Manga Roundup 09.09

gakuen-header.jpgA quick look at the first volumes of three new manga series for the 16-and-up crowd: Gakuen Prince, Yokai Doctor, and Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei.



Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei vol. 1 (Del Rey)

192 pgs, B&W; 10.99

(W&A: Koji Kumeta)


Gakuen Prince vol. 1 (Del Rey)

192 pgs., B&W; 10.99

(W & A: Jun Yuzuki)


Yokai Doctor vol. 1. (Del Rey)

224 pgs, B&W; $10.99

(W&A: Yuki Sato)


I think the manga in my house must be getting friendly at night and producing offspring, because every time I look it seems like there’s more than there was the day before. Maybe the 16+ material is having a bad influence on the younger kids. Anyway, here’s a look at a few new series, all rated OT  16+ (for older teens, age 16 and up) and all set in high schools.

The cover to Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Vol. 1. Click for a larger image.The pick of the litter is Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei ("Goodbye, Mr. Despair") which features suicidally depressed schoolteacher Nozumu Itoshiki and his rather unusual class of students: one is a hikikimori too shy to leave her home, one appears to be a victim of domestic violence, one is an illegal immigrant, and so on. It’s all held together by  the eternally-optimistic Kafuka Fura whose name recalls Franz Kafka but whose attitude more nearly resembles that of Anne of Green Gables: no cloud is without a silver lining in this young lady’s universe. The series has a very tongue-in-cheek tone and the chapters are loaded with references to other manga series and modern Japanese life so you get an education in pop culture along with an enjoyable set of humorous stories.  Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei  is a phenomenon in Japan, appearing as manga series, television and video anime and even an internet radio show: the manga series won the 2007 Kodansha Manga Award in the shonen category. Extras include 12 pages of translation notes, extra comics and author notes, and a preview of vol. 2 in Japanese. The OT  16+ rating is due to a few fanservice moments: one of the characters is even referred to within the manga as the girl who exists to show her panties.

The cover to Gakuen Prince Vol. 1. Click for a larger image.I wasn’t sure how to take Gakuen Prince at first. It’s a shojo manga about an exclusive girls’ school recently gone co-ed with the twist that the girls far outnumber the boys, leaving the poor males cowed by the fierce estrogen-fueled creatures who regard them as prey. The setup is basically Mean Girls times ten, with an almost complete absence of adult supervision: teachers and the formal educational process are close to non-existent. So at first I was thinking this is the most offensive thing I have ever read, and quite explicit in the context of similar manga (one boy licks another’s neck, another appears half-dressed to make it appear he’s just been banging one of the girls in a classroom, a girl’s desk is covered with used condoms) then I realized that it was really a satire of shojo conventions. Taken in that light, it’s pretty funny and the exaggeration is not that far from the truth of emotional life in high school where every little thing can seem like a life and death situation.  The art is well-done within the shojo style with appropriate exaggeration to match the tenor of the story. Gakuen Prince is at the "adult" extreme of its OT 16+ classification and not for the easily offended. Extras include four pages of translation notes, author notes, and a preview of the Japanese edition of volume 2.

The cover to Yokai Doctor  Vol. 1. Click for a larger image.Yokai Doctor is a shonen manga featuring Kotoko, a girl who comes from a long line of exorcists but only inherited the ability to see yokai (spirits), and her classmate Kuro who has the ability to heal them, making him the yokai doctor of the title. Kotoko is popular despite being embarrassed from time to time by her special powers while Kuro is a nerd outcast with a boob fetish and an origin story which he keeps to himself. So of course they will find each other, and various yokai make their appearance in the story as well. But truth be told, as a high school romance it’s pretty ordinary and if your main interest is in yokai you’d be better served Nina Matsumoto’s Yokaiden series, which presents a lot more information about Japanese folklore than this one does. The art in Yokai Doctor is a lot more adventurous than the story: there’s lots of action and breaking of the frame, an interesting variety of settings, and the yokai are particularly vivid. It’s a tame OT 16+: the big fanservice moment is Kuro accidentally walking into the girls’ locker room while they are in various states of undress. The volume also feels padded because it presents the same introductory information twice: the original short story published in a weekly magazine, then the same material reworked for the novel. Extras include six pages of translation notes and a preview of volume 2 (in Japanese). | Sarah Boslaugh




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