I discovered TCP while waiting for Skip Beat! chapters to be scantalated. I was skeptical at first, but decided to take a leap of faith and read another one of Nakamura-sensei's works. And I'm glad I did... Oh yes. Having already fangirl-ed sufficiently over Skip Beat!, I felt compelled to write about Tokyo Crazy Paradise. Don't worry, it'll will be a more solid review this time around ;D
>Story: TCP (or KurePara) is a little mix of everything when it comes to the plot. It has enough action to appeal to a shounen audience, while the romantic elements are true to it's shoujo nature. There were certainly many scenes that took my breath away, especially the first time I read it. My only critique is that it was slightly all over the place leaving a few things things under-explained and the ending could have seemed anticlimatic (although it did a good job of tying the loose ends together).
In the crime-ridden Tokyo of fictional 2020, death is a common theme throughout - it being the cause of the protagonists coming together in the first place. KurePara is a more mature piece because it deals with serious and dark topics such as rape and drug wars, but sprinkles a good amount of humor in between. The comedy never felt out of place. A romance about a boy who was raised as a Yakuza and a girl raised to be a member of the police may seem cliche, but cliches aren't necessarily a bad thing. Of course, cross-dressing gender-hiding females were never scarce in anime or manga, but KurePara is a prime example of doing it right.
>Art: TCP skillfully combines a rougher style and merges it with the more feminine touch that is prevalent in Skip Beat! I'm not sure if that is because the mangaka polished her technique as time passed or if this is intentional. But this never detracted from the experience, as the style happened to suit TCP's story perfectly.
It's a treat to once again see the lead female's multiple transformations and disguises. Emotions were never lacking from the panels but some of the character designs were a tad more bland than what I was expecting (meaning that it was initially hard for me to tell some of them apart). In an author's note, Nakamura-sensei herself addressed this and explained that it was because a large number of characters were middle-aged. Therefore, the art was still a treat to behold in my humble opinion.
>Character: Now this is the exciting part ^u^ The crowning jewel of Nakamura-sensei's work.
Tsukasa, the female lead, was definitely the inspiration for Kyouko. As such, her personality reflects a cuter, more energetic side as well as the strong, loyal, terrifying fighter that she is. The other characters are constantly surprised by Tsukasa's actions and her uncanny resemblance to an important legend. She always adds flavor to the story and the overall experience would be sorely lacking without her.
Ryuuji is the stony-faced teenager who seems far more mature than his age. This is due to the responsibility he shoulders in order to lead his people. Tsukasa is able to bring out the emotions that he conceals - inadvertently revealing his amusingly immature attitude towards her in the process.
The best part was that the story does not only revolve around these two, but everyone else on the sidelines. I was drawn in to the struggles of Asago, a girl who strives to become the perfect partner for Ryuuji; the emotional support of Kamojima, who acts as a father figure to the group; Akira, who represents a ray of morality and hope by being a part of the police force "Grave"; and even the villains, including Shiki and Shiva - but I won't talk about them because =spoilers!= as well as many others (including the ones who aren't even ALIVE during the story). I love how they all grew splendidly over the course of the manga. The area of character development will not disappoint - everyone has their fair share of shifts in perspectives and mindsets.
If the character's were so amazing, what was the problem here? Well, it doesn't help that the main characters are ONLY 14! If they were at least a year or two older, I could find myself more accepting of various events. Many times I was drawn out of "willing suspension of disbelief" in order to gape at some of their actions. Though society is fairly different from ours, they were undoubtedly minors who wouldn't have gotten away with half of the things they did. That, or they simply hit puberty far too early. (But, if you're okay with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, then I guess this is fine - each to their own era)
>Enjoyment/Overall: Regardless of some minor flaws, I did thoroughly enjoy KurePara and found myself rereading it not soon after. I would recommend it to an older audience as there are visuals like bare breasts and instances of mature humor. If you've read Skip Beat! already, definitely give this one a go. It's nice comparing the two and seeing the original ideas and elements present in Nakamura-sensei's present serialization. I can't say that it'll be an entirely sweet ride, but I can guarantee that it'll be a page-turner.
What do I think of it in the end? I believe Tokyo Crazy Paradise is quite underrated for being such a captivating, somewhat-unorthodox, shoujo manga. It deserved it's own anime, but I can see why it never did.