By: Jill Marie Ricker
So what do you do when life just plain sucks? When your boyfriend dumped you and you have to study for university entrance exams? In X-Day, the solution to all of your problems is to go to your local chat room and find three other classmates that hate school and make plans to blow up the school. While this seems a little extreme, even though the stress of Japanese High Schools is intense and well documented, this overlaid plot of school hatred and destruction masks a story about trying to belong and dealing with teenage angst.
The story revolves around the life of Rika Saginuma, a high school senior forced to quit the track team after an injury and dumped by her boyfriend for another girl. But Rika is also known as 11, her screenname she uses in the school computer lab, where she meets Polaris (Nanaka Shimada, senior), Mr. Money (Yumihiko Tsukumura, junior), and Jangalian (Reichi Katano, biology teacher). A random comment sparks the plan to destroy the school, and this group meets online to make their plans to make it all go away, but initially just talk about random topics and never mention blowing up the school. When Polaris text messages a suicide note to Rika at school, the group meets face to face for the first time on the roof of the school while Polaris clings to the edge. At this moment of crisis, the group decides to go through with the plan to destroy the school. Meeting at Polaris’ family restaurant, they decide to start stockpiling fireworks in order to have enough gunpowder to make a bomb. And that’s when the “let’s blow up the school” plot fades to the background, and the story becomes realistic and engaging. You start to learn more about each character, and the underlying darkness in their lives comes to light. Once the story shifts to this perspective, it is as good as the best shoujo manga that has come to the U.S. The art is fabulous, reminiscent of Mars ( ) and a touch of Paradise Kiss ( ).
So even if you don’t think that “blowing up the school” isn’t the best premise for a manga, definitely check out “X-Day”. It will surprise you with a story of understanding teenage angst, love, and the difficulties of growing up when everyone has their own expectations of you.
X-Day is written and drawn by Setona Mizushiro and is released by Tokyopop. Volumes 1 and 2 available now at retail stores for $9.99.