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Family Compo
by Martina Galea
translation by Chiara Martellossi

Who created it? Family Compo is born in 1996 from the unbridled imagination of Tsukasa Hojo and is published in Japan on the Allman magazine, with the provisional title Waga Ya Ga Ichiban until 2000 (in total, 14 volumes). The title is indicative of the contents: the subject is in fact a composite family, oddly sorted but well-matched: a coy teenager, a father who's really a woman, a mother who's really a man, a daughter whose gender is never known for sure and a whole lot of interesting supporting characters...
Hojo was already a renowned artist thanks to the success of Cat's Eye and City Hunter, both made into animated series, when he decided to take on this half-serious comedy. The story, which has been published in Italy in 14 volumes, focuses on the adventures of rather peculiar characters (a couple in which roles are inverted, men in drags, lesbians...), something that would seem more appropriate in an adult, mature manga: Hojo's ability lies indeed in the optimal mix of hilarious and tragic, creating a comedy that teaches respect and open mindness and yet entertains at the same time. The topics of the manga are dealt with in light and simple tones, without ever resorting to banality or vulgarity, and in a country such as Italy, where transvestitism and homosexuality are still ill-treated, a title like this one may be helpful in opening one's mind on a whole new world. Of course the world that Hojo proposes is extremely optimistic, as this is a comedy after all, but an in-depth reading of the manga reveals an accurately portraited psychological dimension. Family Compo has been a success both in Jpan and in Italy, and this should demonstrate the valuability of the book which sadly has never been made into animation... better this way, maybe, since in Italy such a cartoon would surely undergo heavy censorship that would unredeemably alter its spirit! ;-)

Who is the protagonist? Family Compo tells about the life of young Masahiko, since the boy moves to his uncle's house and makes acquaintance to an environment totally different to the one he was used to. Masahiko is a coy, uncertain and sensitive teenager, with a penchant for letting the events decide for himself - at least at the beginning of the manga. With the passing of time, Masahiko discovers, first of all, the warmth of a family - a thing he had never known before, since he is an orphan - and then the difficulties of love, but, first of all, he learns how to lead his own life: the years he spends in the Wakanae house are crucial for the maturation of the young man, who gradually learns to understand himself and the others without prejudices.

Who are the other characters? Masahiko's friends are, first of all, the other members of the Wakanae family, Sora, Yukari and Shion. Sora is a woman, but she has decided to lead a male life, and works as a mangaka. She is legally married to Yukari, who's really a man, even if he feels himself a woman and dresses as such. Shion is their only daughter, but her sexual identity is not clearly defined, as she's been shifting between living as a male and as a female since she was a child. This variegate family is completed with the Kazu, Maro, Hiro and Yokota, Sora's assistents, who are all men in drags - except Yokota who underwent a sex-change operation - and live in the Wakanae house, creating often strong embarrassment in the shy Masahiko. Another key figure is Yoko Asaoka, Masahiko's girlfriend, who will often ingenerate confusion in the young man's indefinite feelings. Ejima, a convinced womanizer, is a schoolmate and buddy of Masahiko, totally different from him. Tatsuya is a man from the yakuza who falls in love madly with Masami, Masahiko's feminine version, and invades Masahiko's life in quite a troublesome way. Another source of trouble is Kaoru, Tatsuya's tomboyish daughter, who at a certain point in the manga moves to Wakanae house, taking Sora as a role model and becoming a sort of a third child for him and Yukari. There are other characters who appear only sporadically, like Sora's family, or Masahiko's university mates, or even men from the yakuza, that add color to the already variegate cast.

What is the story's locale? Family Compo is centered on a family, thus the Wakanae mansion is the stage for most of the staring characters' adventures. Also the school and university settings are important, as often the halls and the parties become the scenarios for funny and surreal adventures. The whole story is centered in a hurban context that makes use of rooms, living rooms, streets, cafes and school rooms as favorite settings.


Tsukasa Hojo
in 1996

Tsukasa Hojo

Tsukasa Hojo
from n.1

Tsukasa Hojo
Copyright (c) 1996
all right reserved worldwide


(c) 1996 uBC all right reserved worldwide
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