Ikebukuro West Gate Park (池袋ウエストゲートパーク?), usually referred to by its initials IWGP, is a series of urban mystery novels by Ira Ishida. It was adapted into a very successful TV series directed by Tsutsumi Yukihiko, and then a manga, released by Digital Manga Publishing in English. The series revolves around 20 year old Makoto, who frequently gets involved in highly dangerous situations, usually against his own judgment. Along for the ride are his best buddies Shun, Masa, and Takashi, the enigmatic leader of a local gang. The manga loosely follows the TV series, having the same story arcs, but focusing less on the inter-gang tensions. Along with the TV series and 4 volume initial series, a 1 volume sequel was also made, but was not made by the original creator.
- Makoto Majima (真島誠 Majima Makoto?)
- A 20 year old punk, Makoto loves to cut loose and pick up chicks. He is very charismatic, and is frequently approached by people who need help in desperate situations. Makoto has a vengeful side, which is seen after his girlfriend Rika was brutally murdered by an unknown assailant. Makoto also has school ties with the leader of the local gang, G Boys, and can call on him for help if he truly needs it. Raised in a single parent household, Makoto's mother runs a local fruit shop, and frequently uses and abuses him to watch the store.
- TV Version: In the TV version Makoto is very similar to his manga counterpart. He is more fleshed out in the TV version. He frequently cons people into losing bets at one of the local bowling alleys, and also becomes an unofficial member of the G Boys. Makoto also falls for a girl that his mother hires for part-time help, a character that only appears in the TV series.
- Rika Nakamura (中村リカ Nakamura Rika?)
- Rika is Makoto's girlfriend, and is your typical teenage ganguro. They first met at the fountain at IWGP, although there are some slight differences between the manga and the TV versions. Rika would sell herself for money, and was found strangled in a motel after a botched meeting.
- TV Version: In the TV version Rika is more demanding, and is described by Hikaru as a person who will use other people in order to get what they want.
- Hikaru Shibusawa (渋沢光子 Shibusawa Hikaru?)
- Rika's best friend, Hikaru is the more innocent seeming of the two, although she hides a horribly tragic past, and a terrifying secret. In the TV series she is much more forward in her attraction towards Makoto, whereas she is less so in the manga. Hikaru's real name is Hikariko, although she has a deep loathing of the name.
- TV Version: In the TV version Hikaru is less innocent than her manga counterpart, and is also incredibly jealous of any female attention Makoto receives, even when it is obvious that it is not romantically inclined. Hikaru's actions are also more erratic in the series, and at times her actions will push Makoto farther away than she'd like. When Yamai starts following her, Takashi posts guards around her.
Takashi Ando (安藤崇 Ando Takashi?) (G Boys King)
- An old school-mate of Makoto's, Takashi is the leader of the G Boys, a local gang. He frequently comes off as goofy or playful, but that hides his true personality as a ruthless leader who will do anything to meet his own needs. He frequently comes to Makoto's aid whenever it is needed, but will not hesitate to ask for favors in return.
- TV Version: In the TV version Takashi has an older girlfriend named Jessie, who is almost always at his side. Takashi is more ruthless in the TV series, and has more of a role than in the manga. Surprisingly, he is very anti-drug, and refuses to allow any of his gang members to purchase or use drugs. (Although he did allow one member to purchase drugs in order to flush out a drug pusher.)
- Shun Mizuno (水野シュン Mizuno Shun?)
- A young artist, Shun first meets Makoto and Masa while he is shoplifting in a local bookstore. Shy and quiet, Shun craves the approval of Makoto and his friends, and breaks laws just to fit in.
- TV Version: In the TV version Shun is quieter, and has less of a role. Since Hikaru is present at the time of the Chiaki incident, she is the one who purchases the drugs instead of Shun. Also, Makoto and Masa first meet Shun as he is shoplifting at a bookstore, and he actually steals a local landmark later in order to impress them.
- Masa Mori (森マサ Mori Masa?)
- Makoto's best friend and a would-be ladies man. He often tries (with not much success) to hit on girls, but most often spends his time with Makoto.
- TV Version: In the TV version Masa has a part-time job at one of the local bowling alleys, where he and Makoto often scam people out of their money.
- Yamai (山井武士?)
- Yamai was formerly an old schoolmate of Makoto and Takashi, and had even challenged Takashi to a fight. He is best known for killing a blood thirsty doberman at the request of a group of schoolmates. Yamai kidnaps Hikaru, with his only explanation being that she "is just like him".
- TV Version: In the TV version Yamai temporarily joins the G Boys, and tries to sell drugs in order to incriminate Takashi. When Takashi discovers this, he cuts off Yamai's finger and throws him out of the G Boys.
Differences between the Manga & TV series
- The setting of the first volume of the manga is on New Year's Eve, and all of the male characters already know each other. In the TV series, Makoto & Masa first meet Shun while he is shoplifting books, and while it is set during the fall, it is just a regular day.
- In the TV version there is a new chief of police who (at first) makes it his goal to throw Makoto in jail. Later he actually uses Makoto as a way to catch culprits "unofficially".
- There are characters that are left out of the manga series, such as a part-time help girl that Makoto's mother hires to watch the shop. She later becomes Makoto's love interest, but never girlfriend.
- In the TV version Makoto meets Hikaru and Rika while Shun is drawing in front of the fountain. In the manga version, Makoto meets Hikaru while she is running from some would be attackers, then meets up with everyone else at IWGP, where he then meets Rika for the first time.
- In the manga Rika is more concerned with Hikaru than in the TV, hinting around to Makoto about Hikaru's dark past, and the importance of promises to them both.
- In the manga Shun dresses up as a woman in order to get the drugs from Chiaki's drug pusher, and have it videotaped as evidence. In the TV version, it is Hikaru, as well as Makoto's mother, who is willing to help out in a pinch.
- Makoto and his friends are heading out to spend their New Year's Eve at IWGP, where all of the hottest guys and girls go to hook up and have fun. On the way to meet his friends, Makoto runs across a helpless girl pursued by a lecherous-minded group of guys. Makoto comes to the girl's rescue, and finds that she is also meeting up with friends at IWGP. Hikaru immediately takes a liking to Makoto, who seems to only have eyes for Hikaru's more sensual friend Rika. A few days later while the group is hanging out, they are approached by a policeman who asks if they have heard anything about a serial rapist with a penchant for strangling his victims. When Rika is later found strangled and left for dead at a local motel, Makoto enlists the help of the local gang leader, Takashi, in order to bring her murderer to justice. After a few red herrings Makoto believes that he's found the true killer, only to discover that not only have the gang punished the wrong guy, but now Hikaru has been kidnapped by Yamai, a violent person from Makoto's past!
- Running to Hikaru's rescue, Makoto finds himself face to face with a person he hasn't seen in years. Hikaru is held seemingly captive by Yamai in a small run-down room. Yamai refuses to surrender Hikaru, telling Makoto that the Hikaru he thinks he knows is not the true Hikaru. After a violent struggle, Hikaru begs Yamai to stop and stabs him, screaming that Yamai had promised to do whatever she said. Makoto demands that Yamai leave, insisting that he will protect her from whatever is bothering her. Yamai reluctantly leaves, insisting that Makoto does not know what he is getting himself into. Makoto returns to find Hikaru scrubbing up the blood off the sofa, seemingly in a daze.
- Calling herself Hikariko, she says that if she doesn't clean up the blood her mother will punish her. True realization of past events hits Makoto, as he realizes who is truly to blame for Rika's death. Makoto gets Hikaru to admit that she was the mastermind behind Rika's death, getting Yamai to strangle Rika. Unable to stand the idea of Rika being with Makoto, as well as the idea of her being left alone, Hikaru ordered the death of Rika, styling it after the local serial rapist. Hikaru's tragis past is also revealed, showing that her mind was warped and broken from a lifetime of being brutally molested by her father at a very young age. After everything is resolved, Yamai goes to prison for the murder, and Hikaru is sent off to Nagano to start a life away from her father.
- In the same volume, Makoto runs across another old classmate, Chiaki, who begs his help in clearing the name of her boyfriend, Kashif. Kashif was trying to save Chiaki, who was trapped in a life of prostitution and drug addiction, and attacked her drug distributor. Makoto agrees to help Chiaki, and enlists the help of his friends. Realizing that the only way to stop the drug pushers is to have them arrested, Makoto makes Shun dress as a girl in order to videotape the drug runner selling his product. With a setup in the works at a local movie theater, Makoto and local police hope to arrest the drug pushers, putting an end to their crimes once and for all!
- Makoto and friends find themselves at the center of another seedy crime when yet another of Makoto's old friends appears, asking for help. Sho is a talent scout for Fairy's Garden, an adult website where people can watch the everyday life of young girls. However, one of the viewers has taken to stalking the site's star, Asumi. The stalker has managed to find Asumi's address, and has memorized her every move, from what she eats to who she has over. He sends Asumi all sorts of creepy letters and gifts, which he retrieves from the trash whenever she tries to throw them out. When he finds that Makoto is at her apartment to safeguard her, the stalker becomes more violent. Makoto calls for a meeting with the stalker, intending on asking him to stop stalking Asumi. However, Asumi follows Makoto to the meeting site and becomes angry, throwing food at the stalker, and demanding that he stop following her. This action brings the tension to a head, as Asumi's stalker breaks into her apartment intending on making his twisted fantasies a reality!
- Makoto has been drafted by a yakuza boss to discover the whereabouts of his wayward daughter, Princess. The boss promises Makoto that he could marry her if successful, but if he fails, then Makoto can kiss his life and his beloved IWGP goodbye! While most of her acquaintances merely think she has gone on holiday with her latest boytoy, her loyal attendant Fujio Saitou believes that something more sinister has happened. Makoto enlists the help of the G Boys, who scan the entire area for any hint of what may have happened. The only information anyone can dig up is that she was last seen in front of a convenience store. With no apparent leads, Makoto is all but ready to admit defeat, until he receives a series of mysterious text messages from an anonymous sender who promises more clues to the disappearance. Following a bread crumb trail of clues, Makoto finds himself face to face with an old classmate, Glyko. Glyko used to be the class rep, but dropped out and now sits up in her room watching the world go by. Through her, Makoto finds the true fate of Princess, as well as the culprit behind her disappearance. But if she were to turn up dead, what would be the fate of Makoto?
- Also in this volume are three individual stories that are unrelated to IWGP.
- The first, I Can See Tomorrow, surrounds a young boy, Ohba, who dreams premonitions of the day to come. While he sees this as a blessing, his long suffering girlfriend, Hiiragi sees it as a curse. Ohba refuses to do anything major that he hasn't yet dreamed of, much to her chagrin. When Ohba dreams of their first kiss turning into their first time, Hiiragi is upset, but a fellow classmate Uyako is more than happy to step into Hiiragi's place. Can the path of true love ever run straight when one of them is clairvoyant?
- The second, Heisei Shangri-la, is about a young businessman who discovers a disturbing secret late one night! While indulging in a dalliance with his co-worker/girlfriend, Hino makes a tasteless joke about being a zombie, only to discover that all of the night workers are undead themselves! With the whole pack in hot pursuit, Hino will soon discover more about the undead than he ever wanted to know. But wait-they're saying he's a zombie, but how can that be?
- The final story, Love is S&M!!, concerns a young man, Fuyukii, and his adorable girlfriend, Misaki. While his girlfriend Misaki is faithful, Fuyukii still wants more, and asks his co-worker out on a date. However, the co-worker is not all that she appears to be, and after going to a love motel, she reveals herself to be a S&M Mistress! Can he ever escape her clutches?