Reviewby Lissa Pattillo,
Clean-Freak Fully Equipped
Sata Senda is a hardcore germophobe who takes compulsive cleaning to beyond socially awkward levels. A childhood experience at an amusement left him forever haunted and his future classmates forever weirded out. Seta is befriended by a classmate named Anna Aiuchi and they become close over the duration of a school trip. It isn't too last though when Aiuchi suddenly moves away overseas. While now one friend down, Seta soon enough finds himself surrounded by a group of sudden acquaintances including a persistant wannabe-girlfriend, shy-guy bunny lover and a hyperactive raincoat lover. Now he needs to learn to juggle helping friends with keeping himself emaculate in the process.
Sata Senda is this series' titular clean freak. Booger-trauma from his childhood has left him voluntarily living the life of a bubble-boy, spraying cleaners and disinfectant on every surface. The plot of the series is watching this troubled-teen leave his self-made shell as he begins making new friends. Unfortunately what Clean Freak ultimately proves is that you can definitely have too much of a good thing and its regrettably that it doesn't refer to the quality of the manga itself.
The book's first chapter is its strongest. It introduces us to Sata and the catalyst for his psychosis, while focusing on the present day and his growing interaction with a classmate named Anna Aiuchi. Cute, kind and honest, Aiuchi is the first person in a long time to get close to Sata. A school trip is the backdrop for them to get to know each other and the chapter ends strong with a character-defining moment. Unfortunately everything after this point goes downhill. Aiuchi moves to New York and her departure from the story leaves behind what now feels like a gaping hole in the set-up. For the remainder of the book she communicates with Sata through letters and DVDs, becoming not only his love interest but a beacon of support. She seems revered in a way that doesn't feel deserved for the short interaction we readers were privy to. With the way she's shown so briefly from here on, it would've been more effective to have her first introduced as the long-distance friend who is then eventually more fleshed out instead of the other way around.
Sata's interactions with others are from over though. Throughout this volume he meets a variety of fellow students, all of whom have their own bizarre qualities. Second to Aiuchi in relevance is Yui Anzai, a vibrant young boy with a strong emotional attachment to his raincoat. His unwavering-attachment to Sata is definitely the most persistent and perhaps also one of the most loosely explained. Along with Anzai, Sata finds himself in the company of the class's boyfriend-hopper, Sonoko Yumeno, who's set her sights on him, and Sotsugu Kiriyu, a soft-spoken friend of Anzai who leads the two boys on a search for a pregnant bunny rabbit.
Everything in the book feels rushed, especially the introduction of new characters and the systematic way they're brought in. It feels like the artist is so eager to get onto her next idea that she fails to fully flesh out out the last one. Character upon character is introduced in a way that not only leaves each one feeling significantly less important but also devalues the importance of Sata's social awkwardness. While there's rarely a break in his OCD need to be clean, how anti-social he is quickly feels much less important, or even supported which takes away an element of his personality that was worth exploring more.
Sadly the art isn't much of a save and could've done with a lot of cleaning up itself. The artwork is manic, delivering an energy that compliments the story but isn't as forgiving on the eyes. Pages are cluttered with wildly inconsistent use of panels and each one awash in needless screentone that covers artwork haphazardly. The characters vary a lot in the way they're drawn which comes across more inconsistent than intentional. Scenes that are meant to be important do have extra care taken to them however, such as a desperate attempt to save flowers from a watery fate. These scenes stick out like roses in a thorn bush, more polished and dramatically screentoned regardless of how brief the scene itself is. Nice as these are though, they only serve to make the rest of the book look sloppy.
A quirky plot will only get you so far and Clean Freak may keep up the ethanol-enthusiasm to the end, but it does so at the expense of developing characters readers will truly care about. Humor is the story's near-saving grace and it makes for an entertaining read, yet too many characters introduced one after the other make it a superficial one. Clean Freak's over-eagerness to skip ahead is its downfall and even Tokyopop's strong work on the book - most notably the fun logo and complimenting cover designs - does little to polish this raw material into something worth while.
Overall : D+
Story : D+
Art : C-
+ Fun and quirky concept with a decent sense of humor; very lively paced
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