"The more human we become...the more animalistic we are."
—Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Words of a Dwarf, quoted in chapter two.
A noir series from Kazuya Minekura (Saiyuki), Wild Adapter follows Anti-Hero Kubota Makoto and Tokito Minoru, the amnesiac stray cat he picked up, as the two play video games, help people, and investigate a mysterious new drug on the streets: Wild Adapter.The series originally ran from 2000 to 2008 in Chara, a shounen-ai magazine. It went on hiatus after forty-six chapters due to Kazuya Minekura's poor health, as well as Creative Differences between the seinen tone of the series and the magazine's shounen-ai demographic. It was collected into six tankobon volumes (with five chapters remaining uncollected), published in English in North America by Tokyopop, and in English and Chinese in Singapore by Chuang Yi. In 2011 the rights to the series were acquired by Ichijinsha (home of Saiyuki), and serialisation resumed in Zero Sum Ward in spring 2013.
Wild Adapter provides examples of:
Adopt the Dog: Perhaps Wild Adapter's core trope, and coincidentally its central metaphor. Kubota is a weirdly unemotional, sometimes casually and chillingly violent person with minimal human connections or moral compunctions, Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life until he takes in Tokito, "a stray cat", around whom his life subsequently revolves.
Body Horror: For "wild adapter" read "metamorphoses users into hirsute, beclawed, hyper-aggressive zombies, then makes their organs explode."
Kasai: This is the sixth body we've found that seems to have transformed into a beast - in attitude and appearance - after taking the drug. But he's the only one that died from a gunshot wound. The rest were exploded into gory little pieces.
Tokito, Kubota, and Kou appear as "Wonder Arm", "the mysterious guy", and "a good scientist" in the shonen manga that Shouta draws in volume five.
Fantastic Drug: The mysterious "W.A.", whose source and composition are unknown and side-effects are gross.
First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Though there are many scenes from Kubota or Tokito's perspectives, each arc is partly narrated by a minor protagonist (or antagonist), who observes them from the outside and usually elucidates much of the theme.
Kubota and Tokito's Theme Naming, as a commentator noted: "their names include each other. Kubota’s name has protect and field in it; Tokito’s includes assignment/charge and ripen. And Kubota’s name includes everyone else as well; his personal name, Makoto, is made up of truth and person, “what people really are.” "
Volume 1: Even when he's mid-coitus with a woman, Komiya can't shut up about how cool Kubota is.
Volume 3: The spooks who bug Kubota and Tokito's apartment get an earful of cheesy yaoi-style seduction scene dialogue improvised to screw with them before destroying the bug.
Volume 4: Takizawa tentatively asks Tokito what his relationship with Kubota is after Tokito spills his insecurities about Anna; there's a soap opera argument about cheating playing on the television in the background.
Volume 5: The nude, sleeping Tokito drags Kubota down on top of him after Kubota rescues him; Kubota reflects humorously that it looks bad but he doesn't object.
Volume 6: Kubota refers to the kidnapped Tokito as his "mate" in the American translation.
Volume one: the prologue arc. Kubota's first encounters with W.A. while a leader of the Izumo-kai gang, and his social detachment, are seen through the eyes of his second-in-command Komiya.
Volume two: Tokito, his apparent connection to W.A., and his close, ambiguous relationship to Kubota, are introduced through the perspective of Saori, a runaway whom the Tojou gang believe may be a lead on W.A.
Volume three: Kubota and Tokito infiltrate a cult that may be a front for the mob and W.A., with the help of Takizawa, a reporter with a vendetta against its leader.
Volume four: the kotodama arc. Kubota is the chief suspect in a prostitute's murder, and Tokito, after realising how little he knows about Kubota's past, enlists the help of Anna, another prostitute, to hunt down the true killer.
Volume five: the flashback arc. Kubota's ten-year-old neighbour Shouta helps domesticate Tokito and observes the slow growth of trust between him and Kubota.
Volume six: the kidnapping arc. Osamu, Kubota's successor as the leader of the Izumo youth, is ordered to abduct Tokito, to his gang's rapid regret.
Tokyo Is The Centre Of The Universe: Downplayed. The setting is the city of Yokohama – which, admittedly, is part of the greater metropolitan area surrounding Tokyo Bay, but specific local features, like the port, Chinatown, and U.S. military base, play a role in various plot arcs.
Yakuza: Kubota leads the Izumo youth group during the prologue arc, and continues to cross paths with the Izumo-kai and their rivals the Tojou-gumi throughout the series as they compete to discover the source of W.A.
Episodes of Wild Adapter provide examples of (spoilers ahead):
Adopt the Dog: After the violent deaths of two stray cats and Komiya, and expecting someday to meet the same end himself, Kubota chooses to care for another one: Tokito.
Kubota: "I took in a cat. He's big for a stray. He looks like he'll be a lot of trouble. But he also looks like a tough one. This time I'm thinking I'll be the first to die. . . He felt heavy, that little cat."
Mahjong: Kubota attracts the notice of the Izumo gang because he's a mahjong shark.
Pet the Dog: Komiya discovers his devotion to Kubota after helping him to bury a stray cat. Kubota is also literally petting Sanada's dog when he tells him that he likes animals, but isn't interested in people.
Prolonged Prologue: The entire arc establishes Kubota's character before meeting Tokito; Tokito doesn't even show up except in the Book Ends.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Upon leaving the yakuza in compliance with Komiya's dying wishes, Kubota does One Last Job for Izumo: shooting and beating to death the leader of the Tojou-gumi and twelve of his employees and burning down their headquarters. He gives an Ironic Echo of his comment about burying the second stray cat: "Since I couldn't do it that last time. . ."
Distressed Damsel: Saori is The Runaway who's scared to tell her boyfriend she's pregnant and wishes she could simply dissolve out of existence. She begs Kubota for help, and he lets her kip on his couch. She asks Tokito why he bothers to defend her from the yakuza since he's not going to fix the rest of her life, and he irritably points out that it's a lot to ask, and that a parent-to-be should know how to take care of herself. She decides that since she can't just melt away, she'll learn how to live on her own.
Establishing Character Moment: Tokito is introduced as Kubota's half-naked, bitching roommate whose craving for snack food Kubota is indulging, but whose name isn't on the door, and who is surprised and annoyed to find Kubota bringing home a girl. Saori finds him rude and weirdly possessive of Kubota. She realises later that it's actually Kubota who is deeply possessive of Tokito.
Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Aversion. Saori, Kubota, and Kasai all treat it as Saori's wisest course; Kasai mentions that he's done it before.
His Name Is...: Saori's boyfriend is a yakuza wannabe who tells the Tojou group that he has connections to W.A. distribution, then overdoses on it. Tojou abducts Saori because they suspect he told her about W.A.
Holding Hands: Kubota and Tokito hold hands casually in public, in the hospital waiting room and on the street, and generally lack physical boundaries with each other.
I Can See You: Though Sanada plays no role in the plot, he lets Kubota know that Izumo is keeping tabs on him and Tokito by calling him from across the street.
Time Skip: Picks up a year after the end of volume one. Tokito and his relationship to Kubota are as unfamiliar to the audience as they are to Saori.
Belief Makes You Stupid: Inverted. While the cultists are drug addicts and the yakuza preying on them, rather than true believers, both the protagonists and the villain claim that only fools turn to religion: "God is for the weak."
Brainwashed and Crazy: The basement cultists' marijuana use doesn't quite explain their homicidal tendencies.
Cicadian Rhythm: Literal in both Taki's memories and the present, but the cicadas are also symbolic to him of Fortune's Fang, which preaches escape from "the human shell" of society. Cicadas shed their shells when they emerge as adults.
What Happened to the Mouse?: The eavesdroppers who bug the apartment, though it's suggested they're from Tojou or Izumo, are never identified after they give up in disgust at getting jerked around by Kubota and Tokito.
Be as Unhelpful as Possible: Kubota refuses to say anything of significance during police questioning (or to Tokito beforehand), in thematic contrast to Shimura.
Kubota: Detective...do you believe in kotodama? They say the moment a word leaves your lips, its power is released. But you know...I don't have one true word for you.
Book Ends: Of Kubota's old Izumo underling Shuji's death, setting up volume six.
Clear Their Name: While Detective Hasebe holds Kubota for questioning, Tokito, Anna, and Takizawa, and independently Kasai and Araki, track down Shimura.
Disposable Sex Worker: Anna's friend Rika, a call girl and drug dealer for Izumo patronised by Shimura, who frequents sex clubs because he has no real relationships. She hits his Berserk Button by calling him "a small man".
Kubota: Hey, Detective. You're not wrong, you know. This world is crazy...if it allows people like me to exist.
Madness Mantra: The deconstruction of kotodama, "the spirit of words", or the belief that saying something can make it real, is a Central Theme of the arc. Shimura reassures himself with a Survival Mantra that helps him in the aftermath of the murder, but as his paranoia grows it degenerates into delusion. Lampshaded by Tokito: "How the hell did you expect that to work?"
Triang Relations: Tokito initially wonders if Kubota has Sexiled him from their apartment in favour of New Old Flame Anna. When she offers to have sex with him, he only sticks around long enough to ask whether she's slept with Kubota.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Why Kou is delivering (presumably) drugs to Rika – an Izumo prostitute dealing Izumo drugs out of an Izumo brothel – is unexplained. And if it wasn't the drugs, what was it?
Who's Laughing Now?: Shimura is an unhappy Salaryman who blames kotodama and the mockery of others for the mediocrity of his life. He feels briefly powerful and exceptional while concealing his killing from his coworkers.
Adopt the Dog: Immediately after leaving the Izumo gang, Kubota finds and takes in the W.A.-affected Tokito. Kubota becomes afraid of losing him, holding him at arms' length and keeping back all knowledge of WA and his life in the underworld, until Tokito discovers it for himself and demands that Kubota rely on him as an equal.
Book Ends: The volume begins with Kubota's rescue of Tokito after finding him slumped in an alley. It ends with Tokito finding Kubota in the same position and rescuing him, more metaphorically, from his despair.
Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Kasai accuses Kubota of picking up Tokito in the same way Shouta donates to the red feather fund – because everybody else has connections with other people, not because he really cares about it. Kubota admits that he doesn't know what he's doing, but thinks he's the one likely to be hurt by it.
Kubota: To him, nothing was more uncertain than his own existence. That's why he was searching for something to make him feel alive. He just wanted to be able to feel that.
Shouta: But he...didn't know what to do once he got it?
Hates Being Touched: Tokito, in the first weeks of staying in Kubota's apartment, won't let Kubota or Kasai touch him. Touch is the plot's main symbol of Tokito and Kubota's relationship: After Tokito breaks Kubota's arm with his beast hand, he refuses to touch anyone for fear of harming them. Later Kubota refuses to relax his promise not to touch Tokito, for fear of psychologically harming him, until finally Tokito demands that Kubota Take My Hand.
I Found You Like This: Tokito wakes up, naked, to a classic Unfamiliar Ceiling and a tall dude in glasses offering him soup. Still feeling the compulsion to run from...wherever he escaped from, he bolts, and Shouta finds him collapsed on the playground. Shouta summons Kubota, and after Tokito wakes up the second time, Kubota uses the unthreatening Shouta as a go-between.
Loners Are Freaks: Shouta's teacher has ordered him to keep a journal because he doesn't relate well to his classmates. In his last entry, he writes that the journal has forced him to face himself, so that one day he'll be able to deal honestly with someone else. Meanwhile, Kubota admits that he was raised in almost total neglect, and has no idea how to allow Tokito to care for him.
Story Within a Story: Shouta draws a Shōnen manga inspired by his first sightings of Kubota, Tokito, and Kou, but struggles with the character of "the mysterious guy" based on Kubota. Shouta consults him about a character who doesn't know what to do with his stray cat, Kubota equally indirectly discusses his own background, and Shouta (whose parents are staying together for his sake without consulting him), convinces Kubota that treating the "cat" as an object to be protected rather than a reciprocal relationship is unfair.
Tired of Running: Tokito enters the story desperate to escape from somewhere he can't clearly remember and is initially afraid of everyone but Shouta. When he finds Kubota's borrowed police file on WA and learns it's fatal, he decides he wants to know as much as possible. When Shouta tells him they have to run from the yakuza, he instead leaps into the fray Kubota has been careful to keep him out of, using the strength of his deformed hand to rescue him.
Troubled Backstory Flashback: Shouta asking about the name Minoru on the bracelet Kubota found on Tokito triggers one. Tokito breaks Kubota's arm as Kubota administers a Cooldown Hug to restrain him, and Shouta is frightened away from their apartment for days.
Cool Ship: The Izumo gang holds Tokito aboard a tanker at anchor in Yokohama harbour. It's an Unnecessarily Large Vessel for the purpose, but this setting also evokes the arc's recurring imagery of being surrounded by and sinking into darkness.
Dark Is Evil: Osamu, and Ryuunosuke's uncle before him, compare the violent, amoral underworld of the yakuza to an inescapable darkness. But as he sees it, the Izumo youth merely "live in the shadows. We stay always just to the left of the light", while Kubota and Tokito "can only fully breathe in the pit of darkness."
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Osamu's inclination to kill Kubota isn't lessened by his belief that Kubota killed his best friend Shuji, and then Ryuunosuke, who died in his arms. Shuji left behind a grieving mother, and Ryuunosuke had a yakuza uncle who warned them away from a life of crime.
It Was a Gift: The watch that Tokito breaks was given to Kubota by Komiya. His lack of concern about it encapsulates his total disassociation from his old companions in the Izumo youth group.
I've Come Too Far: Osamu likens joining Izumo to sinking into dark water. The only way to surface again is to rise to the top of the organisation.
Mook Horror Show: The sequence in which Kubota kills the Izumo youth gang one by one aboard the tanker is shown largely from their perspective. Kubota is rarely seen.
Mook Promotion: Osamu, Ryuunosuke, and Shuji were Kubota and Komiya's barely-differentiated minions during Kubota's time with Izumo in the prologue arc. In volumes four and six they have names, personalities, backstories, and their own supporting cast, and Osamu and Ryuunosuke have succeeded Kubota and Komiya as Izumo's Dragon and his Side Kick.