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