Shojo Beat quick takes: Kimi Ni Todoke, Oresama Teacher, and We were There

Kimi Ni Todoke #15

One of the reasons why Kimi Ni Todoke doesn’t seem to be getting stale even at volume 15 is that there are so many rich and emotionally charged stories that center on the supporting cast. If the manga only focused on the lead couple, I could see myself getting a little weary, but being able to stop every now and then and see a relationship explored that has a totally different dynamic keeps everything interesting. As one would expect from the cover to the volume, the relationship between Chizuru and Ryu is given the spotlight here, and this resulted in one of the most gripping shoujo manga that I’ve read recently.

Ryu has confessed his feelings for Chizu, and she isn’t sure what to do. She’d been nursing an unrequited love for his older brother for a long time, and always thought of Ryu as her brother. Now, she doesn’t want to face him and the fact that their friendship won’t be the same. Ryu’s relieved that he’s finally no longer hiding how he feels and he’s actually feels calm even if Chizu is avoiding him. She’s sad, but still drops off rice balls at Ryu’s house and he reveals to Kazehaya that she’s been bringing him food since the winter of third grade. One of the things that I enjoyed most about this volume was the way it delved into the reasons behind the character’s feelings. Kazahaya ends up serving as a sounding board for both of his friends, and he attempts to find out why Chizu is so upset. With the revelation of Ryu’s feelings, Chizu thinks that their sibling-type relationship was a lie, and everything that she valued “never existed.” Kazehaya asks if knowing that Ryu loves her makes her a little bit happy and she thinks that it never occurred to her. She’s crying because she can’t hang out doing goofy stuff like playing video games and eating ramen anymore because he’s not her brother. Chizu thinks back to the beginning of their friendship when they were little kids and constant companions. When Ryu’s mother died, their friendship developed a deep bond when Chizu vowed to be Ryu’s sister.

Kimi Ni Todoke delves into some pretty serious issues as Chizu works through her feelings, but everything is explored in a very natural and unaffected way. While there are plenty of scenes of the characters working through their feelings, much more is expressed through the portrayal of everyday actions like bundling up before a walk to school in the winter, or the neighborly way Chizu and Ryu’s families trade food back and forth. The act of eating home cooked food takes on a ritual significance when Ryu’s life changes so we see why Chizu’s act of dropping of snacks and Ryu’s habit of preparing lunch for her means so much more than just making sure that a friend has something to eat. Kimi Ni Todoke is such a standout shoujo series, and I become more and more fond of it with each volume.

Oresama Teacher #11

I can always count on this manga to make me smile, and I was particularly delighted that this volume featured the always entertaining plot line of Mafuyu trying to defeat a new enemy. But first, the reader is treated to what might be one of the most ridiculous Christmas dates ever to be portrayed in a shoujo manga, as Hayasaka goes on a date with his hero Super Bun. Mafuyu trying to negotiate the date while still wearing her Super Bun ceramic mask was quite a sight, and it was fun to see a comedic twist on this shojo plot staple. A new enemy appears in the form of the rather sickly student council stooge Ayabe, who goes everywhere with a guitar case on his back. He decides that he’s going to take Mafuyu down, but his methods are a bit odd as they involve actions like shutting himself in a locker and sending out death vibes when she walks by. Ayabe challenges Mafuyu and he actually manages to defeat her, leaving her to decide that she’s going to figure out everything about him in order to beat him next time. Her resolute stalking of him throughout the school makes some bystandars assume that she has a crush on him, but she’s really trying to know her enemy the best she can.

Oresama Teacher‘s formula of exaggerated behavior and ridiculous situations might be a bit predictable, but Tsubaki’s storylines always seem to have a bit of a weird and unexpected twist that maintains my interest. The source of Ayabe’s delinquent fighting powers was incredibly goofy, but I would expect nothing less from this series. I hope the next volume swings back to feature a bit more Takaomi and Bancho, because I’ve missed them. They make brief appearances in this volume, but not quite enough to satisfy me.

We Were There #15

This is the next to last volume of We Were There, and as much as I admire this series I think I am ready for it to be over. I could see how things were starting to wind down in the last volume, and that continues in this volume as Yano begins to realize the continuing depth of Nanami’s feelings for him. One of the things that We Were There really excels at as it shows the characters age from high school to young adulthood is portraying the burden of their shared history. Yano’s relationship and sense of obligation to the Yamamoto family finally reaches a stage where he may begin to move forward with his life, but I’m still wondering if Yano and Nanami really should end up together just due to the weight of their pasts. If Yano actually gets past all the guilt he’s been carrying around, he might actually be a whole human being once again, and it is clear that there is no other person that Nanami can be with. I’ve said before that this series reminded me a bit of Sand Chronicles, in the way both of them go for absolute melodrama in the way the plots unfolded. This isn’t a bad thing, but I think the emotional trauma has me looking forward to the final volume of this series while at the same time I’m very happy that Kimi Ni Todoke is up to 17 volumes and still going strong.

Review copies provided by the publisher

Shojo Beat Quick Takes – Oresama Teacher #10 and A Devil and Her Love Song #4

Oresama Teacher #10 by Izumi Tsubaki

Oresama Teacher has settled into a bit of a predictable formula, but Tsubaki’s particular brand of ridiculous idiocy never fails to cheer me up. This volume focuses on Yui, the ninja and erstwhile spy on the Public Morals Club for the fiendish school council. He decides that Mafuyu and Hayasaka have to endure his particular brand of ninja training, with hilarious results as his modern substitutes for traditional ninja training apparatus never seem to quite work out. Mafuyu has to struggle to get certification for the Public Morals Club, which involves tangling with Hojo, a student council lackey with a major crush on Yui. It is amusing, because while Mafuyu is incredibly dense when it comes to her own feelings, she quickly figures out the undercurrents between Hojo and Yui while Yui remains absolutely oblivious. Deranged ninja antics are always good for a laugh, and while it was nice to have the focus of this volume on a different character, I’m hoping that the next volume swings back to feature more scenes with Hayasaka and Takaomi. I’d also like to see some more scenes that show Mafuyu’s emotional development as she works through her issues with juvenile delinquency. Also, I feel like there was less face-punching in this volume than I’ve come to expect from Oresama Teacher.

A Devil and Her Love Song #4 by Miyoshi Tomori

Ordinarily I would start to get a little frustrated with a series where characters spend a large chunk of time discussing their feelings and interactions, but in A Devil and Her Love Song Maria’s forthright pronouncements and abrasive personality put her into some interesting situations. I might not feel as much of an emotional connection to this story as compared to some of my other favorite shoujo manga, but I do enjoy seeing how Maria’s presence seems to force the people around her to change and grow. In this volume, we are still dealing with the Machiavellian shenanigans around a school concert that the media is about to film. Maria’s evil teacher is planning on using her alleged “reformation” as a way of bringing favorable publicity to the school, and Hana is going along with the plan so she can show herself as a saintly angel of forgiveness. The only problem is that Maria is totally aware of the plan and decides to participate willingly just due to her desire to sing with her classmates. Maria encourages her previous bully Ayu to express her true feelings, with the result that the entire set-up gets derailed when Ayu can’t stand the blatant hypocrisy and lies around her. Maria faces even more obstacles, but she ends up putting “a lovely spin” on the whole situation, managing to salvage the concert. It’ll be interesting to see the fallout resulting from this volume, since various classmates have had emotional breakthroughs and learned more about themselves. I’m predicting that Maria will never be popular, but I’m guessing that her circle of friends will grow a bit and she’s going to treasure the loyalty of the people who actually appreciate her forthright yet slightly odd personality. Overall, this was yet another strong volume for this series.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

Oresama Teacher Volume 9

It never fails, whenever I am a little bit stressed and I have a fresh volume of Oresama Teacher, it automatically gets moved to the top of my “to read” pile of manga. The combination of winning characters and ridiculous situations in this manga holds my attention much more than the other comedic manga I’ve tried, I think due to the fact that I am endlessly amused by the constant beat-downs administered by the cast of semi-reformed juvenile delinquents.

One of the fun things about this volume was the renewed focus on Okegawa, the former Bancho of the school. I’ve missed seeing him and his bizarre attempts at wooing Mafuyu with morse code and carrier pigeons. There’s something about his beady-eyed frowning expressions that is oddly endearing. Mafuyu joins forces with Okegawa in her male guise of Natsuo to track down the students who mysteriously go missing after five o’ clock. As one would expect from Oresama Teacher, the cause of the student disappearances has the most ridiculous explanation possible. A class is preparing a cross-dressing maid cafe for a school festival and has been kidnapping wayward students so they can practice refining their feminine wiles. Sure, drawing juvenile delinquents wearing maid costumes is an easy visual joke, but Tsubaki pushes the ridiculous situation to the extreme by portraying the difficulty they have portraying popular maid personalities like “the clumsy one” or “the little sister.” Mafuyu ends up solving the problem with her natural charisma by offering to train the gang of wayward maids. The problems aren’t over in this volume yet, as the rivalry between Midorigaoka and Kiyama is about to result in a major confrontation. Bancho sees through Mafuyu’s disguise and takes on the fight by himself after incapacitating her and taking back his title as gang boss. Even though there’s plenty of fists flying, there always seems to be an element of heart in what the characters are doing. The manipulation of the rival gang by one of Bancho’s disappointed lackeys ends up becoming a way for estranged friends to reconnect. And when Mafuyu and Bancho meet up at the end, she asks if he’s depressed he says “Make me feel better. Tell me I’m invincible and cool.” Mafuyu replies “You’re very strong…so your punches hurt a lot.” The power of juvenile delinquent friendships is so heartwarming! While there is a definite formula behind each volume of Oresama Teacher, I’m still genuinely entertained by the combination of punching, silliness, and occasional affirmations of friendship.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Oresama Teacher Volume 7

Oresama Teacher Volume 7 by Izumi Tsubaki

This was another entertaining volume of Oresama Teacher. I was happy that in the first chapter we finally got some solid information about Takakomi’s mysterious past and the reasons why he changed from a delinquent to a teacher. It turns out that his grandfather used to be connected with the school, there was some nefarious paperwork from the current principal that involves a land-grab scheme, and Takaomi’s solution was to bet that he would be able to turn around the school in three years in order to return control of the school to his family. This seems like an improbable and misguided plan, but when Mafuyu hears Takaomi’s story she starts to tear up and decides that she’s going to help her former mentor in beat downs and bullying.

Mafuyu and Hayasaka are studying for the first time in an attempt to bring up the school’s test average, aided by spy/highschool ninja Shinobu. Mafuyu isn’t very strong on brainpower, but she does have an odd ability to memorize, which results in several funny scenes where random facts start to spill out of her because her brain has overfilled its capacity. Takaomi uses his dark powers of intimidation to force other slacking students to study. Everybody survives exams, and it is time to head home for the summer. Mafuyu has trouble fitting in with her old gang again, but she ends up spending time with them and learning more about the feelings of the juvenile delinquent comrades she left behind. Oresama Teacher is an excessively silly series but it switches up plot developments that move the story forward a little bit, with more character focused bits. Even when Oresama Teacher might rely on a very standard plot element like going to a summer festival, there’s always a little twist that makes it interesting and ridiculous as Mafuyu attends her summer festival with a crossdressing rival gang leader. Oresama Teacher always goes to the top of my reading stack when I’m looking for a fun distraction.

Review copy provided by the publisher

Oresama Teacher Volume 6

Oresama Teacher Volume 6 by Izumi Tsubaki

Oresama Teacher
is rapidly becoming one of my favorite shoujo comedy series. Sometimes pure comedy manga end up getting into repetitive plot lines where the same jokes are recycled over and over again, but Oresama Teacher continues to easily maintain my interest. One of the reasons why I enjoy this manga so much is due to the face-punching tendencies of the heroine Mafuyu. Perhaps it is my own violent tendencies that make me immediately sympathetic to stories about socially clueless juvenile delinquents, but the situations Tsubaki engineers for her heroine are so wacky I am usually surprised and amused whenever I crack open a new volume of Oresama Teacher.

The opening scenario of this volume was pretty hilarious as Shinobu, the evil ninja sidekick to the equally evil student president announces that he’s going to fight Mafuyu despite the fact that she’s a girl, saying “I fight fair and square and I believe in gender equality.” He basically implys that Mafuyu is a bad feminist if she doesn’t accept his challenge. She has no problem with fighting, but since she’s supposed to be leaving her juvenile delinquent ways behind her she says that Shinobu must fight her extremely poorly disguised alter ego Super Bun first. She goes to Takaomi for advice and he asks her why she’s really fighting. She challenges him saying “Aren’t you just like me?” He comments that he used to be. Mafuyu manages to defeat her opponent using a variety of ridiculous yet effective rabbit-like fighting techniques.

The rest of the volume centers around Mafuyu and her friends investigating the mystery behind their school. Mafuyu also has a moment of realization when she attempts to fulfill her dream of being a normal high school girl only to temporarily lose her friendship with Hayasaka in the process. The last part of the novel takes a turn towards the serious, as Takaomi’s mysterious past is filled in a bit and the reader begins to piece together some of the reasons why he decided to turn to teaching after a successful career as a juvenile delinquent. Overall, this was a very satisfying volume of Oresama Teacher, due to the way Tsubaki mixed comedic insanity with more poignant moments.

Review copy provided by the publisher.