Meiou Academy is a school for Tokyo's elite, the super intelligent and super rich students who just love to look down on the little guy. So what exactly is Yamazaki Tanpopo, a girl of average intelligence and average wealth doing there? Good question.
Fans of Watase Yuu (of Fushigi Yuugi and Ayashi no Ceres fame) will not be disappointed by her new manga series Imadoki! It's a refreshing change from the dark and bizarre Ayashi no Ceres. With Imadoki!, Watase goes back to her roots and writes a comedic love story that takes place in present day Tokyo. There's no magical powers and the main character is as normal as one can get, instead, Imadoki! is a light-hearted story of an eternal optimist.
For those familiar with Hana Yori Dango, the story of Imadoki! will seem fairly similar. Yamazaki Tanpopo (who's name means 'Dandelion') is a normal girl who recently transferred to the elite Meiou Academy. Immediately, she is mistreated by the students who don't believe that she deserves to be at their school. However, unlike most girls who may cry and feel upset over the bullying, Tanpopo is much like her namesake. No matter how many times you try and get rid of a dandelion, you just can't. They're resilient little buggers and so is Tanpopo. Despire her abuse, she smiles it off and just tries even harder to make friends. One of the students that takes notice of her unending optimism is Kugyou Kouki, a handsome, yet sullen boy whom Tanpopo meets when she lands on him on his bicycle. Tanpopo's curiousity is sparked when she notes Kouki's gruff demeanor at school. She simply cannot understand how a guy who likes flowers and shows such kindness towards them can be such so cold. Tanpopo makes it her goal to become friends with Kouki, to further this goal she starts a Gardening Committee to take care of the flowers and plants at Meiou Academy. Along the way, she makes "friends" (or enemies) with Saionji Tsukiko, a girl who seems hell-bent on marrying Kouki and hell-bent on getting Tanpopo out of the way. She also gains the attention of Kyougoku Aoi, an extremely eccentric and violent hacker whom they all lovingly call "Psycho-kun."
While Watase's cast in Imadoki! may seem to be littered with the usual stereotypes of the cheerful (although in this case, not ditzy) heroine and the kind, calm hero--she does also throw in a few original characters into the mix. One that jumps to my attention is Uchimura Arisa, a dark-faced, trendy "ko-gal" who has issues that Tanpopo's certainly never dealt with, let alone most of the people who read Imadoki! Oddly enough, one would think a manga with a somewhat unoriginal plot line and fairly typical characters would make for one boring read, but that's completely not the case.
What makes Imadoki! so different from other manga in the high school romance genre is that it truly it made me laugh out loud so many times. While there are some angsty, dramatic moments, it's about 70% comedy and 30% drama (so far.) Watase Yuu excels at mixing comedy and drama into a story and this is definately her best work since Fushigi Yuugi. The art style consists of her usual beautifully drawn males and cute looking females making it definately a visual treat. Imadoki! is also quite modern, which allows American readers to get a glimpse into the trends of Japan.
Imadoki is currently running in Shokomi and consists of three compiled volumes. I am very eagerly anticipating the fourth installment of Imadoki!, this is honestly the first manga in a very long time which has gotten me excited for the characters and the story. That being said, Imadoki! recieves my highest recommendation. Fans of Watase Yuu should not miss this story. To those who didn't like Watase Yuu's previous popular works, try reading what her high-school comedy-romance stories are like. Imadoki! is a wonderfully simple, light-hearted, and energetic manga series that shouldn't be missed.