gal (essentially this is a gyaru manga, reminiscent of Super Gals!) and her adventures in Shibuya district along with her other Gal friends.
Ririko is engaged since childhood to Hoshino Nii, now an elite police detective. Despite her staunch devotion to him, he seems to regard her more as a kid sister and her enthusiasm to prove herself worthy, leads the amateur detective and her friends into a lot of trouble. Nii is also a strict disciplinarian and isn’t aware of (and would certainly disapprove of if he knew about) Ririko’s lifestyle as a Charisma Gal which leads to hilarious sequences of her changing her clothes and hairstyle whenever he arrives. And just to keep things interesting, there arrives another potential suitor (and best friend of Hoshino) in chapter 7.
It is revealed early on that Ririko has a rocky relationship with her family and is now sheltered in Shibuya by her cousin Tami-nee who runs a nail salon. She hardly attends classes at university and her mode of income isn’t detailed on.
While the mysteries are not very deeply thought out, what makes Kechonpa stand out is how well fleshed out the characters are. Despite their similar appearances, they all stand out as individual, quirky personalities, grounded only by Tami-nee and Ririko to some extent. They’re loud, confident and a laugh riot! The plot is driven by Ririko on her own terms and the male leads are only secondary to it. She is feisty, independent and not ashamed to call people out on their shit.
But it wasn’t always this way! Ririko’s past is detailed out in layers and dealt with a sensitivity usually not seen in manga (you know how mangakas are always vying for the saddest backstory to allot their mysterious men). Her transformation from a regular girl to her rebellious Charisma phase comes with reasons and logic. The heavier scenes are dealt with an art style more suitable to the mood. And even her rebellious phase isn’t a throw-your-parents-advise-into-the-wind kind but a more mature kind explained best here:
The manga focuses on friendship between strong, independent female protagonists who have each others backs. Despite a few hitches here and there, they all stand up for one another and this is something so under-represented in manga.
The manga also subtly alludes to several societal issues and the negativity Charisma Gals face due to their chosen lifestyle – the police apathy, or comments from the more uptight members of society, how complacent people have grown to complaints from non-creamy sectors. A certain case involves the police to investigate into a girl who goes missing, but since she has been known to be a part of a street gang and has run away from home several times before, they do nothing. Another case involves repeated vandalism of a shop in Shibuya, but it is ignored in favour of an attempted homicide in a better district.
The art is different and…chaotic. It is constantly changing and dynamic, which to me adds to the ‘personality’ of the manga. In many ways, it stands out like a Charisma Gal itself with its unique and over-the-top tumultous style in the supersaturated market of wide-eyed shoujo girls.
While this might make it difficult to recognize the characters since they mostly all have the same bleached hair, it does get easier after a few chapters. As the chapters progress, the mangaka focuses more on background details as well which as are nil in the first volume.
The Final Verdict
Chiaki-sensei gets a lot of checks right on with this manga and it’s a shame it didn’t receive more attention than it did. Due to the folding of the magazine responsible for serialization, the manga as of now remains unfinished.
Foxy Turnips gives it a rating of 8 Turnips out of 10!
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