Author: Allison

Manga Monday: WataMote

Posted May 18, 2015 by Allison in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

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Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! (literally No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, referred to as “Watamote” for the rest of this post for the sake of brevity) is a comedy manga serialized in Gangan Online, written and illustrated by Nico Tanigawa.

Tomoko Kuroki has one desire out of her high school life: to be popular, with a cute boy toy on her arm. However, due to her less than stellar social skills, she instead finds it a struggle to even get through the day. The manga chronicles her life throughout high school and how she slowly (very slowly) comes out of her shell.

I will admit, this review will be shorter than my other ones because I find it incredibly hard to be unbiased toward Watamote. In fact, it is almost certainly one of my top five manga of all time with a protagonist that definitely ranks up there as one of my favorite fictional characters in any medium. But I don’t want to gush too much, so I’ll cut myself short here. This series’ greatest strength is its character writing and Tomoko in general.

Tomoko does not start this series as a good person. And indeed, as we’ve hit the middle of the series (with the class trip of second year arc going on longer than any arc has before), she hasn’t really developed into a good person either. She’s selfish, paranoid, anxiety prone, impulsive, cynical, bitter, and lazy. She’s depicted as full of desperation and loneliness which only serves to shove the relatively normal people around her away. Despite all these negative qualities though, the dogged determination with which she pursues her shallow goal of “being popular” inspires the reader to root for her. We want to see her catch a break, even though the only reason why Tomoko can’t catch one is because she backs herself into her own corners. If that’s not excellent writing, I don’t know what is.

Because the world is filtered through Tomoko’s ridiculous overblown eyes, it’s hard to get a sense of the people around her, but a more minor character really stands out to me. Introduced later on, Komiyama is just Tomoko lite when it comes to personality, yet she’s treated as a villain by Tomoko and discarded out of the potential friend pool. I for one find this contrast incredibly interesting, and all the ironies that come with it. The relationship Tomoko has with her younger brother, Tomoki, also feels realistic and somehow sad. These alliances, while perhaps not the focus of this series, is another example of how the author can write a great character when it comes down to it.

I’m not a comedian, but I find this series a bit hard to laugh at even if it is billed at such. Perhaps because I feel for Tomoko so much, the ludicrous situations she gets herself into are hardly something funny but instead worth pitying. Although sometimes it does wrap back around into being hilarious, it lacks the sheer over the top personalities of the characters of Nozaki-kun (which I reviewed last week) and feels too grounded in reality to be gut-bustingly funny. That’s all incredibly subjective though, and if you like cringe comedies, you’ll be laughing hard.

The art is very interesting. Even now, it’s kind of hard to tell if I like or not. Tomoko is drawn quite differently from the rest of the cast, with pupil-less eyes and a generally sullen demeanor, probably to separate her worldview from the rest of the cast. The color artwork is mostly flats and is nothing to really write home about. However, the idea of beautiful or intricate art would distract from the message and the comedy of the series, so even though it isn’t super detailed it is quite appropriate.

I would recommend this manga if you are interested in a major character who is quite striking and well written, though perhaps not a good person. However, I wouldn’t recommend it if you hate cringe comedies.

Availability: Yen Press is publishing the manga currently, with seven volumes out now in English. You can probably find other ways to read it too if you look. I quite like Yen Press’ releases though, and would recommend picking them up if you can swing it.

I’d Rather Watch This!: An anime aired two years ago, and that adaptation is probably one of my top ten favorite anime of all time (certainly one of the top fifteen). Silver Link did an excellent job with everything from selecting the proper voice actress down to picking a suitable, ridiculously over the top faux metal opening theme. I highly, highly recommend the anime if you have any interest in this series.

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Manga Monday: Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Posted May 11, 2015 by Allison in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Sorry for no post last week. I was combating the dreaded final projects that every student must face.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (literally Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun) is a romantic comedy four panel manga serialized in Gangan Online, written and drawn by Izumi Tsubaki.

High school student Chiyo Sakura has a huge crush on classmate Umetarou Nozaki. If you’re worried that this series that centers on the eternal “Will she confess?!” question, have no fear — from the first page out, Chiyo makes her feelings for him quite clear. However, due to her roundabout way of confessing to him (“I’ve always been your fan!”) Nozaki takes her to mean she’s a fan of his manga, and puts her to work as his assistant. The series follows Chiyo’s adventures in trying to get Nozaki to notice her, and engaging all her friends with Nozaki’s manga.

Chiyo is a great heroine both from a romantic and a comedic perspective. Although her crush doesn’t make much sense from a realism standpoint, it still captures the feeling of high school infatuation. She’s sweetly devoted to Nozaki… Perhaps to the point where it clouds her judgment. However, in issues where Nozaki isn’t involved, she can clearly pinpoint the eccentricities of her friends, making her an excellent straight man. This also means that she isn’t the butt of the joke all the time, which is particularly nice for a comedy manga. Nozaki makes for a fine hero, too, with his deadpan straightforward personality and complete and total inability to read the mood somehow making him as weirdly endearing as Chiyo would have you believe.

The other characters are good. If you’re familiar with the trappings of shoujo manga, then you’ll obviously recognize the types — the “school prince”, the “suave playboy”, and the “tomboyish girl with a hidden feminine side” just to name a few. There are some surprising twists to these industry standards, which makes them both hilarious and refreshing. However, a few are unfortunately one note. Wakamatsu and Maeno in particular don’t feel like they have much of a personality outside of “kind to everyone except for one person” and “grade-A jerk”. This is fine from a comedic standpoint, but after a while, it doesn’t seem like the story is going anywhere with the characters doing the same thing over and over.

My biggest problem with this manga is its four panel format. It follows an extremely rote and set pattern — joke set up in panel one, buildup in panel two, ridiculous character reaction in panel three, more muted reactions from the other characters in panel four. It’s an industry standard and is nothing really new… But it leads the manga to become very repetitive very fast. The reader can almost always predict where the joke is going just by skimming panel one. And while I did laugh at certain points, it just feels stale if I can predict the punchline of a comedy manga before I get halfway down the page. It definitely could benefit from spreading its wings and doing something different with its panel structure.

The art is lovely. Coming from the anime to the manga, the lines at first seemed sharper, but I quickly got used to it. There’s excellent use of screen tone in this manga and honestly I learned quite a lot about illustration techniques and manga production from Tsubaki-san’s jokes. But again, it feels incredibly constrained by the format. If you compare the average chapter cover to the average panel in the series, there is quite a marked difference in terms of relative detail. I’d love to see the author expand more and show off their beautiful artwork. One fanbook just isn’t enough!

I would recommend this series if you’re looking for a sweet, fluffy romantic comedy or a series with an adorable main cast. I would not recommend this series if you’re interested in an overarching plot or find 4koma to be frustrating.

Availability: Yen Press has scheduled an English print release of the first volume in September 2015. I sincerely love this manga, so I’m going to pick it up for sure. You can still find English versions if you look around the web.

I’d Rather Watch This!: An anime adaptation by Dogakobo aired last year in July. It’s an excellent adaptation in my opinion. It’s colorful, has great production values in both animation and music, and most important of all, it follows the manga. It’d be an excellent introduction to this series (the anime is how I discovered the manga myself).

**DISCLAIMER** I read this series online, for free.

ETA: Also a little update on my Gakkou Gurashi! manga review from two weeks ago, but it turns out it has indeed been picked up for stateside release by Yen Press. Do I have precognitive powers or what?

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Manga Monday: Gakkou Gurashi!

Manga Monday: Gakkou Gurashi!

Hello. I like reading as well, though unlike Emily, I don’t read everything. I do read a lot of one thing, though and that is manga, aka Japanese comic books. On Manga Monday, I’ll detail some manga for you in a hopefully informative manner. Gakkou Gurashi! (literally Living at School!) is a slice of life manga serialized in Manga Time Kirara Forward, written by Norimitsu Kaihou and and illustrated by Sadoru Chiba. It stars Yuki Takeya and her friends in the School Life Club as they try to perform various helpful tasks around her school, and occasionally get into trouble. To go into depth about what I enjoyed about this manga, I’ll unfortunately have to mildly spoil it (though most of this is implied or outright shown in the first chapter). Spoilers follow the cut.

Posted April 27, 2015 by Allison in Review / 0 Comments
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