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Manga / Sumire 16 Sai

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A manga by Nagayoshi Takeru that takes quite a different spin on the usual high school comedy manga. Originally published as Sumire 17 sai!!, an 18 chapter series running in Weekly Shonen Magazine in 2006, it gathered enough popularity to be expanded into a 52 chapter comic in Magazine Special under the new name Sumire 16 sai!!. The new series ran between 2006 and 2008, and was adapted into a 12-episode live-action JDrama TV series.

Ordinary schoolgirl Renge Ohyama is on her way to the first day of high school when her bike breaks down. A mysterious schoolgirl named Sumire Yotsuya offers to help her... but is she really just a schoolgirl? Who is the weird old man using ventriloquism and controlling the puppet? Wait, Sumire is a life-size puppet!?

Sumire 16 sai!! follows the the Sumire-led four man band through three years of high school, including culture festivals, exams, holidays, typhoons, elections, delinquents, yakuza and even more insane meetings and events.


The main characters are as follows:

Don't let the creepy old man scare you away from this buried treasure!


This series provides examples of:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: Lex and Sakura to Yamabuki, Yamabuki to the Old Man.
  • All of the Other Reindeer - Renge was bullied in middle school.
  • Alpha Bitch - Ageha Kuroki.
  • Always in Class One: Only for the first year in 16-sai.
  • Attempted Rape - Happens to both Renge and Ageha. Luckily, Sumire and Sakura, respectively, intervene.
  • Beach Episode: Akebi lets the gang come to her own beach house during summer vacation, with Lex and Yamabuki coming along to, er, chaperone.
  • Blithe Spirit - Sumire (especially in the Sumire 17 chapters). The fact that the cheerful schoolgirl who inspires everyone to become better people is not even a real person is part of the Mind Screw.
  • Butt-Monkey - The old man's willing to suffer to keep up the masquerade that Sumire's a real girl. And boy, does he suffer.
  • Bystander Syndrome - Basically the entire point of Takao's introduction story. He learns to ditch the attitude once he sees the Mysterious Woman being picked on.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome - Subaru Tamiya just disappeared after chapter 13 and was never heard from again. He comes back during the epilogue, where it is revealed that he's been working as an theater actor.
  • Combat Pragmatist - Raised by the Yakuza, Akebi has no qualms with striking beneath the belt, or putting brass knuckles in her boxing gloves.
  • Delinquent - Ryuuji Sakura, a tough-acting puppet manned by an extremely meek girl.
  • Demon Head - Akebi brings out her "Yakuza face" sometimes.
    Renge: Sorry! She hasn't made that yakuza face in a long while!!
  • Determinator: NOTHING will keep the old man from keeping the masquerade.
    • The one time when he was even implied to have broken masquerade, something that took Yamabuki's life being endangered to acomplish, he (IF he really broke it) did it off-panel.
  • Dirty Old Man: Invoked. Seeing how far he goes to keep up the masquerade, it's hard for people to not see the Old Man as one. He even gets taken in when the police suspect that he's a chikan. However, even though he never speaks his mind, he doesn't take a lot of advantage over the fact that he puppets a sixteen/seventeen year old girl.
  • Distant Finale/Fast Forward to Reunion: The entirety of the final chapter of 16-sai is devoted to the actual reunion of Renge's class, with her catching up on what Akebi and Mizuki (and everyone else) had been doing since then:
    • Renge is working as a designer at a toy company. She designed the same talking phone strap that Mizuki and Akebi coincidentally also use.
    • Mizuki apparently is working for a law firm, and is on the way to becoming a lawyer herself, with a focus on divorce cases, particularly those where there's a child involved.
    • Akebi manages a chic clothes boutique in the city. Oh, and she's apparently engaged to Hiiragi Kazuma, who survived his operation and has returned to Japan.
    • We finally get an answer to what happened to Subaru Tamiya: apparently he's been working as a stage actor since he suddenly disappeared.
    • Suzuki became a member for Japan's Olympic swim team (!!), though he only got as far as the preliminaries during the actual Olympics.
    • Lex returned to England, and became the apprentice of a famous ventriloquist.
    • And while Ageha herself couldn't make it to the reunion, we see a big billboard for the movie she's starring in as the three friends barhop across the city.
    • And as for Sumire? The old man and Sumire are seen walking to school with the three girls introduced in Sumire 17-sai.
  • Dojikko - Renge gets classified as one by the Otakus at the Maid Cafe.
  • Do Wrong, Right - Sumire decides to use the hot springs with the other girls , despite the problems that would raise. Akebi is angry with the Old Man...not because he's a man in a hot spring with naked high school girls, but because he's wearing clothes at a hot spring.
  • Dude Magnet: Sumire's pretty popular with the guys, in spite of (or sometimes because of) the fact that she's a doll.
  • Election Day Episode: As part of Ageha's latest scheme to charm the male student body, she decides to run for class president. Sumire joins the fray, however, but Ageha takes the lead due to her campaign assets. Sumire's friends fire back with their own brand of Fanservice— the Old Man, after they've cleaned him and suited him up. Sumire wins by a landslide thanks to the female student body's larger presence in the school.
  • Empty Eyes: In the faces of any adult (be it teachers or former classmates) who is misterioulsy failing to notice Sumire is a puppet. Often noticed, discussed and eventually invoked by Sumire's friends, who wonder what's it all about until they realize the Old Man has been puppeting Sumire for years and they all were people who knew of, and were willing to keep, the masquerade; at that point, they do it themselves. Even discussing who had done the Empty Eyes better afterwards.
  • Enfant Terrible: Ringo Hime. She may understandably not want the Old Man in elementary school with her, but the steps she takes to try and kick him out are downright cruel for a little girl.
  • Expy - The wrestling team's Ando the Giant. The girls wonder if he really is a high schooler.
    • Nearly everyone in 16-sai has an expy in 17-sai. Justified since the Old Man repeatedly goes to high school with a different generation each time.
  • Festival Episode: Complete with Maid Cafe and Haunted House attraction!
  • First-Name Basis: Sumire seems to be like this with everyone in her class, even after only meeting them.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Sumire (Sanguine), Mizuki (Melancholic), Akebi (Choleric), and Renge (Phlegmatic).
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip - Sumire and Sakura accidentally switch puppet masters during a thunderstorm. The Old Man takes the opportunity to run with this trope. The Mysterious Woman controlling Sakura is not amused.
  • Funny Foreigner - Lex Begonia, the English teacher, whose knowledge of Japan could not match reality any less.
  • The Generic Girl: Renge had a lot of fears about being this in her circle of friends, and later chapters had her express a desire to make herself more "useful" to them. However, they don't mind her either way.
  • Genki Girl - Sumire, Akebi as well.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Downplayed with the Old Man. For the election, Akebi just slicks his hair back and gives him one of her guards' suits, but combining that with Sumire's natural kindness and helpful attitude sent the female school population into a tizzy.
  • Highly Visible Ninja: The Old Man's simple, form-fitting plain black clothes are deliberately evocative of what inspired the stereotypical ninja costume - that of a Kabuki theatre prop handler, or Kuroko - which are by convention to be simply ignored by the audience. Said convention is continuously and humorously ignored as everybody notices him.
    • If the Old Man's clothings are reminiscent of ninja outfit's origins, the Mysterious Woman's attire (basically a slightly see-through version of his own) are reminiscent of the fishnet-heavy kunoichi stereotypical attire.
  • Hilarity Ensues
  • Hypocritical Humor - About 95% of Sumire and Sakura's interactions will have this trope being involved.
  • Ill Boy: Kazuma, who seemed to have a bad case of anemia, but was really suffering from heart problems and needed to be sent overseas for an operation.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl - The Mysterious Woman should really consider wearing thicker clothing.
  • Intelligence = Isolation - Mizuki Tsukamoto, before Sumire and the others befriend her.
  • Japanese Delinquents: Quite a few in the manga. The Mysterious Woman even builds up a gang of sukeban during the "Freaky Friday" Flip!
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold - Ryuuji Sakura.
  • Karma Houdini - Ageha doesn't really change her ways (despite being saved by Sumire twice in situations where her vamp-like tendencies land her in serious trouble) and yet, got a reasonably happy ending.
  • Laser-Guided Karma - Takao chides Sakura for going out of his way to get himself involved in other people's business, such as molestation and bullying, and thinks he's better than Sakura because he doesn't bother himself with that. Afterwards he gets beaten up by a thug, with tons of people passing by and watching, but nobody doing anything. It's especially driven home when he looks out to crowd to help only for him to see other Takaos walking around.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The Old Man does it, exactly once, in the penultimate chapter, with Sumire looking at the graduation picture: "Oh my! There's a ghost of an old man in the picture!!"
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: The old man never fights back when attacked (other than using Sumire's arm for any Armor-Piercing Slap that Rule of Funny might demand), as he never breaks character. However, when forcefully separed from Sumire and held down in an arm lock, he's able to dislocate his own shoulder to break free and get back to puppeting.
  • Losing Your Head: Sumire's joints aren't shaking-proof.
  • Love Confession: In 17-sai, after finding out that Sakura was in love with a popular boy named Shuuji, Sumire pulled out all the stops to make him available for her to confess to on Valentine's Day. However, in the process, Shuuji ends up confessing to Sumire during that exact same confession, having fell in love with her through her antics and mistaking her friend's confession for her own on her behalf.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Lex is in love with the Yamabuki, who has a one sided crush on the Old Man. Sakura is love with Yamabuki as well, and Ageha has some sort of infatuation with the Mysterious Woman. Sumire's friend Sakura has a crush on Shuuji, who has a crush on Sumire, who has some small crushes here and there. And that's not even getting into the rest of the many admirers she has across the two series...
  • Made of Iron: Getting stung by hornets, running around in the cold, dragged along by a car and skidding on pavement, getting set on fire (multiple times, even)... The more the Old Man suffers, the more surprising it gets that he hasn't died from it all yet.
  • Maid Cafe: The girls come up with one as part of the school festival. It doesn't do to hot at first, but after two Otaku take interest in Renge's clumsiness and Mizuki's bespectacled appearance, they call in their acquaintances and make it a hit.
  • Mad Mathematician - The math teacher, Reiko Yamabuki, is a mild version.
  • Mafia Princess - Akebi Kiryuu.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl - Played with in Sumire. She acts like one, and would probably qualify if she wasn't a doll!
  • Manipulative Bitch - Ageha Kuroki. All she wants the attention and servitude of the male student body, and she'll do anything to get it.
    • Ringo Hime as well. As long as her parents are a part of the PTA, she has her classmates under her thumb.
    • Saki Oomura in 17-sai, being the progenitor to Kuroki in personality and in looks.
  • Manly Tears: Shed obviously by the Old Man, when Renge, Mizuki, and Akebi finally meet him again, after six years.
  • Misaimed Fandom - In-universe example. The otaku-crowd that started frequenting the Maid Cafe after they saw maid-Sumire and her puppet-master.
  • Mind Screw - What is that old man anyway? How many "iterations" has Sumire gone through?
    • In the afterword of Sumire 16-sai, Word of God says the old man will never have his identity revealed, because he's in everyone's heart. Somewhat deep? Maybe. An obvious cop-out? Definitely.
  • Mysterious Past: The Old Man and the Mysterious Woman. We don't learn their names, ages, where they live, how long they've been at this charade, or what they did before they started their ventriloquism. Some of the girls even tried to tail the geezer to learn more about him, but all they got was a small receipt. It's likely we never will learn more about them, since the author doesn't give a concrete explanation in the series afterword.
  • No Name Given - Everybody just calls the old man "Sumire", likewise for Sakura's puppet master.
    • A single panel of Sumire 17 adress him as "underling Tsukushi Nobuhiko".
  • Oblivious to Love - Mizuki and Shirakaba: "Why is it that when I'm around him I feel so at ease?". This despite vehemently denouncing having any relationships when asked by Sumire a few pages before.
  • Only Sane Man - Renge and Mizuki both fit this. Yeah, that's right — with Sumire, you definitely need more than one main character to remind you how ridiculous it is.
    • Ran, Yuri and Sakura Takano in 17-sai. Sakura especially.
  • Ojou - Ringo "Are you trying to oppose me!?" Hime.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Yamabuki states Sumire to be this for her.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise - Sumire uses a wig to dress up as Mizuki to set the latter up on a date. Even Akebi can't ignore how badly it'll fail.
  • Prequel: Guess which series is to which? If you guessed that 16-sai is the prequel to 17-sai, then you guessed right.
  • Put on a Bus - Sakura gets expelled because he wants to "travel the world". Ageha drops out once a talent agency scouts her.
  • Red Light District: When the trio of 17-sai try to spy on the Old Man to see what he's like outside of school, he see him enter a building here. At first the girls think that he's getting Sumire into seedy situations, but it turns out that he just helps at a daycare that's situated here, for some odd reason.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Invoked by the mangaka in the last chapter's epiloge, where he actually states he's taking to his grave the secret of who the Old Man is, why he's puppeting Sumire, how many times he's puppeted her through a new school year with a different generation of classmates, and how long he's been doing that.
  • The Rival - Ryuuji Sakura.
  • Second Year Protagonist: Sumire in 17-sai.
  • Selective Obliviousness - Teachers and adults in general (save for the occasional odd one) seem to purposely ignore the fact that Sumire is not a real girl. We do not learn the reason for this until the very last chapter.
    • Some of Akebi's lines are chock full of disturbing implications that nobody (except Mizuki) seems to realize.
  • Shrinking Violet - Renge Ohyama.
  • Snowed-In: During the ski trip, Sumire and Sakura get lost in a snowstorm, only to find an empty cabin for them to warm up in. When they discover that they don't have any more firewood to heat up the fireplace, both the puppets and the puppeteers decide to burn their outer garments in order to keep the fire going. It eventually leads to a Not What It Looks Like for the puppeteers and a bit of awkward tension on the part of the puppets.
  • Smashing Watermelons: The cast does this on the Beach Episode of course, but the melon is smashed on the second person by Lex, who didn't fall for the girls' misdirection and sliced it in one go. He owes it all to the kendo practice.
  • Spear Counterpart: Sakura is this to Sumire, and even comes with a Distaff Counterpart handler in the form of the Mysterious Woman.
  • Stealth Sequel: Despite being published first, Sumire 17-sai is revealed to be set six years after Sumire 16-sai in the epilogue to the latter.
  • Stoic Spectacles - Mizuki Tsukamoto.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders - Throughout both series, Sumire has her fair share of admirers. More than one of them are fully aware that she's a puppet controlled by an old man. One of them likes her because she's a puppet controlled by an old man.
  • Teacher/Student Romance - Part of the Love Dodecahedron, from Sakura, a doll, to the math-teacher.
  • Tsundere - Mizuki gets classified as one by the Otakus at the Maid Cafe.
  • Unusual Euphemism - Akebi mentioning Renge's two greatest "talents".
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight - Averted for most of the cast, except those the principal has spoken to... who somehow are forced to accept Sumire as a normal high school girl.
  • Tender Tears: Invoked Trope for Sumire, thanks to the little bottle of teathrical tears the old man carries in case she should cry.
  • The Vamp - Ageha Kuroki, kind of. She just wants to control all the guys because it's what she does.
  • Verbal Tic - Sumire tends to add "Super" to sentences even when it's not appropriate.
  • We Will Meet Again: Akebi promises this to Kazuma, who was leaving Japan to get a heart surgery overseas. They do end up meeting again, and even get married along the way.
  • Whole Episode Flashback - Taken to a whole new level: Three of the chapters are dedicated to Sumire's musing about her earlier childhood. These chapters are named, quite aptly, Sumire 10 Sai!!. Hilariously, Renge and Akebi go from balking at the obvious Fridge Horror that the Old Man has been doing this for six years,note  to eagerly anticipating the third flashback.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: In 17-sai, Saki tried to do this to the Old Man and frame him for attempted rape by seducing him and making him fall over her. He does go on top of her... but only because there was a hornet's nest above where they were sitting and he was going to protect her from the stinging.


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