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Manga / Wild Adapter

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2013 Japanese re-release

"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. It went on hiatus after forty-six chapters due to Kazuya Minekura's health, as well as Creative Differences between the seinen tone of the series and the magazine's shounen-ai demographic. It was collected in six volumes (with five chapters left over), translated by Tokyopop in North America and Chuang Yi in Singapore. In 2011 the rights to the series were acquired by Ichijinsha (home of Saiyuki), and irregular serialisation resumed in Zero Sum Ward in 2013. An OVA of volume six was released in 2014.


Volume 7 was released in Japan in July 2015, after a seven-year hiatus.

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.
  • Anachronic Order: The appearance between the first and second volumes of a year's lapse and a Deuteragonist isn't explained until the fifth volume, and the events of the sixth volume occur after those of the succeeding chapters.
    • Vol. 1: May 1995 – January 1996
    • Vol. 5: February – June 1996
    • Vol. 2: January 1997
    • Vol. 3: Summer 1997
    • Vol. 4: Late autumn or early winter 1997
    • Vol. 7: Spring 1998
    • Vol. 6: 1998, after volume seven
  • Animal Motifs: "I picked up a stray cat."
    • The effects of W.A. include the growth of hair and claws.
    • The dead strays Kubota finds, and identifies with, in the prologue arc.
    • Sanada likens both Kubota and his successor Osamu to his dog, Ark Royal. Kiba Osamu's family name is a pun on kiba, 'fang'.
    • Advertisement:
    • The cicadas in the cult arc refer to Fortune's Fang's ethos of "casting off humanity"; cicadas are noted for moulting.
    • The page quote
  • Art Evolution: Take a look at volume one. Then take a look at volume six. Drawn over eight years, there is a perceptible shift to more realistic detail and proportion (though not as pronounced as Saiyuki's); the early images on the character sheets in later volumes are a ready illustration.
  • 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.
  • Boys' Love Genre: Technically – the series ran in a BL magazine – but Boys Love tropes are usually averted, unless subverted or parodied.
    Kubota: "We're seeking spiritual guidance because we're a gay, sex-addicted couple... who are half-brothers, disowned by our family after the consummation of our forbidden love." How's that? Isn't it perfect?
    Tokito: Wha - wha - wha - what the hell is that?! No fucking way!
  • Driving Question: Where does W.A. come from, and what happened to Tokito?
  • Expys:
    • Kubota Makoto and Tokito Minoru also appear in Araiso Private High School Student Council Executive Committee, which is otherwise unrelated to Wild Adapter. While Araiso was published earlier, Minekura created Wild Adapter first, so which versions are the originals and which are the expys is open to debate.
    • Tokito, Kubota, and Kou appear as "Wonder Arm", "the mysterious guy", and "a good scientist" in the Shōnen 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.
  • Gangsta Style: Is a rather reoccuring image of Kubota.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Leans towards the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, but Tokito and Kubota are probably A Lighter Shade of Gray. Although Kubota deals in Disproportionate Retribution and No Holds Barred Beatdowns, it's usually when Villains Act, Heroes React. Lampshaded in the kidnapping arc, a Mook Horror Show Perspective Flip.
    Kubota: If we're monsters... maybe you should have let us be.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Kubota and Tokito.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Kubota and Tokito's relationship is intimate but ambiguous. Though the series was conceived and ran as Boys' Love Genre, it keeps its central relationship deliberately undefined, to both the audience and the characters themselves. Komiya, Sanada, and Sekiya have their moments with Kubota, too.
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art: Each volume features Kubota and/or Tokito looking through a barrier of some kind – chain-link fence, a Venetian blind, crime scene tape.
  • Meaningful Names:
    • 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.” "
    • The only memorable thing about Ken Shimura is that he also shares his name with a famous actor.
    • Osamu the 'loyal attack dog''s surname Kiba is a pun on 'fang' and his nickname Chamu is "cute like a dog."
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: I can't believe it's not seinen! The U.S. editions were not marketed as BL.
  • The '90s: The series begins in May of 1995 and covers roughly three years in six volumes. Volume one ends on January 22, 1996. At 9:05 a.m.
  • Parental Neglect: Endemic. Kubota was ignored; Komiya is responsible for his mother; Saori's family washes their hands of her; Shouta is a latchkey kid; Yoshirou was abused and disowned.
    Kubota: They're around. But that's all they are.
  • Quest for Identity: Tokito and Kubota investigate W.A. for what it can tell them about Tokito's Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Running Gag: Tokito is a stray cat that Kubota took in.
    Tokito: "Will you stop it with the house pet thing?!"
  • Seasonal Motifs: The date is mentioned in most arcs and reinforced with seasonal symbolism.
  • Ship Tease: Both played straight and for laughs at yaoi tropes:
    • Vol. 1: Komiya won't shut up about Kubota in the middle of banging a hooker.
    • Vol. 3: The spooks who bug Kubota and Tokito's apartment get an earful of yaoi-style seduction scene dialogue – improvised to mess with them before they destroy the bug.
    • Vol. 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.
    • Vol. 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.
    • Vol. 6: Kubota refers to the kidnapped Tokito as his "mate" in the American translation.
  • Story Arcs: Each volume consists of a self-contained arc while advancing the greater series plot.
    • Vol. 1: 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.
    • Vol. 2: 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.
    • Vol. 3: 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.
    • Vol. 4: 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.
    • Vol. 5: the flashback arc. Kubota's ten-year-old neighbour Shouta helps domesticate Tokito and observes the slow growth of trust between him and Kubota.
    • Vol. 6: 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.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: On Kubota.
  • 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):

Volume One

  • 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."
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Though Komiya loses his sample of W.A. in the assault, he manages to drag himself to Kubota's doorstep to deliver the motivational speech that drives Kubota out of Izumo.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Kubota's 'job interview' with Izumo requires him to execute the incumbent with a gun that might backfire. He complains about the noise.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Komiya.
  • 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. . ."

Volume Two

  • 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.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Saori.
  • 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.
  • We Will Meet Again: Dragon Ascendant of the Tojou Sekiya makes a point of introducing himself to Kubota just before making his Tactical Withdrawal and asks Kubota to remember his name. Kubota doesn't really care.

Volume Three

  • 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.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Takizawa.
  • Heat Wave: Kubota mentions that the discomfort probably helps with the brainwashing, and Taki gets into the cult's building posing as the A/C maintenance guy.
  • Like a God to Me: "My god died. One year ago." Takizawa's life revolved around his invalid sister, but this is decontructed as he realises that she wanted to be an ordinary human being and that the family's idealisation of her was their elder sister's Freudian Excuse for her Social Darwinism. Meanwhile, however, Kubota implies that Tokito fills the same role for him.
  • Scam Religion: Fortune's Fang fleeces the drug-addicted faithful. It's also bait for anyone investigating W.A.
  • Seasonal Motif: In the coda, the Heat Wave finally breaks while Kubota and Tokito are messing around in echo of a "fireworks festival".
    Tokito: The summer was about to burn out like one of our fireworks.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: Involuntary injections remind Tokito of someone named Akira.
  • 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.

Volume Four

  • 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: 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".
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Shimura, Anna.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Detective Hasebe, though a Dirty Cop himself, is right that Kubota is a punk protected by a Dirty Cop uncle and a Mysterious Parent, who has literally gotten away with murder. It just isn't this murder.
    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?"
  • Returning to the Scene: How Anna's suspicions fall on Shimura. The inevitable practice of criminals, according to Takizawa.
  • 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.

Volume Five

  • 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?
    Kubota: Yup. He was a complete mess.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Shouta.
  • 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, 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.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: How We Got Here for volume two, spanning the first half of the year-long Time Skip between the first and second volumes.

Volume Six

  • 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."
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In order to recover Tokito, Kubota kills about twenty people. Then he loses count.
  • 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.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Osamu.
  • 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.
  • Villain Episode

Volume Seven


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