Lychee Light Club ライチ☆光クラブ Manga Review

Title: Lychee Light Club ライチ☆光クラブ, RaichiHikari Kurabu Lychee Light Club Manga Cover

Author: Usamaru Furuya

Launched in 2005, 1 volume and completed

Lychee Hikari Club is a one-volume manga whose origins can be found in a stage play that was performed at the Tokyo Grand Guignol Theatre in 1985. Usamaru Furuya takes the story and crafts a disturbing tale with a potent atmosphere given gory life by great artwork, a strong setting, ero-guro (erotic grotesque) and the excesses of yaoi all of which made me shudder and shocked me at points.

The story takes place in an industrial town covered in a haze of smog.

In an abandoned factory a group of middle-school boys created a secret base for their “Light Club.” This place was once an innocent playground led by a lad of Tamiya. Under his leadership of the gang they played simple games of marbles and hide and seek but when a new kid at school named Zera (the kid with the glove emblazoned with a star) joined the boys things took a decidedly darker turn.  

Lychee Light Club Manga Image
This group shot changes over the course of the story

Zera installed himself as the new leader of the gang, removing Tamiya in the process, and as the group matured their interests changed according to Zera’s whims. No longer were marbles and hide and seek enough, they started to learn philosophy, symbolism, eroticism, history, technology, and a form of aesthetics that favours beauty above all else. Under Zera’s leadership they endeavour to create a lychee-powered robot named… Lychee.

Lychee Light Club Lychee Himself

This AI will be programmed to abduct beautiful girls and it will be successful but the real horror will not be from the mechanical man but the boys themselves…

The story sounds silly – a lychee-powered robot? – but the kidnappings, violence, and febrile emotions are scary. It takes a gloomy and stifling world and invests it with the roiling emtoions of the gang of teenage boys which creates an even claustrophobic feeling.

The time period is uncertain. The sailor uniforms of the girls and the militaristic uniforms of the middle-school boys are timeless and, apart from the teacher who gets disembowelled, the adults are a shadowy mass of people in anonymous factory uniforms so fashion is hard to pick out. There are no phones or computers. The boys play chess instead of videogames.

Lychee Light Club Industry Overhead

The city itself is a prominent character. Whether we are in the abandoned factory that the boys have claimed for a base or not this is a ruined landscape. Nature is in short supply apart from the lychee used to power the robot. The ground is mostly concreted over and the sky is perpetually dark. Smoke stacks spew smog and in high-ceilinged buildings there are collapsing catwalks that lead into darkness. The stark black and white of the manga is effective at creating menace with shadows, industrial detritus, and pollution cluttering frames. There is a sense of miserable industrial landscape which reinforces the notion that the friendship the boys share is the most natural thing they have, a vital emotional outlet and something that Zera with his dreams of kidnpping girls and vaguely fascist ideologies has perverted.

The backstory I have given in the synopsis is shown in flashback panels scattered throughout the manga and it fleshes out the main narrative which is about innocence corrupted.

When we first join the club things are happening in media res. The boys are on the verge of killing a fellow student and a teacher is all trussed up. Body-parts will soon be removed, all the while the boys shout in German, mete out violence, and act like a group of hounds, a cult dedicated to Zera.

Lychee Light Club The Gang's All Here

Events get even more disturbing and violent when Zera wants them to. He is massively charismatic with his beauty and pseudo-intellectual babble and for teens with gloomy circumstances and surroundings he shines bright like a star, promising excitement and adventure. Being in that industrial landscape, friendship is just as important but the jealousies and loves that are repressed become a prominent feature of the story because Zera plays on the desire of his fellow clubmates with mindgames to maintain his leadership of the club. It becomes clear that the boys are jockeying for position in the club and aim to win his favour by pleasing him any which way they can including sexually. The languid bodies of certain predatory boys wrap around each other, probing and exploring their passions and pushing each other emotionally with the promise of physical gratification and obedience.

Lychee Light Club Sexual Desire

As the club becomes increasingly depraved and jealousies and violence flares, the original leader, Tamiya, tries to reclaim his position after he becomes unhappy with the way Zera runs the club like a dictator and a gripping power-struggle ensues. Zera is seized with megalomania and paranoia and the various boys split into factions based on love, lust, and friendship while some innocents get caught in the middle. All those choking emotions of the boys work themselves up to a calamitous finale.

Although the boys wear the same uniforms throughout the entirety of the story they are given simple features and character traits such as Zera star-gloves, finger/thumb sucking, scars, eye-patches etc. and we come to know them but only a little bit. Apart from Tamiya, there’s no sense of them having a family or belonging anywhere which just reinforces that the club is all the emotional support they want.

Despite this knowledge, these kids take things to excessive levels and are deplorable as is fitting for a Grand Guignol production so it is pleasing to say that their creation, Litchi the robot, and the one girl they do manage to kidnap, Kanon, come across as heroes and defy them, helping to tear the club apart.

Litchi looks like the stereotypical image of Frankenstein’s monster Lychee Light Club Robot Litchibut with Bela Lugosi-style slicked-back Dracula’s hair and a gnarly cape. Boxy instead of svelte and with patches of skin, random eyes and stitching that show they extent of how he is a patchwork of machine and flesh, he cuts an ominous figure but his AI becomes self-aware leading to the club’s already fractious unity fraying even more.

Lychee Light Club KanonKanon is a strikingly beautiful teenage girl with piercing intelligence and a strange moral code. She plays dead after the kidnapping and then coy and submissive, collecting information and getting to know the personalities of the characters and playing the boys off each other and being openly defiant in increasingly high-stakes games of survival. She develops feelings for Litchi and reveals herself to be a truly humane person and brave character and smarter than Zera.

Indeed, for all the talk about capturing women, it is male bodies and notions of male sexuality that are put on display and destroyed. Aside from the female teacher’s full frontal nudity at the start and the horrific aftermath of a gruesome torture we see more of the guys sensually sucking, f*cking and generally tearing each other apart in horrific acts of violence and desire (cat-nip for the girls who love yaoi). Their unblemished faces with fulsome lips, their long-limbed bodies and their caressing touches exemplify the shift from friendships to sexual desire and the homosexuality of the boys is on display in some steamy scenes made very erotic by the art shown in large panels to showcase the male body rent apart by obsession, love, and hatred.

I’m no fan of yaoi manga but I do like reading horror stories and this simple and effective tale is pretty good at nailing twisted psychologies and crafting operatic horror. The flash anime which I watched last year is pretty poor, a series of short gags per episode.

I was inspired to finish this review after news of a movie adaptation was announced a couple of weeks back on Anime News Network.

Here’s an excellent article on the casting of the film on Psycho-drama. It shows which actor is going to play which member of the club:

http://psycho-drama.com/index.php/45-casting-news/1321-news-round-up-july26-30

Images from here:

http://usamarus2001.blog100.fc2.com/blog-entry-588.html

http://dijjd.jugem.jp/?eid=400

http://usamarus2001.blog100.fc2.com/blog-entry-588.html

Genkina Hito's Summer of Splatter Films

17 thoughts on “Lychee Light Club ライチ☆光クラブ Manga Review

    1. What was the “s” word again?

      I don’t particularly like swearing (at least I don’t swear) so obscuring hardcore swears is pretty much automatic even if I think the audience for this will be familiar with it.

      1. You had the word that rhymes with duck only with S.

        I read that obscenity laws in the UK have changed. Not sure which one is not appropriate.

        Can’t stop making jokes:
        “I thought that Yaoi was that Chinese NBA player.”

        “Oh, no yaoi for me. I would be too afraid that it might move a little.”

      2. Ah, yeah, I remember thinking that readers might see that and roll their eyes. Fine, I’ll put the “u” in.

        I haven’t heard anything about obscenity laws changing in the UK but the language used in this post would hardly raise eyebrows. I do try to be respectful and circumspect.

        Here’s a random music video for you:

  1. Ah just what I need… do you think there is a chance for a ‘decent’ live action adaptation given the kind of characters real actors are supposed to portray? The casting news of Yuki Furukawa from Itazura na Kiss who is reported to be playing one of the major roles is a big question for me, though Shuhei Nomura (Hibi Rock) may be able to do justice to his role in this quite controversial manga adaptation, having done some fearless portrayals of late.

    1. I haven’t seen any names attributed to roles yet but Nomura is good. I’ve seen him in a few things and I think he can play one of the leads.

      The most difficult role to play will be Zera and his most ardent lover. You need beautiful actors who can convey massive egos and inner darkness. My first thought was Hiro Mizushima but he’s a little too old…

      The PV for the film looks good – really captures the atmosphere:

      1. The casting announcement was recently posted and it appears Yuki Furukawa maybe playing Zera.

        http://psycho-drama.com/index.php/45-casting-news/1321-news-round-up-july26-30

        I am extremely happy to read your review because I really wanted to find out another blogger’s/reviewer’s thoughts on this manga. Some have mentioned the same case being how will it be possible to do a live-action when the subject is very controversial? Mind games from young, attractive boys who also have sex… is there anything harder to adapt than that?

      2. Nice post! I’ll add it to the links here.

        I don’t know enough about Yuki Furukawa to say if he’d be charismatic enough to be able to pull of Zera. Tamiya’s casting looks perfect. Shotaro Mamiya will have a hard role to pull off with Jaibo as well since he’s into psycho-sexual games.

        The other characters are slight so the actors have more of a free range and more latitude to play them however they want. There are some explicit scenes in the manga but I don’t think the movie will adapt those. It’s the violence that may be a problem.

      3. No problem. I’m curious about how the film will turn out but I’m not venturing back into the land of yaoi for quite a while. More J-horror flicks with cute girls for me, thanks.

      4. Yes indeed! Yaoi is like venturing into untested waters filled with sharks! The description you made on the review above can test a lot of people in terms of how far they can go…

      5. There’s a lot of fujoshi-bait movies getting released with guy on guy action. Not my cup of tea but at least girls are getting something to watch. I’ll stick to j-horror. I’ve got a bunch of Iguchi films to review!

  2. humbledaisy1

    Eeeh. Still sounds a little too Lord of the Flies for this girl. Although the kidnapping victim sounds like she may come out on top.

    1. Let’s just say that Kanon, the kidnapping victim, and Lychee make a formidable team and the boys let their precious club fall apart.

      The manga has got some extreme scenes (an extreme Lord of the Flies?) but it’s short and effective.

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