Title: Alisa of the Silver Hair
Japanese Title: Gin’iro no Kami no Arisa
Author/Artist: Shinji Wada
Translaions: The Distaff Side & 4chan
Summary: As a child, the eponymous heroine is betrayed by three jealous friends who throw her into a pit and leave her to die. But Alisa perseveres: She trains herself to be smarter, faster, and more beautiful than any of them and returns for revenge. Years of living underground have left her with the silver hair of the title, so her victims can’t be sure whether the resemblance is real or only the product their guilty consciences…
For July I wanted to do some more comic related posts for Point Horror and Nostalgic Bookshelf since it’s Comic Con International time. For Nostalgic Bookshelf, alongside the Molly recap I wanted to do a manga recap and a comic recap.
So “Alisa” is an obscure gem I learned of because of its creator, Shinji Wada. He’s the genius who created “Sukeban Deka,” a.k.a. “Delinquent Girl Detective.” It’s the story of Saki Asamiya, a juvenile delinquent recruited by the Japanese police force as an undercover detective within the country’s school system. Armed with a special yo-yo, Saki goes up against drug dealers, rapists, and international terrorists while the threat of her condemned mother’s execution is hung ovee her head.
But that is not this story.
“Alisa of the Silver Hair” is a very short story, only two chapters long, and came out years before “Sukeban Deka.” While I would’t say I’m the total authority on “Sukeban Deka” I’m familiar enough with it to realize “Alisa” appears to be some sort of prototype for “Sukeban.”
(Alisa by Retrosofa: Sal’s a big fan of Sukeban Deka so I thought he’d be a natural for a commission of Alisa)
Wada’s style evokes the shoujo tales of the 1970s, but his use of the tropes masks some truly sinister and depraved villains, many of whom are teenage girls. In fact, as pointed out over on Empty Movement, one of the later stories is eerily predictive of “Revolutionary Girl Utena,” a 90s anime masterpiece that deconstructs misogyny and incest in fiction through picking apart the Prince/Princess/Witch dynamic.
(Analysis on the story seen here: https://forums.ohtori.nu/viewtopic.php?id=2740)
Because no one talks about this story, and “Sukeban Deka” is pretty niche itself (the manga still hasn’t been officially distributed through English markets), I decided to do a recap to shed some light on this beautiful little story of vengeance. But no, I have no idea if her name is supposed to “Alisa” or if it’s “Arisa” and the name was romanized by the translation.
You can read the entire story here: https://mangadex.org/manga/6931/alisa-with-silver-hair
(TW for suicide)
Alisa Honjou’s the happiest girl in the world. Today’s her 13th birthday and she’s celebrating with her mom and her four closest friends, Mio Kyouzaki, Masako Kawasaki, Keiko Aoki, and Beniko Shigaraki. Masako, Keiko, and Beniko’s fathers all work for the company belonging to Alisa’s father, and all the girls are classmates.
Boy isn’t it great how they’re all best friends despite being totally different?
Alisa has something she wants to give them. Alisa leads the girls into her bedroom, and Keiko and Masako freak! There’s a horrible looking person hiding in Alisa’s room!
Oh wait it’s a mask.
Alisa explains to the girls that her father saw these while on an overseas business trip. The masks are supposedly protective charms meant to ward off evil, so Alisa asked her dad to commission five of them she could share with her best friends. Mio’s sincerely touched by Alisa’s gesture, while Beniko and the other two get a weird look in their eyes…
Mrs. Honjou mentions it’s a pity Alisa’s dad had to miss the party because of work, but Alisa’s not bothered by his absence. Of course, she had no idea she’d never see her father again.
The next day, Alisa and her mother are told that Mr. Honjou died in a car accident the previous evening. Mother and daughter are equally distraught, and at the funeral Alisa cries in Mio’s arms. Beniko and her father, Mr. Shigaraki, can’t help but smirk at Alisa’s anguish. Beniko promises her dad she, Keiko, and Masako will take care of the next step in their plan.
Two weeks later, Alisa’s on a hiking trip with the girls in an effort to take her mind off her dad’s death. While exploring the area, Alisa discovers a deep chasm etched in the ground. A voice from behind her explains this is “Dragonbreath Cavern” where an underground river can be found. Alisa turns around and is shocked by the sight of Masako wearing her party mask. Masako tells Alisa to calm her tits while Alisa wishes Mio was with them. Beniko states they didn’t invite Mio because she’s Alisa’s ally and declares they’ve brought Alisa to her final resting place!
The girls gang up on Alisa and reveal how much they’ve hated her. Masako was only her friend because Alisa’s “The boss’s little princess.” Keiko loathed Alisa because she thought Alisa looked down on her because the Honjous are richer than the Aokis. Beniko can’t stand Alisa because even though Beniko’s the queen bee at their school, Alisa was always ahead of her since Beniko’s dad worked for Alisa’s dad. Beniko would rather die than bow down to an insignificant bitch like Alisa.
Alisa has no idea where all this is coming from when she never did anything to hurt her friends. The poor girl thinks this is all a bad dream when her “friends” push her into the chasm. Before she dies, Beniko decides to share a secret with Alisa.
After revealing how Mr. Honjou died, Beniko adds they’ve got something special cooked up for his widow. Alisa is terrified for her mom, but Beniko remarks she’ll soon meet her mother in heaven. The girls throw rocks at Alisa’s head, causing her to let go and tumble into the black void.
Back at the Honjou residence, Mrs. Honjou thinks she hears Alisa’s cry when Mr. Shigaraki and his men invade the house. Mr. Shigaraki is looking for Mrs. Honjou’s personal seal, to make her sign over the legal rights for the Honjou Company’s ownership. After forcing Alisa’s mother to sign her rights away, Mr. Shigaraki has her dragged off while bragging about Alisa’s death. Mrs. Honjou can only scream in despair, thinking she’s lost her husband and her child.
Deep in the cavern, Alisa’s not dead. She’s fallen near the underground river and gets pulled beneath the water. When she comes to, she’s greeted by an older man and woman. The couple is relieved Alisa’s alive and ask her what year it is. Alisa states it’s 1969, which to the couple means they’ve been trapped underground for 44 years. The man and woman reveal explain they were archaeologists exploring some old ruins within the cavern but got trapped. And now Alisa’s stuck with them.
I love that image of Alisa holding the dagger.
Alisa is amazed by the life in the cavern. The walls are lit by a luminous moss; the fish in the water are bone white and blind, a form they adapted from evolving in darkness. There are even pale white salamanders that live in the cavern. Alisa’s kinda creeped out by them, but the man explains they’re harmless. Even cute in their own way. The man shows they’ve used some of the belongings in the tomb for their daily needs and don’t want for anything. Alisa asks why they aren’t trying to escape, but the man responds they’ve waited 12 years and counting for another chance.
Alisa tells the couple what happened with her friends and how worried she is for her mom. The woman tries to promise Alisa things will be fine, but the man dispels such false hope and says it’s likely her mom’s dead. Alisa doesn’t want to think it, but the man reasons they already killed her father so why wouldn’t they kill her mom? The woman asks if that was necessary; the man feels Alisa needs to become strong if she’s going to survive. Alisa cries her heart out, but when she finally stops a fire begins to rage in her eyes.
The man is glad to see Alisa’s determination to live, but wonders what her quest for vengeance might do to her. In the meantime, the couple decides to teach Alisa all that they know. What else do they have to do?
Time passed, and the couple educated Alisa as best they could. The man would have lively debates with Alisa, while the woman told tales of warmth. The efforts of the man and woman brought out Alisa’s hidden intellect, and she transformed into a perceptive young woman.
One day, the man showed Alisa a section of the cavern where they could find a marvelous, rare jade. Literally an entire glittering wall of the jewel. Down in the cave the jade’s worthless of course, but, as the man puts it, the same can be said for the world above. Life’s not about what you own. The man didn’t understand that when he was younger, and neither did the people who tried to kill Alisa. Yet Alisa decides the jade may be crucial to her plans once she escapes, figuring it will fund a new life for her.
As Alisa got older, her body changed.
Due to lack of sunlight, her skin became pale and her hair lost its color until it turned unearthly silver. Because this ain’t “ALISA OF THE BLACK HAIR.” Her eyes showed depth and a glittering desire to live and to avenge herself. The daily exercise needed to hunt and fish made Alisa lithe, nimble, and strong, doing away with the pampered rich girl she once was. Every day she looked for her chance to escape, when the man, whom she began to refer to as “Grandpa,” died. Before he passed, the man asked if Alisa still wanted revenge. The last words he spoke were something about the salamanders before he died. Not long after, the woman passed away as well, leaving Alisa all alone with the fish and the salamanders.
Alisa finally realized what the man was talking about before he died when she noticed a black salamander mixed among the white ones. Since this salamander still had color, that meant it was capable of leaving the cave! Observing the salamander, Alisa discovered it was somehow leaving through the river. It took a lot of planning, but by unraveling her old sweater Alisa tied a thread around the salamander and managed to measure how thick the cave was. She determined the wall separating the cavern was at least 20 meters thick, but it wouldn’t matter considering how fast the river was.
Things seemed hopeless, but Alisa’s desire for vengeance was strong. Tying together everything she had, Alisa fastened a hook using one of the tools from the tomb. Hoping to use the hook to fasten onto one of the rocks at the other end of the river, all she had to do was pray the rope would hold and she wouldn’t get crushed to death. With a satchel of the jade tied around her waist and nerves of steel, Alisa plunged into the raging river and held onto the rope as hard as she could. Things looked grim for her, until she remembered the mocking words left by Beniko and the other two assholes.
She got out!
Alisa finds herself looking up at the full moon, having forgotten how beautiful the night could be and eagerly waiting to see the sun. Taking out the jade from her satchel, Alisa plans to use it to fund her new life when she catches sight of her hair. She’d never realized, from the light cast by the moss, that it had actually turned silver. Alisa starts screaming in despair at what the underground did to her body.
After that, Alisa disappeared for a while and the story picks up at an airport. The entire student body of Seiryou High School has been brought to welcome a new transfer student. But she’s not just ANY transfer student. No, this girl’s so rich donated enough cash to cover the school’s funding for TWO YEARS. Or at least, that’s what the rumors say. God knows Beniko Shigaraki’s pissed off at the idea someone’s richer than her. Masako Kawasaki suggests the three of them, Keiko Aoki included, can get rid of the new girl if they have to. Keiko declares she doesn’t really care and is more concerned about the results from last week’s exam, but secretly she’s curious about the girl as well. Yeah, all three of them are older and no less nasty. Even their classmates can tell the girls are plotting something.
Mio Kyouzaki is in the crowd of students when the plane opens and out comes Alisa. And grrl she is looking dapper as FUCK. Of course, no one can tell she’s a girl who supposedly died four years ago, and they assume her silver hair’s a wig she’s wearing to make a statement. She’s happy to see Beniko, Keiko, and Masako though…
Part 2 of the story opens not at a school, but a rundown wreck of a mental hospital. The only person left in this dump is a drunkard of a doctor who complains about how all the nurses and patients left him. Alisa doesn’t care about the doc’s sob story; her only interest is in learning her mother’s whereabouts. The doc doesn’t initially remember Yukie Honjou until Alisa… persuades him to think about it.
Unfortunately, Alisa doesn’t want the answer she gets. Yukie Honjou was indeed a patient at the hospital, signed in against her will by Mr. Shigaraki, but died within 10 days. Yukie was so distraught over the loss of her husband and daughter she lost the will to live. She refused to eat or drink and passed away in her cell. All she did was cry for Alisa.
Alisa is devastated. She had at least some small hope her mom was still alive, only to learn she really was dead all this time. Her desire for revenge is magnified tenfold, and vows on her silver hair to destroy the carefree lives of those who murdered her loved ones.
At Seiryou High, the boys are excited about the new transfer student because she’s HAWT. Beniko and her cronies aren’t pleased by the attention the unseen student’s getting. The teacher introduces everyone to Alisa, who’s taken on the last name “Hidaka” and donned a black wig to hide her silver hair. Beniko literally recoils in her seat upon hearing the name “Alisa” due to the memories attached to it. Seeing Beniko’s guilty conscience at work, Alisa can’t help but smirk when she notices Mio. Alisa is happy to see Mio again after so long, and has nothing but kind thoughts for her only true friend. Mio, like Beniko and the others, doesn’t recognize her old friend Alisa Honjou (since Alisa’s skin is considerably paler now, that might be why).
As Mio shows Alisa around the school, the guys swoon and the girls talk about how cool she is. Well, Beniko, Keiko, and Masako convene and discuss what to do with this new Alisa. Masako suggests they rough the girl up and run her out of school. Keiko thinks they shouldn’t underestimate Alisa when her boyfriend Kei’ichi shows up. Keiko departs for lunch and Masako muses on how the smartest girl in school snagged the hottest guy. Suddenly the school coach makes his presence known and orders Masako to get ready for practice. After all, her 12.5 second record on the 100-meter dash ain’t gonna protect itself! Before Masako leaves, Beniko’s approached by a group of reporters and photographers. Beniko’s all “Guys I told you not to follow me at sc-get my good side.”
Alisa and Mio watch as Beniko’s picture is taken, and Mio gives the layout on Seiryou’s “Famous Female Trio.”
- Keiko – Top of the class (A bitch)
- Masako – Top track athlete in the 100 yard dash (A punk bitch)
- Beniko – Darling of the drama club and set to star in an acclaimed theater production (A punk ass bitch)
Having figured out what her enemies excel in, Alisa plans to take them down starting with Keiko.
Keiko is told Alisa’s calling her out and plans to outdo Keiko on the next exam. Keiko, having previously said to be careful with Alisa, finds this hilarious and swears to put Alisa in her place. Soon everyone’s talking about how the transfer student’s challenged Keiko, and people make bets on who will get the higher score.
On the way home from school, Alisa and Mio discuss Alisa’s challenge and Keiko’s abilities. Mio makes an interesting distinction that Keiko isn’t some super genius, but gets good grades because she studies hard and ranked high on the national exam. At that moment, Alisa and Mio spot Okita, one of their classmates. Alisa notices Mio (who’s literally got hearts in her eyes right now) is hot for Okita, and vice versa. Problem is, both of them are shy. So Alisa does what any good friend would do.
Okita is horrified and lunges at Alisa, truly planning to punch her lights out for kissing Mio that way. Alisa effortlessly evades the punch, and tells him if he likes Mio he should be more honest. Likewise, Mio should do the same instead of waiting around. Speaking as someone who almost spent the rest of her life trapped in a cave, Alisa’s not exactly wrong that they should grasp happiness while they can. Alisa assures them her kiss was just a joke, and wishes them happiness as she departs. Left alone, Okita realizes Alisa stole Mio’s first kiss. Mio smiles and explains Alisa didn’t kiss her. You saw that piece of candy Alisa had? She slid the wrapper between their lips, so they never touched. See, Alisa’s not a creep! As Mio and Okita start to open up about their feelings, Alisa hopes for Mio to have a good life.
The next day it’s test time, and Keiko’s ready to show everyone what a Smarty McSmartypants she is. As the exam begins, Keiko sees the stunned expression on Alisa’s face and believes the girl doesn’t have a clue. Alisa’s not stunned because she knows nothing, but because she knows EVERYTHING.
Alisa beats Keiko with a perfect score, officially usurping her place at the top of the class. Keiko’s devastated her hard work meant jack shit and goes to Kei’ichi for comfort. She overhears Kei’ichi’s classmates tell him it sucks his girlfriend lost to the new girl, but Kei’ichi is all “Girlfriend? Please.” Kei’ichi smugly announces he only went out with Keiko because of her grades, but since she’s apparently a dumbass he’s through with her and wants to add Alisa to his list of girl toys. Dude she would eviscerate you.
Everyone’s all “Kei’ichi you’re so mean LOL.” Keiko runs out of the school crying her eyes out. Over on the track field, Masako sees Keiko leaving school but doesn’t have a chance to ask what’s wrong because now it’s her turn on Alisa’s list.
On the track field, Masako’s coach is shown a stopwatch reading 12.5 second. The coach demands to know who ran this time, and surprise surprise it was Alisa (surrounded by lovestruck girls). Masako isn’t happy to see the new girl and asks if Alisa is up for a “Friendly” race. Masako orders the coach to time them, while the coach thinks the watch must’ve broke. No one’s as fast Masako…
Alisa leaves Masako in the dust; for her it’s too easy running on flat ground, after all the time she spent jumping from rock to rock in the underground cavern. The coach is amazed at how Alisa beat Masako’s record by 0.2 seconds, even though Alisa’s sprinting is awful and she wasn’t even wearing track shoes. Masako’s dropped like she’s diseased, while the coach opportunistically tries to exploit Alisa’s potential for fame and glory. Much like Kei’ichi, this guy’s got no clue who or what Alisa is.
Beniko and Masako convene to figure out how to deal with Alisa Hidaka before she destroys their influence on the school. Masako swears she’ll teach the lying little cheat a lesson. When the school day ends, Mio watches Alisa walk by and suddenly notices there’s something familiar about her. Meanwhile, Alisa’s surprised by the amount of love letters in her locker but has no interest in her admirers. No, her attention’s focused on the red envelope containing a challenge from Masako. Alisa’s pleased her second victim’s making things easy for her.
That night, Masako’s giving orders to a bunch of thugs. She’s planning an ambush on Alisa, after telling her they would fight one-on-one in the letter. One of the punks promises to leave a nice mark on Alisa’s face with his big ol’ knife. Masako believes Alisa brought this on herself, but is wondering why she’s late when the screaming begins. Alisa reveals herself, mocking Masako for thinking she’d fall for such an obvious trap. Her opponent pulls out a switchblade and tries to stab Alisa; Alisa dodges and disarms Masako quite easily, and asks what happened between them since they were such good friends four years ago. Masako practically shits herself as Alisa reveals who she really is.
Masako huddles against a tree as Alisa ponders how to make her suffer. Removing her wig, Alisa suggests she can toss Masako into Dragonbreath Cave too. Masako screams and tries to get away from Alisa as fast as she can. Alisa’s not worried because she knows where Masako’s going. Running through the woods and processing Alisa Honjou is back, Masako remembers Keiko’s house is nearby and goes for help. Alisa watches from a nearby tree as Masako sneaks into Keiko’s room. Luckily for Masako, Keiko’s hanging around…
Seeing Keiko’s hung herself, all Masako can do is laugh when Mr. and Mrs. Aoki enter the room and find their daughter’s dead body. Listening to Masako’s laughter, Alisa’s satisfied she hasn’t needed to do much to punish the girls. That just leaves Beniko and her father.
The nex morning, Beniko’s dad is reading an article about her starring role in “The Masked Girl” and beams with pride. Unfortunately, Beniko’s got other problems on her mind. She reports Keiko’s dead and Masako’s nuts, but Mr. Shigaraki thinks this is good; less connections to that business with the Honjous. Beniko shocks her father by mentioning Alisa Hidaka, because according to him Yukie Honjou’s maiden name was “Hidaka.” The two immediately realize who Alisa is, and Mr. Shigaraki fears she’s going to expose their “Evil deeds” (I still can’t believe he phrases it like that). Beniko orders him to put Alisa under surveillance to find out what she’s planning.
At school, Beniko spies on Alisa while trying to figure out her plans. She reviews what Alisa did to Keiko and Masako, taking what they held dear, and Beniko has a revelation. Beniko deduces Alisa will target her debut on stage. At that moment, Beniko looks up and sees Alisa’s watching her too. And she’s smiling.
The next day, Alisa’s out for a stroll and ditches the hired goons tailing her for the Shigarakis. Having reurned to the old mental institution, Alisa’s picking up a bottle of something from the drunkard doctor. The doctor said it was a very hush-hush deal to acquire whatever it is Alisa wants, and she pays him handsomely with cash and a bottle of expensive liquor. As the doctor greedily downs the booze, Alisa believes he doesn’t have much time left.
At her lavish home, Alisa’s wistfully staring out her study window. Since Beniko and her dad know who she is, she’s got to be more careful. It’s then Alisa’s maid announces she has a guest, and it’s Mio! And Mio knows who Alisa really is, because she recognized the way Alisa smiled at her. Mio’s heard from Beniko how Alisa was responsible for Keiko’s death and Masako’s breakdown, but Alisa holds onto the masquerade and asks if Alisa Honjou could do THIS?
Alisa shows her copy of the same mask “Alisa Honjou” gave to her friends. Alisa adds the craftsman who made them died a year ago, so now they’re in demand. Using such a mask for her play is probably why Beniko’s getting such publicity, but Mio is offended by Alisa’s disregard for the bond shared by the five girls.
Upon Mio’s departure, Alisa apologizes for her getting involved in this business. Yet Alisa can’t believe Mio thinks the masks are a symbol of friendship after what Beniko and the others did to her. Alisa talks about how Beniko has the nerve to use the mask to make her way into the world of stardom and declares Beniko won’t have that mask anymore. But wait! Someone’s listening! One of the Shigaraki goons is rushing back to tell the boss how Alisa plans to steal Beniko’s mask. And the play is tonight!
The night of “The Masked Girl,” Alisa infiltrates the theater and hides herself backstage. Locating Beniko’s mask, Alisa uses a throwing knife to cut the circuit breaker and causes a blackout.
A few moments later a spotlight turns on and exposes Alisa. It’s a trap! The Shigaraki goons ambush Alisa, tie her up, and throw her in an old storage room. Alisa’s then confronted by Beniko and her father, who gloat about their supposed victory. They know what she did to Keiko and Masako and they knew about her plans to sabotage Beniko’s debu. Beniko laughs at how wonderful it will be to establish acting career with the mask Alisa was gonna steal. Alisa’s confused when they say “Steal,” and neither Shigaraki notices the empty bottle hidden behind her. So Alisa goes along with them and is all “Yeah I TOTALLY was gonna steal the mask.”
Before Beniko heads on stage, Alisa shares some advice.
Mr. Shigaraki doesn’t return until the play is over. He tells Alisa to listen to all the people cheering for Beniko and believes her revenge failed miserably. Alisa calmly declares she won the moment Beniko put the mask on.
You know that bottle Alisa had? Well, she tells Mr. Shigaraki all about a rare tropical pathogen she researched. The pathogen rots skin starting from the infection site and spreads to the entire body before killing the infected. It’s such a shame Beniko fell for her trick to make them believe she was gonna steal the mask, otherwise Beniko might not have been in a hurry to put it on. They might’ve discovered Alisa spread a layer of the pathogen inside the mask. Oh, and the best part? The disease has an incubation period. It could kill Beniko in days, or it’ll take months or even years. Even if Beniko doesn’t die right away, Alisa takes comfort knowing she’ll spend every day terrified of when her body will start to rot. Something as innocent in a blemish will make Beniko fear for her life.
Beniko stumbles into the room, enraged by what Alisa’s done, Alisa casually steps up revealing she undid her ropes ages ago and was waiting for the chance to reveal Beniko’s doom to her face. Beniko grabs Alisa’s dagger and tries to kill her, knocking over a gas lamp and starting a fire in the process. As the fire spreads to the rest of the building, Alisa bids Beniko adieu and leaves the Shigarakis to their fate. Mr. Shigaraki tries to get Beniko out of the burning theater, but she refuses to go with him.
Outside, everyone watches as the fire engulfs the theater. Mr. Shigaraki remembers what Alisa told them, about suffering the consequences for deceit, and can only sink to his knees crying his daughter’s name.
Days later, Alisa’s leaving on an overseas trip aboard her private yacht when she hears Mio calling her name. Alisa’s happy to see Mio, who figured out for real she truly is Alisa Honjou. Mio doesn’t understand why Alisa’s leaving her again and begs for answer. Alisa states she’s happy she was able to avenge her family, and has decided she leave to try and find a way to return to her old self. But don’t worry, because Alisa promises Mio she’ll return to her on the day she can truly call herself Alisa Honjou.
Shinji Wada Color Art Gallery
What amazes me about this story is how flawlessly Alisa exacted her vengeance while never becoming as bad as her tormentors. She didn’t have to do much in regards to Keiko and Masako, since her actions only exposed the greedy people the two surrounded themselves with. Likewise, the fire that started in the theater was due to Beniko, not Alisa. Even with the pathogen Alisa infected Beniko with, it was her vanity that ultimately killed her.
Although she gets vengeance, Alisa doesn’t believe the person she is now is a person she wants to keep being and is trying to change. So yes, she accomplished her goal and now she’s taking the steps to figure out what comes after in regards to her life and her happiness.
I’m just super glad Wada didn’t kill off Mio or have her become a casualty in Alisa’s plans. He also could’ve had it turn out Mio was actually worse than the other three and planned for Alisa to get rid of them. There’s also no telling what Benko and the other two might’ve done to Mio in the time between Alisa’s imprisonment and escape.