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From Five to Nine

It definitely helps to have an enticing front cover or an eye-catching synopsis at the back when manga is concerned (I know that I must have brought this up at least a hundred thousand times but just humour me), and that is something which I secretly relish while browsing in a bookstore - to be captivated by those fancy artwork and wordings as my eyes roam about from one shelf to another. The manga series that I'm introducing today falls under one of those refreshing combinations. A fashionably dressed woman and a well-groomed monk fixed in a rather teasing and suggestive position grace the first volume's front cover of mangaka Aihara Miki's romantic comedy 'From Five to Nine' (5-ji kara 9-ji made). Let's hop on the bandwagon!

Apparently, a tagline which appears on the obi reads: Aihara Miki draws the Tokyo version of Sex And The City!? Well, I've never read Sex And The City or watched any of its adaptations, but I suppose that it is a no-brainer as to how the manga develops in terms of story arcs and character development. However, the depictions of intimacy and such are still relatively mild compared to the Hollywood fantasy (?), therefore I would say that it is fine for general reading. Anyway, the comic books don't come with an advisory label or something. Nine volumes have been released so far for the Japanese edition.

The fashionably dressed woman mentioned earlier is 27 year-old Sakuraba Junko, an industrious English teacher working at a language school. Junko's language abilities are top-notch among all the Japanese teaching English in that school. She dreams of furthering her career and living a comfortable life abroad. However, being the modern-day woman doesn't seem to sit well with Junko's family (in particular her grandmother) who set her up with a potential suitor in a matchmaking session as she is already of marriageable age.

The potential suitor is none other than the monk Hoshikawa Takane, who to Junko's surprise is actually a graduate of Tokyo University with a degree in Indian philosophy. Takane is strong-willed and especially loyal to Junko despite having met her just once before the story proper. He eventually became Junko's private student to her dismay. At one point Junko bluntly asked: What does a monk at a shrine have for English? Indeed, Takane has become smitten with Junko at first sight. He would wait patiently for Junko to finish work and such.

Although there are considerable differences between Junko and Takane, it seems predestined that they are meant to cross each other's paths no matter the circumstances. Takane is a strange blend of tradition, new age and everything else in between. His family shrine is insistent on upholding the various customs including ikebana and chadou as part of bride training for Junko, who on the other hand has no intention of getting tied down by such practices. Interestingly, Takane is fine with physical intimacy before marriage as long as Junko remains the one and only in his heart.

Their pairing is just one of several story arcs in the manga. We meet other characters whose lives gradually intersect with one another and are nothing short of Sex And The City (I find this term a lot more convenient than trying to figure out enough descriptives to label each and everything). There is Junko's old friend from college Mishima Satoshi, who was initially portrayed as a mere platonic existence in Junko's life. Then there is Mouri 'Zexy' Masako, an administrative officer of sorts in the school who holds a secret agenda. Students Satonaka Yuki and Hachiya Renji add to the madness (?) over the course of the series. How about a BL-loving English teacher and a handsome foreign colleague who discovers the unspeakable interest to top things up?

'From Five to Nine' isn't the typical shoujo manga, cutesy sort of story. In fact, I wasn't readily sure that I would like it as the manga progresses. Not that I've got no receptiveness towards mature themes and such in manga or anime, but most of the time the stuff becomes a lot heavier than I had expected. Anyway, I can say that I'm still pretty comfortable with this ride. Overall, it feels refreshing and ticklish to the bones!

Eccentrically Yours.

Written by J.Fluffysheep ♪

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