Criminale! (クリミナーレ！) by Mizuiro Suimin (水色すいみん) is a rather new comedy manga that struck a chord with me very quickly. I was alerted to its existence around its debut by another mangaka (I think it was Wakai Ken, a mangaka who loves shouting out other manga on his twitter account) and thought the promotional material made it seem fun. Soon enough, someone began translating it and the pages I saw coming in continued to pique my interest. I picked it up and lo’, I thought “yep, this is a good’n”. Criminale! lies on the “entirely zany” side of the comedy scale. I’ve said elsewhere on the internet that “zany” is not my preference for comedy. That’s true, really; I don’t tend to enjoy such things. Criminale! apparently hits this sweet spot with me, the kind of sweet spot early Hayate no Gotoku! and all of Strike Witches (you may not know this, but I adore Strike Witches — it’s a much better franchise than it seems) hit that made me love them. I guess the key for me is being so nuts, so out there that I can’t help but laugh. Criminale! is like that, and Criminale! is hilarious.
This series follows the life of Ichimura Tamito, self-diagnosed “natural born victim”. In other words, he is a person who criminals inexplicably target pretty much daily literally ever since he was born.
The first chapter basically goes to show this unfortunate quality of his off, and to explain his character a bit. For one thing, his frequent encounters with criminals has left him friendless all his life, so he’s a bit of a socially awkward character who greatly desires companionship. To that end, he’s transferred schools (or rather, he transferred schools because his last home was burned down, but…) and hopes that this time he can be pals with his new classmates. He’s in his second year of high school and his class is…very small.
Before I explain why that is, some things I was liking right off the bat with chapter 1:
- This page (page 2) made me guffaw.
- This page, too.
- This girl was adorable.
- She’s a stalker, and I love it.
That last point is special; let’s talk about it.
This girl, Komori Hinako, is a yandere. A yandere is an archetype in anime and manga for characters who are crazy/obsessive (yan) and lovey-dovey (dere) toward a love interest. I hate this archetype. I think it may be the archetype I hate the most in anime and manga. Beyond trying to make stalking seem “positive” in some way (“Look! She loves you THIS much!”), when it’s not being portrayed as “positive” I don’t understand what the appeal is supposed to be anyway (isn’t this just an annoying, crazy bitch?). Furthermore, almost every yandere character is the same violent, insane, frightening, irritating person. You could argue the same could be said of the much more infamous tsundere archetype, but I believe “tsundere” traits never really dominate a character so much as “yandere” traits will. From what I can see, it’s the same exact thing every time and it’s something I despise. Of course I hate it.
So why am I more than cool with Komori? Of course, because she’s different.
First thing’s first: Komori is incredibly cute. Her design is utterly disarming. She’s tiny and soft-looking, frequently blushing and assuming postures that show she is shy and meek. She also always has sakura petals in her hair, which is just nice. She isn’t hyper-sexualized and she isn’t “just cute”. Actually, she carries a “plain” sort of look to her, since she’s so tiny, her hair is short and usually a bit of a mess, and her features are mostly round rather than sharp. This makes her stand out among most characters in anime or manga period. Off the bat, from a visual standpoint it’s hard not to like her. Coupled with how her stalking is mostly just played for laughs, that really takes the edge off.
Next, she has a 100% perfectly justified reason to fall in love with Ichimura.
Ichimura saved her life by putting his own in harm’s way and offered a charming smile. A+ manliness and gentlemanly-ness; I don’t blame her for swooning.
After this, there’s the essential point that she’s fully aware that her stalker tendencies are disgusting.
The factory standard yandere will not question itself, and will instead carry on with its standard programming as if it is in the right with all of its insanity. It indulges and indulges without feeling even an ounce of guilt and thus becomes utterly despicable (to me). Komori didn’t come from the factory, and knows deviant/harmful behavior from normal/safe behavior. She knows it’s a problem in a comedic sense and in a serious sense. This is also, funnily enough, to my knowledge a pretty realistic depiction of someone with an obsession that they recognize is wrong, but they can’t stop.
The reason I’m spending so long on Komori here is that this nuts, nasty, delightful and charming girl is this series’ main heroine, so she matters a great deal. A stalker/yandere being a love interest isn’t a first, but it’s a first for me for one to be both so entertaining and also so likable.
So, after all of that, you’ve probably figured out that the true premise of Criminale! is that the main character’s new class is a class of “criminals”. To be more accurate, they’re technically “almost criminals”, but after entering a program that intends to reform them before they become adults (and with some governmental meddling to sweep their offenses under the rug, to a point) they’re allowed to live as somewhat normal high school students in a special class at an ordinary school.
His class is comprised of a bomber, an arsonist, a son of a yakuza family, a computer cracker, a rapist who swings both ways (yes, you read that correctly), and a few other sorts. They cause trouble because they are compelled to. Ichimura is baffled as to why he’s been included in this horrible class, the only reasonable explanation he can come up with at first being that his close proximity to criminals throughout his life has confused the higher-ups into thinking he, too, is a criminal (the real reason is unknown at this time, but there are many hints that let you piece some theory together, which is cool). That aside, of course every criminal’s portrayal is completely overblown, the insanity meter maxed out and the reactions to their antics perfectly crazy. Well, I say it’s all overblown, but the computer cracker is unique.
The first little arcs and chapters of the series are generally about the criminals using their evil powers for good, starting with rescuing Ichimura from an unfortunate kidnapping. This helps him get used to the class and actually make friends. So far, every character has been given at least a little time for both the main character and the reader to get used to them (except the rapist…she’s just dangerous), and by only about chapter 15 or so the cast is pretty much all enjoyable (even the rapist). It’s quick, but several of them even experience a little bit of character development, which is a fantastic positive to boast. Most importantly the “hitman” classmate, Sarah, begins as a character entirely opposed to Ichimura, but she ends up being…better. I won’t spoil it, even though I want to. I’ll just say she is currently my second favorite.
Winding down, I need to say that I like the boys in this manga a lot, which is a HUGE boost (one I described in my INERTIA 67% review). They’re not simply ignored in favor of the girls, even though there ARE more girls, and that’s super. It wouldn’t be hard to dismiss them, but main character aside we have THREE whole dude friends in this series and they’re all entertaining. For the record, I like Ichimura as well. He’s a cutey who is actually surprisingly masculine, somewhat hardened from his many encounters with criminals. He’s not JUST nice, too. At times he demonstrates some rude behavior, but that’s another thing you have to see for yourself. He’s a cool guy, which is excellent.
It seems like the series is shaping up to have an overarching story that is occasionally brought up, but in the meanwhile we get a few episodes with some classmates as the focus. Seems good to me. My only criticism so far is that the final classmate who was introduced seems annoying. Do note: everyone in the series finds this classmate annoying as well, but annoying is annoying. That said, there’ve been hints that there’s more to this character than initially appeared, and I’ll be fine with them so long as those hints are properly followed up on. I otherwise don’t have any problems. I think Criminale! is a joy. If you can appreciate its humor, dive in.
Ah, but a note: this series ended prematurely due to the author’s health (probably) and I’d say it’s weaker as a result.
Thanks for reading this, one of my late reviews. I did not time this properly. The third manga I’ll be reviewing will not be a pure comedy like Criminale! and Mitsuboshi Colors, but will instead be…fucking weird. Wish me luck, because I will honestly need it. This one is a pain to discuss. See you then!
Oh yeah! You can read the latest chapters of Criminale! officially and for free without an account on Ura Sunday’s (the magazine it’s published in’s) website! [Here’s your link]. That’s just super.