If ever there was a manga written for the new recession, it’s Maru Kaneda’s Saving Live (Tokyopop), The comic manga concerns Haruhiko Ayarokouji, a poor little rich boy who has left his tyrannical father to strike out on his own. This anti-Richie Rich gets a job at Danny’s and a dumpy bungalow that “looks like it was built before WW2,” all the while juggling high school classes and agonizing over his ever-dwindling budget. First thing we see him do in the mornings, for instance, is check all the electrical outlets in his home to make sure nothing is plugged in and wasting electricity. When he finds a plug he’s left overnight, the boy freaks: “That’s negative 0.8 yen!” he chastises himself.
All these economic woes would be grim if Kaneda didn’t add loads of comic fanservice to his “mature readers” manga, surrounding our hero with a trio of busty young girls who we all get to see in their underwear at one time or another (our hero has a knack for barging in on them as they’re changing). The shapely threesome is comprised of brunette Yuriko, our hero’s classmate; blond Junko, a Danny’s waitress who at first thinks Haruhiko is a corporate spy; and red-headed Nanako, a family maid who improbably shows up on hero’s doorstep to help him out. Yup, another manga series with a sexy servant as a primary character. As Pseudolus sang in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: “Everybody’s got to have a maid.”
Our hero’s attempts at penny-pinching frequently prove to be costlier than they might otherwise be — one of the jokes in Saving Life is that Haruhiko’s inexperience counting expenses has him laying out more than he needs to — and to add to the complications, the “crummy house” he is renting turns out to be owned by two malicious girl cousins who want revenge against his father. They work to sabotage our hero’s attempts to bring in extra money, so he won’t be able to keep up with the rent.
Despite this opposition our hero still manages to regularly buck up his spirits — and why now when he’s surrounded by girls who manage to get their clothes drenched, not once but twice, when they’re helping to clean out a pool? Kaneda, who previously oversaw a hot girls in outer space series entitled Girls Bravo, is a master of the tease-y panel and of physical comedy, and in the first volume we get healthy doses of both. In its way, Saving Life winds up comparable to some of the Depression era movie comedies that attempted to spice up dire times with chorus lines full of Hollywood beauties. There are worse ways to go tumbling into bankruptcy.