Archive for category Science Fiction

A Platonic Invasion

The cover of Platonic Invade ~Koi no Shinryakusha~.

The cover of Platonic Invade ~Koi no Shinryakusha~.

Space aliens come in all shapes and sizes. But, my favorites are the ones who have computer operating systems that can be hacked with Windows 95.

With so many manga series published every year, it’s a wonder a fraction of those series manage more than a year in syndication. What’s more, of those short-lived series it’s amazing a handful are complied into books. Although this may seem like a disparaging comment, the mere fact manga authors are able to see their works reach a wide audience is fantastic, especially considering their fan base may not be too large. Yet, it’s also a sad fact many of these short series end prematurely or are placed on indefinite suspended publication status. As much as it pains me to say this, I recognize why publishing companies do this: why publish a series if it’s underperforming? However, I strongly feel authors should see their works published in an anthology or single book if multiple chapters were syndicated in a magazine. Granted, there are risks inherent in publishing a book of an underperforming series. Even so, fans of the medium may find a title they would have never imagined. One such series for me was Bunpei Sumiyama’s Platonic Invade ~Koi no Shinryakusha~ (プラトニックインベイド~恋の侵略者~). It’s a shame the series was only one volume long because it had an interesting, albeit predictable, premise. Added on top of this a fair portion of the jokes were well conceived and there were a few touching moments interspersed throughout the narrative.

I can’t begin to fathom the number of manga series readers pass by on a yearly basis. Of course, part of the reason for this is there are a lot of series published in less popular magazines. But, another reason people overlook series is because they are printed in the back of magazines or have an irregular publishing schedule. This leads many series to an early end in the best case scenario or suffer from an indefinite suspension of the publication in the worst. I say an indefinite suspension is worse because there’s no guarantee the publication company will syndicate the series again. As such, these types of series are stuck in limbo, whereas series that come to a conclusion, even if it’s premature, have the satisfaction of ending. That’s not to say a short manga series prematurely ending is the best course of action, as the series may have developed and exceeded its expectations with more time. In any case, seeing a short manga series placed in indefinite suspension or ending prematurely is a sad fact fans of the medium have to face. That doesn’t mean we have to lament the situation too much, though.

The reason for this is if a short series is lucky enough, the chapters will be compiled into a book and released to the general public. This was the case with Platonic Invade. I recognize there were eight chapters syndicated before the series was suspended, but the six chapters that were released in the book were entertaining in their own right. In fact, it made me wonder why the series was suspended in the first place. For instance, while the premise of the series was simple, it had the potential to expand and become much more than it was. True, the underlying narrative was similar to Shigemitsu Harada’s Ore Tama ~Ore ga Chikyu wo Sukūtte!?~ but rather than being based on fantasy and the supernatural, Platonic Invade used science fiction. To be more specific, Platonic Invade took the idea that if the male protagonist, Reiji Abe, reached sexual climax the world would end and then it placed that idea in a science fiction and romantic comedy setting. As such, there was room for an immense amount of sexual humor, but also the inclusion of numerous alien races and organizations trying to stop or expedite the act of copulation.

Reiji Abe hearing he is the most average person on Earth.

Reiji Abe hearing he is the most average person on Earth.

In fact, kernels of the above mentioned plot points were seen in the fifth chapter of the series. Here, an agent of the fictional League of Nations Department of Space Diplomacy and Intelligence, Hirona Silvestri, appeared and tried to collect and secure a sample of Reiji’s ejaculate before the alien, Kazumi, could. At first this may not seem like much of a conflict, but considering this could have been a potential plot point for later chapters, the mere inclusion of Hirona was interesting. Her appearance also expanded the world of the series from the high school Reiji and Kazumi attended to the point it included not just the world, but a galaxy’s worth of organizations and people with their own agendas. What’s more, the idea could have taken a series with a simple romantic comedy with a science fiction theme and expanded it into an action-packed romantic comedy, as was the case with the fifth chapter.

It was the romantic comedy element of the series, though, that made a small number of the situations unsurprising. Truthfully, one of the largest plot points in the series was based on predictable romantic comedy. This was centered on Reiji’s infatuation with the heroine, Yuko Katahira. What made the dynamic between Reiji and Yuko conventional was how it was based on a simple misunderstanding. This dynamic has been used in multiple romance anime and manga series and seeing it in Platonic Invade was frustrating. There were many ways for Bunpei Sumiyama to approach the two characters’ romance, but the misunderstanding dynamic made aspects of the series trite and contrived. For example, the second and fourth chapters used the joke of Yuko overtly avoiding Reiji once or twice. Granted, this joke was spread out in the volume. However, an interesting place to take the narrative would have been for Yuko to recognize and understand the predicament Reiji was in, but to feel helpless in assisting him. So here again, this was a plot point that could have been expanded upon if the series had a longer syndication.

That’s not to say all the comedy in the series was dull as there were many moments the humor worked well for the given scene. True, readers could anticipate a few of the jokes, but that added to the comedy of the situations. The third and fifth chapters had wonderful examples of the predictable humor that played well for the situations. The third chapter worked on the idea of why Kazumi needed a sample of Reiji’s ejaculate. Simply put, it was because Reiji was the most average person on Earth. This is a common characteristic for male characters in romantic comedy anime and manga series, but authors tend to keep the trait within the confines of a school. Thus, by making Reiji the absolute most average person on Earth was beyond funny. Added on top of this, the deadpan expression on Kazumi’s face while she explained this added to the scene.

The joke in the fifth chapter was different in its setup, but as with the joke in the third chapter it could be anticipated. The joke revolved around a mind control device and how it was used. At first the joke centered on sexual humor, but quickly shifted its focus to how Kazumi was affected by the device. While the joke wasn’t directly alluded to earlier in the chapter, the reveal followed a prescribed pattern. As such, although the joke and the situation were still comical in nature, they still felt one note.

Kazumi walking in on the boys buying and selling photographs of the class Madonna's.

Kazumi walking in on the boys buying and selling photographs of the class Madonna’s.

Yet, not all the humor in Platonic Invade was designed around simple patterns. In fact, there were a handful of instances when the series played on stereotypes of Japanese high school life. The opening of the third chapter was one such instance. Where the end of the chapter used Reiji’s average qualities as the butt end of a joke, the opening toyed with the idea of high school aged boys buying pictures of the class Madonna in secret. Although the situation seemed rote at first, in actuality the resolution was inspired. What I mean by this is these situations generally end with the heroine and other female classmates remarking that the boys are perverts. Yet, here the act of buying the pictures was likened to a traditional art or performance. There’s absolutely no reason buying pictures of the class Madonna in secret would be considered a traditional art or performance, but the mere fact it was mentioned was truly brilliant. Additionally, all the parties involved, which is to say Reiji, his male classmates, and Kazumi, were stunned at the thought and were satisfied with the idea that buying pictures of the class Madonna in secret was a traditional art or performance. Truthfully, I’m curious if this explanation would work in real life, though I highly doubt it.

The comedy was a large part of the series, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its somber moments. Although they were few and far between, the touching moments greatly added to the series. However, these moments were not only weighed down by heavy-handed character drama, but also by introspection on the human condition. More precisely, the series focused on the idea of romance and love in the quiet scenes. Yet, the final chapter of the series brought the concept of romance and love to the forefront with a melancholic story. What made the chapter interesting was it placed Reiji and Kazumi at odds with each other because his cousin, Kanae, was hospitalized for her weak heart. The story still used aspects of Kazumi’s mission of collecting Reiji’s ejaculate, but when placed with the narrative of the chapter it created a dichotomy in the progression of the series. What I mean by this is, rather than playing the chapter as one large joke, Bunpei Sumiyama explored the idea of life and death and what humans are willing to save by sacrificing their life. Thus, where the series had been humorous to this point, Sumiyama adapted his narrative in such a way so as to create a heartfelt story. Making sure there were subdued moments interspersed throughout the story gave Platonic Invade the sense that if Sumiyama had expanded on the story, readers would have been treated to similar stories later in the series.

It’s frustrating Platonic Invade ~Koi no Shinryakusha~ was only one volume long. There was potential for the series to become more than it was, especially in terms of the action and comedy. Nonetheless, what readers were given wasn’t poorly made, as there was just enough humor, albeit a great deal was predictable humor, to keep people interested. There were also some wonderful instances that expanded on the world of the series without leaving the general vicinity of the school the principal characters attended. This gave the series a lived-in quality, as well as demonstrating readers could have expected more had the series continued. The few subdued and somber moments helped round out the narrative by breaking up the comedy seen throughout the story, but more importantly fleshed out the idea the author wanted to convey to his readers. Granted, these moments were few and far between, but they added flavor to the work as a whole. I hope Akita Shoten, the company that published the series, will bring Platonic Invade ~Koi no Shinryakusha~ out of suspended publication just so we can see where Bunpei Sumiyama takes the series. Unfortunately, the series has been in limbo since 2011, making the prospect abysmal. However, if you can find a copy of the series, you’ll certainly be satisfied with what Sumiyama was able to create.

Work Info
Platonic Invade ~Koi no Shinryakusha~ (プラトニックインベイド~恋の侵略者~)
By: Bunpei Sumiyama
Under: Akita Shoten, Champion Red
Official Site: N/A
More Info:プラトニックインベイド~恋の侵略者~


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