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Manga / Life (2002)

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Life is a Shoujo manga written by Keiko Suenobu that deals with harsh issues such as bullying, manipulation, and suicide. It ran from 2002 to 2009 in Bessatsu Friend and has won a Kodansha Manga Award. Life has also had a Dorama adaptation that ran in 2007.

After her best friend breaks off their friendship, Ayumu Shiiba begins to seek comfort through cutting her wrists. As she begins high school she hopes for a fresh start, and even makes friends with a girl named Manami Anzai. As she goes through high school however, she finds herself spiraling into more trouble.

The publishers of the manga discontinued their license with Tokyopop at volume 9. As of March 1st, 2023, Kodansha USA has relicensed it and will release the entire 20 volume series digitally.

Life provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Katsumi's, mostly his dad.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Besides Masako, all of the teachers in this setting outright refuses to address the bullying going on. During an assembly, a large number of students protest the principal’s speech on denying any of the bullying as he shoots a Death Glare, then another teacher punches one student in the gut for daring to be “disrespectful”. When Manami and her dad complain to the principal that his “precious” daughter has been beating up and bullied by Ayumu and Miki (instead of the other way around), the principal refuses to let Ayumu and Miki’s tell their side of the story, forces them to bow their heads, and whispers to them to not complain. Naturally, Ayumu stands her ground and shames all of her aggressors.
    • Out of all the teachers, Toda, the homeroom teacher of Auyumu’s class, is the worst of them all. Once Ayumu admits she’s being bullied, she has the gall to laugh and tell Ayumu straight to her face that she’s lying. When she discovers that Masako, the assistant teacher of her class, had a session with the students on addressing the bullying, she tells the rest of her students to ignore everything. When it comes to Manami, Toda is an Professional Butt-Kisser towards her, and usually shames Ayumu and/or Miki whenever they call out Mayumi for being the bitch she is. At one point she tells Ayumu that she’s the one at fault for the bullying. She’s more than happy to do a Teacher/Student Romance with Katsumi and is all on board with Manami’s blackmail on framing Miki for cheating and outing her for taking the job of a bunny girl, in the hopes on getting her expelled. Once Manami conspires to get Toda fired, it’s played out like it’s a tragic loss, but by all accounts this bitch deserves to loose her job since she failed at every retrospect at being a teacher.
  • Alpha Bitch: Manami.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Ayumu's interactions with Hatori often read easily as a romance, but she also develops a crush on Sonoda.
  • Art Evolution: The art style starts off being somewhat rough but smooths out later.
  • Attempted Rape: Twice, first by Katsumi who assaults and traps Ayumu, forcing her to take pictures, and then by the group of thugs Minami hires to mug Katsumi and kidnap Hatori and Ayumu.
  • Big Bad: Manami Anzai, the resident Alpha Bitch at Ayumu's high school, is responsible for all the danger in the plot.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Katsumi may look like an affable person on the outside, but in the inside, he's one of Manami's lackeys; While Manami befriends Ayumu early in the series, the former's actions over the course of the series show that she's a self-absorbed, bullying Alpha Bitch.
  • Bullied into Depression:
    • The protagonist Ayumu began cutting herself after her former best friend said that she hated her. Ayumu's self-harm and suicidal ideation only became worse as Manami and her Girl Posse kept on bullying her.
    • One girl was almost literally bullied into suicide. She jumped off a school balcony in order to escape punishment from Manami, but it was a Bungled Suicide.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Many changes were made for the live-action adaptation, including changing Ayumu's Self-Harm habits to something less graphic and focusing more on the bullying.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Once the students finally realize that Manami persecuted Ayumu, forced Toda and Hiraoka to resign, and almost killed a wheelchair-bound student, they quickly turn on her.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Manami learns the hard way that when your classmates discover that you're willing to force two teachers to resign and almost kill one of your own classmates, everyone will turn against you.
  • Driven to Suicide: Attempts are made by various characters, leading to both Interrupted Suicides and Bungled Suicides.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After being subjected to horrendous bullying and manipulating throughout the series, Ayumu tells her mother about her self-harm, and reports photographic evidence of Manami's bullying to the police. Manami is sent to a reform school, though it's unclear how much of it seems to have an effect on her behavior. Even Katsuki gets a happy ending (though your mileage may vary) in the form of calling out his abusive father, ready to get out from under his thumb.
  • Everyone Has Standards: The students and teachers are completely appalled to learn that Manami has not only persecuted Shiiba, but also forced Toda and Hiraoka to resign and almost killed a student in a wheelchair, all of which are serious crimes.
  • For the Evulz: Later in the story, Manami outright admits that the reason why she tortures and bullies people is not because of any particular reason or because she's acting out; rather, she does it because it's fun. She even says that making people suffer is "ten thousand times better than sex."
  • Gender-Blender Name: Ayumu's name is masculinenote , and she doesn't think it fits her.
  • Hated by All: By the end of the manga, Manami has alienated everyone and become an academic pariah throughout her school.
  • Heel Realization: After one of the Girl Posse hears Manami talk about how she had Katsumi beaten up to get sympathy points, they realize how unstable she is.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Manami is pissed when she thinks Katsumi is cheating on her with Ayumu, but later found herself a lover behind his back.
    • Her minions are unsurprisingly, just as bad. Once the bullying is brought to light, they shame their punching bag, Ayumu, for “playing the victim”, chew her out for “trying to steal” Katsumi from Manami, and tell their classmates not to jump to conclusions over Ayumu’s claims. Miki calls them out, pointing out they’ve immediately targeted Ayumu over their half-assed excuse of punishing her for supposedly stealing Manami’s boyfriend despite not witnessing the alleged affair, refused to allow Ayumu to tell her side of the story, while not bothering to find any evidence of Manami’s claims.
  • Important Haircut: Ayumu cut her hair before entering high school, after a falling out with an old friend around the time of the entrance exams. Shortly after she enters high school and realizes that Manami is a truly despicable person, Ayumu gets her hair cut even shorter.
  • Intimate Healing: Ayumu gives Hatori water this way when she is unconscious from smoke inhalation.
  • Japanese Delinquents: Miki Hatori comes across as one initially, though she's actually quite nice. The recurring gang led by Akira are also textbook, wearing Hawaiian shirts and previously bullying Sonoda.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Despite having her Girl Posse frequently mocking Ayumu, the fact that Manami's the daughter of a wealthy family meant that she got off scot-free. Karma does eventually come back to her when the students finally realize her true colors.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Ayumu when she realizes how insane and dangerous Manami really is.
    • Ayumu and the other students have a moment of slack-jawed horror when they realize that Miss Toda has resigned from the school.
    • Manami, when the students and faculty finally learn about what happened to Ayumu, Toda and Hiraoka.
  • Rich Bitch: Manami's father is the CEO of a large corporation, so she's spoiled rotten and is able to manipulate her father into making anything go her way. The teachers comply with anything he says, mostly because they're too afraid of what the media would think otherwise.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Manami, once the students and faculty realize that she's the one who's been persecuting Ayumu all this time and that her actions have triggered Toda and Hiraoka's resignations, instead tries to run off. It doesn't work.
  • Self-Harm: The series revolves around this. In the Live-Action Adaptation, Ayumu cuts her hair; in the manga, she cuts her arms and legs.
  • Spiritual Successor: It's this to an earlier manga by the mangaka, "Vitamin". Both focus on a sensitive girl who gets bullied, an abusive boyfriend who forces himself onto girls, has teachers who don't want to acknowledge the issues, and has parents who don't get their child's problems due to them not talking about it. As well as suicide attempts, Important Haircuts. The main difference is how both protagonists react to their bullying for most of the manga, and the fact that Vitamin takes place in junior high.
  • Teens Are Monsters:
    • Ayumu's best friend, Shi-chan, telling her in a jealous rage that Ayumu was a burden to her and saying, "I wish you were dead!" And this is what starts the plot.
    • Manami. She's manipulative, bullies anyone who doesn't fit into her Girl Posse, and is the ringleader of all of the bullying against Ayumu, Hatori, and just about anyone who doesn't comply with her. She later begins trying to kill people, and even after Ayumu saves her life, Manami says that she bullies people because it's fun.
    • Katsumi. He traps Ayumu in his house, ties her up, and takes photographs of her bound up and nude — which he constantly threatens to reveal to others, alongside her self-harm scars - and when Ayumu throws his cell phone into a puddle, he convinces the onlooking students that it's because she's jealous of Manami's and his relationship. And Ayumu is far from being the first girl he's photographed like that!
    • Pretty much the entire student body. Most students are quick to engage in bullying others, Doing things like wrapping Ayumu up in a photography blanket and rolling her into the wall several times, trying to force her to swallow needles, and even throwing her desk out the window. And then when it's revealed that Manami is the real bully, they're just as quick to turn on her, showing no remorse for the students they victimize.
  • Third-Person Person: Manami refers to herself as "Manami" or "Mana" a lot.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: One of the translations has Ayumu saying "It's karma, bitch," at Manami.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Manami gets more and more freaked out towards the end of the series. It starts when her fellow students begin suspecting that she tried to frame Hatori for cheating. Later, in Chapter 62, everyone finds out that she forced Hiraoka and Toda to resign, came dangerously close to murdering at least one person, and caught her fighting Ayumu and school authorities had to intervene. They realize that she is the one causing the problems, and turn on her fast and hard. Laser-Guided Karma does not even begin to describe it!
  • Yandere: Manami. After she finds out that Katsumi never loved her and cheated on her throughout their entire relationship, she tries to kill him.

Alternative Title(s): Life