Chikutaku Bonbon (Tick Tock Dong Dong) follows a young woman who lives in early 1900s Tokyo. While originally appearing to have a supernatural bent, by the third chapter, the story settles in as a romantic comedy. The beginning shows good potential with unique chemistry between the two lead characters.
The heroine Iwa came from the country to live in Tokyo with her aunt as a personal maid. So she’s a simple country girl–very earnest and very gullible. This makes her a prime teasing target. Her neighbors are nice to her, but feed her stories about vampires. Her cousin Toichi pushes her around. Even though I usually dislike characters like Iwa, she is tolerable due to her honesty and kindness, particularly because her traits mesh well with the male lead. A teaser needs someone to tease. However, I am not a fan of her speech habit of putting “dabe” on the end of all her sentences. I found it annoying, not endearing, and it took a while before I could filter it out.
Iwa was told by her grandpa that because she’s not particularly beautiful or talented, she should work hard and be pleasant to others in Tokyo. Although harsh, Iwa took his words to heart and tries her best to help others. One day, she finds a weakened bat on the street and nurses it back to health. Although she becomes quite attached to the bat Sango, it eventually recovers and flies away. A few days later, she finds yet another thing collapsed on the street–a young man dressed in a black hat and mantle.
Although he matches the vampire description told to her by her teasing neighbors, Iwa’s kindness wins over her fear and she drags the poor weakened man back to her aunt’s place. The young man, also named Sango, was recently discharged from one of his long, frequent hospital stays. He introduces himself as an immortal vampire who wants to die. Although he’s a bit mysterious, I wouldn’t take this literally–he likes to tease Iwa and does spontaneous things to both catch her attention and throw her off guard. Sango is usually cheerful and very popular with others, but he is physically weak–he later detachedly tells Iwa that he wants to die. After all, he’s always sick and it’s bothersome just waiting around to die. He then proceeds to use this as a way to provoke amusing reactions out of Iwa, resulting in her declaring that she’ll watch over him until he stops saying silly things like he wants to die. How truthful is he being–does Sango really want to die? Her naivety and his unpredictability make an interesting combination. He’s intriguing, playful, easy on the eyes, and makes this story worthwhile. Even a cursory glance at what people are saying about this manga shows that it all revolves around Sango. Let me show you why.
Chikutaku Bonbon is set in Japan sometime in the early 1900s, so it features young men in gakuran, mantles, traditional Japanese clothing–a wonderful sight! Sango in particular is a treat with his dark black hair and black or traditional outfits. This work once again shows Katsuta Bun can create cohesive, recognizable settings for distinct time periods. If you want more, definitely check out Please, Jeeves, which has a charming early 1900s England backdrop. Actually, just check it out–now. Both titles have an enjoyable humorous tone.
The most disappointing thing is that only half of the tankoubon pages actually cover the title story, Chikutaku Bonbon. The remainder are a completely unrelated story, The Beach is Beautiful. I was a bit heartbroken as I barely got a taste of Chikutaku Bonbon and apparently need Vol 2. In spite of this, the impish, charismatic, yet somewhat sad Sango has convinced me to read more of Katsuta Bun’s works.