Buffalo 5 Girls Manga Review
Buffalo 5 Girls:
Reviewed by: Linny
Synopsis: Buffalo 5 Girls is the story of girls forced into a harsh life of prostitution in the wild west. They all find themselves on the run either trying to escape a doomed future or their tragic pasts, all the while combating the complications that arise with being in love and possibly discovering supernatural powers.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Buffalo 5 Girls can be summarized easily as your classic wild west runaway prostitute tale mixed in with some manga fantasy flair. You have a handful of female protagonists, almost all of them hardened or experienced prostitutes who are forced to go on the run for all sorts of reasons but mostly to do with love. The story starts with Candy who decides to run away after hitting and knocking out the man who owns her. In her attempt to escape, she bumps into Suzy and convinces her to escape with her as Suzy has a gun and would raise the chances of their successful escape. Candy and Suzy seem like worlds apart when it comes to their personalities. Candy is extremely chirpy, almost as if she is completely avoiding and ignoring the true severity of their situation while Suzy seems a lot more surly and jaded. Candy wants to stick together and find freedom as a team, trusting other people but Suzy trusts no one, even when it ends up causing her harm. Suzy definitely feels more like your cliche jaded wild west hooker, all sullen and bitter and tired of life and will feel like a familiar character to fans of the wild west genre.
There are three other girls who join Candy and Suzy on the run and they all feel similar to Suzy, in that while they all have somewhat different personalities, they all are archetypes you’d have read about in other western tales. Dahlia is the most uncommon of the three for while she is an exotic dancer, the men in the town hold a lottery to decide which one of them gets to sleep with her. Their bizarre explanation for this lottery is that Dahlia is so beautiful that if everyone got to sleep with her, it would lead to jealousy and fights and while this system seems to serve Dahlia well, the arrival of Candy and Suzy soon throws her life into chaos and the men of the town no longer willing to keep her on a pedestal. Dahlia and Candy seem to be the most friendly and kind ones of the cast with both girls quick to rush to the help of others even at the risk of their safety and happiness. They’re the classic hookers with the heart of gold. Dahlia’s backstory might seem a little hammy to some, especially when the manga talks about how she has been causing men to kill each other since the day she was born but overall, she makes for a very likeable character.
The last two girls are Ruby and Coco. Ruby is the EXTREMELY jaded and bitter hooker who makes enemies all around as she no longer gives a damn after the death of her one true love. She makes enemies all around, freely insulting her customers and stepping on the turf and nerves of the other hookers in town. She is rescued by the girls after they find her beaten, bruised and unconscious out in the dessert and she sticks out of the group like a sore thumb and ticks off yet another stereotype with her extremely selfish and bitter ways. Coco is the last stereotype you encounter, a young girl barely of age sold off by her father and being used as a maid until she is old enough and appealing enough to be forced into prostitution. She too ends up joining the girls after they indirectly save her from almost being raped by a group of men. If you just breathed a sigh of relief at how the story ensures there are no underage hookers, I should warn you that there is a clear mention of a madame who runs a business that specializes in very young girls. However, it’s just a reference and there is no graphic stuff in it regarding that subject matter thankfully. There are DEFINITELY several sequences where sexual acts are depicted but it’s all between the older girls in the story with their lovers or customers and while somewhat graphic in language as well, the images are clearly intended as part of the story and not mere titillation.
Overall, the story of Buffalo 5 Girls doesn’t seem particularly original or unique in the sense that most of its cast feel like popular cliches. Then there’s all the little mini plots about how these girls are in or were in love with doomed men which is another common theme in wild west stories that have hooker characters. These women are either falling in love with the wrong men or doomed men and they seem to rarely ever get a happily ever after with their men. Even the men in the stories end up mostly falling into tired cliches such as the sheriff who is secretly in love with and aiding one of the hookers, or the mindless brute who just lives to shag and obey orders.
It isn’t until we finally find out exactly why Candy had knocked out her ‘owner’ in the first few pages of the series that the story comes into its manga roots. There’s actually a major supernatural plot that’s at the core of the story and once we find out why Candy was on the run, the story really starts to dive into the deep end of the mystical realm. Without spoiling too much, it mostly has to do with something that ‘unleashes all latent human ability”. When it comes to the mystical content of the story, it feels somewhat under explained and vague, never truly defining the nature or limits of the powers granted to the user of these powers. At one point, it even seems to hint that it can be used to bring a dead person back to life. It might be baffling to read for some, especially those who got into the more realistic side of the tale as the story seems to abandon all logic as it wraps up.
On the other hand, if you were feeling let down by how ordinary and common the story felt up until it goes all supernatural, you might be delighted as it embraces the insanity and does things that wouldn’t fly in a classic western tale. There’s scenes where people’s soul leave their bodies and float around trying to get the attention of their friends, manage to have conversations with other ghosts as they’re flying around and then miraculously return to their body and come back to life. And then, there’s a shaman popping out suddenly in the middle of the desert in literally the last chapter of the main story without any explanation, is in it for about two panels and we never get to find out exactly how or why he is in the story now out of the blue.
The extreme clash between the earlier parts of Buffalo 5 Girls and its latter sequences make for a rather unsettling read in that they almost feel like two different stories rather than one complete and coherent tale. It makes it hard to pin down the intended audience for this story that could truly enjoy it all the way through. It does not help matters that the story ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger and the latter part contains so many unexplained and random mystical components that feel like they were thrown in there for the sake of upping the insanity rather than telling a cohesive tale. Some main bill characters like Coco feel superfluous and in need of more development or just being edited out completely.
The best thing I could praise about Buffalo 5 Girls is that the backstories of some of its characters prove to be rather engaging and tragic in the classic western manner, and so might prove to be a satisfying read for lovers of that kind of tragedies. And being limited to a single volume with only 10 chapters means that the series can be completed in less than an hour for those seeking a quick read. You could try it just for the novelty of the story and how it tries to meld elements of fantasy and western fiction together or if you enjoy stories that explore the personalities of classic western tropes. But if you’ve never been particularly entertained by western fiction, Buffalo 5 Girls doesn’t really offer much of anything new or novel to win you over.
Buffalo 5 Girls is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.