Dream on light girl
When two good friends start talking about girls, and one of them draws a sketch of his friend’s “dream girl,” you can bet pretty heavily that the girl he drew will be showing up within a few pages. If that very same dream girls happens to fall from the sky completely naked, and then declare her eternal love for you, so much the better.
That is pretty much the set up in this first volume of Studio Gainax’s “The Ugly Yet Beautiful World” (a direct translation of the Japanese title “Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai”, first serialized in Young Animal magazine in 2004). This is the manga version of the anime of the same name which also debuted in 2004.
Billed as a Sci-Fi/Romance, the first volume is more on the romance side than the Sci-Fi. There are two best friends, Takemoto Takeru and Ninomiya Ryou, who are students at the same high school. Ryou is popular with the girls due to his kind nature and good looks, and attracts a gaggle of followers wherever he goes. Takeru is more cold and stand-offish, and only really the object of affection to his cousin Mari with whom he lives. Since Takeru doesn’t seem to take an interest in any girls, Ryou asks him what type of girl he would be interested in, and proceeds to sketch out Takeru’s dream girl.
That night, on a bike ride home, the boys encounter a bright flash of light, and a beautiful naked girl appears from the sky. She is not alone, however, as a giant monster appears with her and Takeru finds his body transformed into a warrior with a sword for an arm so he can defend the girl against the monster. Naming the girl Hikari, meaning “light” in Japanese, Takeru takes her home and vows to protect her. Meanwhile, Ryou has found his own naked girl appearing from the light, although his is quite a bit younger. Ryou names her Akari, meaning “bright” and also takes her home. Thus the adventure begins.
The first volume is mostly set-up, and introducing the characters. All of the Sci-Fi elements are out of the way within the first ten pages or so, and the rest of “This Ugly Yet Beautiful World” is devoted to scenes of Hikari adjusting to living as a human, and to Takeru coming to terms with having this beautiful naked girl throwing herself at him at every turn. Some conflict is established, as Hikari and Akari have some sort of mysterious past that neither seems to remember, although Akari is initially terrified of Hikari. Takeru’s cousin Mari becomes jealous at the sudden romantic rival, and Takeru is torn between the two girls. Of course, everyone finds time to go to the beach.
The art in “This Ugly Yet Beautiful World” is definitely on the beautiful side. There is a fair bit of nudity here, and artist Morimi Ashita doesn’t shy away from showing all the girls taking a bath together, or Hikari’s inability to understand why her new body needs clothes. That’s not really the main draw of the series (although it doesn’t hurt!), which is really the kind of character-driven storyline we have come to expect from Studio Gainax.
This first volume is on the lighter side storywise, taking the time to develop the characters and getting the plot set up. From the anime we know things get much heavier as the series progresses (End of the World, anyone?) so this first volume almost exists to lure you in to a sweet romance/comedy before smacking you in the face with some darkness.
Great stuff all around. I am looking forward to the rest of the series!