Four-Leaf Clover Girl – Yotsuba

YotsubaA laid back, low maintenance comedy about the adorable but naïve little girl Yotsuba Koiwai.

Manga Title: Yotsuba
Mangaka: ­Azuma Kiyohiko
Genres: Comedy, slice-of-life
Demographic: Shounen

Yotsuba is exactly the easy-to-follow sort of read to uplift you, make you chuckle and give you a truly moe kind of feel. The main character is, of course, Yotsuba (which means four-leaf clover), a five year old, innocent girl learning all about the world around her. At the start of the manga she moves to a new town with her single parent father. Yotsuba’s father apparently found her abandoned in an overseas country, deciding to raise her.

yotsuba and dad

Yotsuba and dad

Her adventures begin immediately as she starts to wander her new neighborhood, meeting her neighbors – the Ayase household – that consists of 3 daughters: Asagi, Fuuka, Ena and their parents.

Yotsuba

The Ayase Family

Most of Yotsuba focuses purely on her interactions with adults or kids slightly older than her, and the humor is most often derived from the way she reacts in an inexperienced, brash kind of way. These include Yotsuba’s father’s only friend, a giant of a guy named Jumbo, who visits occasionally and likes to take Yotsuba and her friends out.

Yotsuba

Yup, he’s huge

Yotsuba begins to see the Ayase’s as family, going over to their house frequently and unintentionally getting up to mischief. The family members also visit her and her father regularly, which creates for some comic moments.

The art is what I’d called moe in at least one of its definitions – ‘a non-sexual desire to hug, love and protect’ (from Wikipedia), which it has in buckets. Other than that, it’s mostly situational comedy with Yotsuba reacting to the happenings around her in humorous ways. It’s not ROTFL material, but it’ll have you giggling plenty.

Yotsuba

Ooops! She let the cicadas out

A Silent Voice

A Silent VoiceA Silent Voice speaks loudly about its themes and the struggles of its characters.

Manga Title: A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi)
Mangaka: Yoshitoki Oima
Genres: Drama, romance, slice-of-life
Demographic: Shounen

The Storyboard (some spoilers):
Shouya Ishida leaps from a bridge into the polluted water below, slams into concrete walls and jumps from high places to the ground with his other elementary school friends, all in an attempt the defeat the enemy he hates the most – boredom. Ishida’s friends stick with him despite the fact that they know they’ll eventually have to give it up – going along with their boredom-fearing buddy.

A Silent Voice

Ishida and friends

An unexpected event occurs one day that’ll change Ishida’s life forever; a transfer student comes to their school. The girl who transfers in, Shouko Nishimiya, has a hearing impediment. All his classmates, including Ishida himself, find it hard to comprehend the reality of this situation. Shouko can’t hear them properly and also speaks unclearly, surprising all the students as well as giving Ishida a sudden realization – the cure for his boredom has arrived.

A Silent Voice

Shouko Nishimiya

Starting one day, Ishida begins making fun of Shouko. First, shouting loudly behind her for all the class to see, he goes on to perform numerous actions that amount to outright bullying. All the while, their homeroom teacher takes an unwilling-to-get-involved stance, half-heartedly reprimanding Ishida for his actions. Other classmates join in too, finding fun in imitating Ishida’s actions at the expense of Shouko.

A Silent VoiceAll throughout the bullying, Shouko, while going through turmoil internally, never gets outright angry with Ishida – quite the opposite, she attempts to reach out to him on a few occasions and is continuously apologetic towards her classmates.

A Silent Voice

Reaching out

Everything eventually comes to a head after Ishida has broken many of Shouko‘s hearing aids. Her mother finally complains to the school and Ishida is singled out by the class for bullying. Despite the rest of the class’s involvement and his teacher’s negligence in dealing with the issue, Ishida is given the whole blame. On top of that, he becomes the target for abuse next, with Shouko eventually transferring out once again.

Ishida goes through a grueling time being on the other end of the stick – being the one bullied by his best friends for all his past actions. The bullying continues throughout the rest of his elementary school life and follows him to junior high, where the rumors persist and people ignore or gossip about him.

He decides to keep a low profile and not interact with others too much, literally marking everyone off as hopeless and himself as well.
Finally he comes to the conclusion that he’s going to end his life, after finding Shouko once more and apologizing to her. Little does he know that his meeting with Shouko will once again push his life in a different direction – one that he could never have imagined years before.

A Silent Voice

Meeting…

Pencil Sketch:
Ishida seems like a typical elementary student at first, constantly looking for fun and playing pranks with his friends. In part, his reasons for targeting Shouko for bullying were this very playful nature, and his attempts to escape boredom. At first he seems like the villain, the bully and someone you’d like to see get punished. For anyone who’s been the victim of bullying, Ishida would be an object of hate.

Essentially his character is purely that of a curious young boy who wasn’t specifically malicious, only trying to cure his boredom in a very incorrect manner. It’s arguable that the best thing that could have happened to him was being found out and Shouko’s transferring that made him become the object of everyone else’s scorn.

The tables are turned on him, and he can clearly see how Shouko must have felt in the same situation, and even comes to realize that when the bullying against him started, Shouko constantly attempted to reach out to him.

Ishida’s change of heart and understanding of his own errors is a rare one, something that perhaps people who’ve committed similar actions in their lives may never become aware of. This lends a deep respect for me towards his character, being able to accomplish something unique like that is no small feat, though admittedly it was only after a significant amount of hardship.

Shouko on the other hand, possibly having come from similar situations in the past, puts a brave face on as she faces the ridicule, impatience and eventual cruelty of her classmates. She always smiles, whatever comes her way, and has a gentle, compassionate personality. Though this may seem unrealistic, and arguably the situation she finds herself in would drive most people to rage or possibly depression, Shouko reveals how she deals with it in another way.

She blames herself for putting others out and troubling them. This guilt complex might have arisen from her condition, and partly because of her mother’s attitude and methods of dealing with Shouko’s problems.

Not much has been revealed about her mother’s background at the point I’m up to in the manga, except that she’s single and considers her daughter’s disability a burden that has brought her misery and anger. When Shouko eventually transfers her mother thinks it only natural, rather than dealing with the problem hands on.

Additionally, she’s harsh in her treatment of Shouko, also showing her own negligence in that she doesn’t even know how to sign in order to communicate properly with her daughter. Of course, raising a child with a disability would have inherent obstacles, however its plain to see that Shouko’s mother isn’t dealing with it in a way that’s helpful for her own emotional stability or Shouko’s.

Inking:
The art in A Silent Voice stands out in clarity with captivating character designs and detailed backgrounds. At first glance it may seem that the title is being preachy, trying to earn sympathy from its readers, but I’ve never found that.

A Silent Voice is a heart tugging, gentle and often humorous tale that goes into the sincere heart of remorse and how it can change not only one person, but their entire life. Ishida’s cruelty and vile behavior gets turned upon him, nearly crushing him. Yet through his remorse, he finds some light in his life – in the silent voice of the heart that Shouko speaks to him with.

Honey and Clover

Hachimitsu (2)While a lot of manga titles are set in high school, Honey and Clover takes a look at college/university life and the growth its characters experience there.

Manga Title: Hachimitsu to Clover (Honey and Clover)
Mangaka: Chica Umino
Genres: Comedy-drama, romance, slice-of-life
Demographic: Josei

The Storyboard:
Yuta Takemoto is an architectural student at a university in Tokyo, living in the same apartment complex as two of his fellow students and friends: Takumi Mayama and Shinobu Morita. Each of them are happily going about their student lives when they are introduced to a freshman girl called Hagumi Hanamoto (Hagu) who is related to their art professor Shuji Hanamoto.

Yuta and Shinobu fall in love with her at first sight. Shinobu is infatuated by her cute appearance, constantly taking photos of her and even creating a webpage of his pictures. His approach doesn’t endear him much to Hagu, who reacts to him mostly with aversion.

Yuta on the other hand befriends her, initially unaware of his own love for her. He gradually gains her trust and discovers that she has a sweet, childish temperament.
As the two are friendly with Shuji, Hagu slowly starts to draw closer to them through their interactions, although romance seems to be the last thing on her mind.

Honey and Clover

Yuta, Hagu and Shinobu

Later another member of their group is introduced, the so called ‘Iron Lady’ Ayumi Yamada, who warms to Hagu quickly. Ayumi is physically very strong, hence her title, and is in love with Takumi. The love is unrequited however, because Takumi has feelings for another woman despite caring a lot for Ayumi.

Honey and Clover focuses on the interactions between these five characters (and their professor) as they grow closer, sharing the experiences of their lives all the way.

Honey and Clover

Takumi and Ayumi

Pencil Sketch:
Honey and Clover has a character driven plot, going from the group’s minglings with one another to their own backgrounds. The main lead is Yuta, a meticulous, unassuming young man who’s more sensitive to other people than the rest of the characters. He often doesn’t say what he really feels, which is especially how he is towards Hagu. That being the case he still has an admirable ability to find the good qualities in those he meets, making him a likeable protagonist.

Next is Takumi, a fourth year art student; brooding and somewhat self-absorbed, Takumi nonetheless is always there for his friends, joining in their get togethers and romps enthusiastically. Takumi’s love life is complicated by his affection for another woman, Rika, whilst knowing that Ayumi loves him. Even though he cares for Ayumi, he’s doesn’t return her love and tells her to forget about him.

Ayumi is usually self-assured and fiery tempered, often depicted giving Taekwondo kicks to anyone that pisses her off. She loves attention and compliments, soaking it up whenever someone says a good word about her. She states her affections for Takumi early on, and though rejected by him continues trying to win his heart, despite his not returning her feelings.

Of the group Shinobu is by far the most carefree and derpy. From the onset we see him sleeping late and missing classes, doing odd jobs and returning days later, and making genius pieces of art effortlessly. He’s a seventh year student, having been held back for tardiness in his projects. His love for Hagu begins immediately in a bizarre way; he seems to view her more as a doll than a person. Due to this she avoids him, but through the party’s activities they spend more time together.

Honey and Clover

Shinobu’s buff self-sculpture

Although she’s eighteen, Hagu has a temperament similar to a small girl’s. Also an art prodigy, she’s shown to ‘absorb’ the things she wants to paint and then reproduces them later on canvas, creating beautiful sculptures too. Having been almost brought up by Professor Hanamoto, they have a close relationship, staying with each other all the time. Hagu seems oblivious to both Shinobu and Yuta’s advances – happily getting along with both of them whilst the two men’s love for her deepens.

Honey and Clover

Hagu’s masterpiece

Lastly is Professor Hanamoto, at once a helpful guardian and friend to the group, he’s very devoted and protective over Hagu – ready to jump on the guys if they try anything. Hanamoto’s past is also connected to the love triangle between Ayumi, Makumi and Rika, a connection that unfolds as the story progresses.

Inking:
Honey and Clover doesn’t attempt to express any profound messages or philosophy. It details the lives of friends on their journey through university and life. The difficulties they face, happiness they share, love that grows and bitterness they go through all blend into a sweet, touching story.

What I liked most about Honey and Clover are the moments of comedy scattered throughout and poignant reflections on life that come in controlled bursts. The humor is often generic, dealing with tropes frequently encountered in manga – but every now and then there are some genuinely comic moments. Due to this the poignant parts seem all the more deep and heart-tugging, being placed amidst the humor they seem to stand out even more.

Honey and Clover won’t make you sob, though tears may escape from your eyes – it won’t make you roll on the floor laughing, though it may make you let out a real, hearty chuckle. Genuine and visceral, I found myself smiling and feeling warm inside after putting it down.

Dreams and Reality – Bakuman

BakumanThere’s a huge amount of manga out there but once in a while one comes along that changes you. For me that manga is Bakuman.

Manga Title: Bakuman
Author/artist: Tsugumi Ohba/ Takeshi Obata
Genres: Slice-of-life, comedy/drama, romance
Demographic: Shounen

I was beginning to get into reading more manga when I came across Bakuman in a nearby bookstore. I started to read it and I just couldn’t stop turning the pages – my hands and heart had been set on fire by Tsugumi Ohba’s writing and Takeshi Obata’s art (the duo also behind Death Note).

Storyboard:
The main characters Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi, who are classmates, decide to form an artist/ writer duo after Takagi sees some of Mashiro’s art in a scrapbook that he leaves behind in class. The scrapbook also has Mashiro’s drawings of his crush Miho inside it and at first he’s worried Takagi plans to show it to her.

Bakuman

A bit of self-referencing

Mashiro is hesitant at first; although a lover of manga, his uncle was a mangaka (manga artist and usually author too) who “worked himself to death”, therefore Mashiro initially ignores Takagi. Eventually Takagi convinces him in a dramatic way.

Bakuman

Mashiro and Takagi

They visit the house of Mashiro’s childhood sweetheart, Miho Azuki, who dreams of becoming a seiyu (voice actress) one day. Takagi declares that they are collaborating on a manga; caught up in the moment, Mashiro asks Miho to marry him once their manga is adapted into an anime and she is the seiyu for it.

Bakuman

Sharing a dream

Miho accepts, revealing her feelings for Mashiro, which she has held for him since elementary school. And so begins an intense and energetic journey into the world of the manga industry and into the heart of realizing dreams.

The pair starts from scratch, with Takagi writing and drawing rough sketches for Mashiro while he works on visualizing and drawing the art. They make their first submission to the famous Shueisha and meet with their future editor who sees their talent and encourages them to publish it in a one-shot for Weekly Shounen Jump. Their and Miho’s mutual friend Kaya Miyoshi helps them think up a pen name that combines their names and Miho’s…Ashirogi Muto. They work excruciatingly hard to attain serialization in Shonen Jump and eventually succeed with their first series, interacting with many manga artists along the way.

Bakuman

Rushing headlong…

Pencil Sketch:
Mashiro and Takagi share a similar enthusiasm and raw energy often seen in shounen protagonists. They both have a ‘genius is 99% perspiration’ mentality that’s extremely catching. Mashiro is a straightforward, down-to-earth type of young man who is ruthlessly earnest whether in drawing or romance. Though initially reluctant to do manga, after making his promise with Miho he goes into it full of gusto – and is even quite willing to learn from his fellow manga artists – who share a healthy competitive spirit.

Being conservative and traditional in many ways, Mashiro has a bashful approach to his relationship with Miho – even the slightest communication can have him blushing and feeling over the moon. Bakuman focuses mainly on Mashiro out of the Ashirogi Muto trio as he attempts to break through the unspoken curse left by his uncle and carve a path towards his dreams, while at the same time maintaining his artistic and personal integrity.

Takagi is far more of tactical and rational than Mashiro. Although as much of a fighting dreamer as him, Takagi is pretty methodical in his approach to writing manga and acts to balance out Mashiro’s fiery enthusiasm with logic, even though he’s often carried along with it anyway. He’s the script writer and does most of the original concepts for their manga pieces, which are often praised for their innovative and dark undertones. Despite their differences, Takagi shares the same passion as Mashiro and the two build a deep understanding and bond of friendship over time.

If anything the character that receives too little attention in Bakuman is Miho. Due to her and Mashiro’s decision to not be together until they fulfill their ambitions they’re separate most of the time, the focus being mostly on Mashiro and Takagi. Occasional peeks into Miho’s life and her progress along the path of a seiyu reveal her to be just as driven as the boys. She works hard at auditions for voice acting parts, gradually working her way up in the world of voice actresses.

Traditional and shy to a fault, Miho strictly adheres not only to her agreement with Mashiro, but is also truly devoted to him . The pure love between the couple is not without its difficulties, and the two of them both suffer from the loneliness and uncertainty that comes with their type of relationship.

Takagi’s love interest – Kaya Miyoshi is optimistic with a fiery temper. She often brings Takagi back to reality and teaches him some basic wisdom. Miho’s best friend and a constant companion to Takagi and Mashiro, Kaya lends positive support to the mangaka pair and is there to celebrate their joys with them and go through the difficulties too.

Bakuman

Miho and Kaya

A large supporting cast of fellow manga artists fills the panels of Bakuman. Notable among them is the eccentric Nizuma Eiji, also a winner of the Tezuka prize for manga when he was only 15. He becomes a long standing rival and thus a motivating force for our pair. Mangaka of the famous Crow series already being published, Eiji is considered a prodigy not only in his art, but in his unique way of creating drafts for his titles.

Other fellow artists include Shinta Fukuda, mangaka of a motorcycle manga Kiyoshi Knight, Ko Aoki, a young woman penning the fantasy title Hideout Door, a unique but lazy genius Kazuya Hiramaru – who draws a title called Otters 11, and the recluse Ryu Shizuka – drawing the manga True Human. Many other talented manga artists present themselves as the story progresses.

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Nizuma Eiji, Shinta Fukuda, Ko Aoki and Kazuya Hiramaru

Inking:
The thing that hooked me about this series is its vigor. The raw power, enthusiasm and unstoppable determination that Ashirogi Muto show throughout each chapter as they hurtle headlong towards their dreams is really something to read. They start pursuing their aspirations whilst still in junior high, so there are priceless moments in their high school where they talk about manga in the sick room, dream up stories and art during lessons and still go home to work all night to meet the deadlines for their submissions.

Another energetic element of the story is the strong rivalry and close camaraderie shared by the manga artists. They constantly try to outdo each other, whilst secretly rooting for one another, and being able to pick up the strong points of their adversaries. To add to the story’s charm is the fairytale like love between Mashiro and Miho, who don’t meet and only occasionally send brief emails of encouragement to one another until their dreams are fulfilled. The deep seated love they have, but complete stubbornness of not seeing each other is as heart rending as it is sweet.

Bakuman

Shy couple

Lastly, a fascinating aspect for me was learning of how the manga world works and watching the process of creation that Ashirogi Muto go through. Starting from the basics of rough sketches, to submissions and reviews by the board at Shueisha, they climb the ladder to serialization and once they reach it, they have to maintain their integrity and the quality of their stories throughout in an industry where it’s so easy to just start churning out uninspired and repetitious work in order to keep the cash coming in.

Ultimately Bakuman made me feel that it really is possible – if you have the dreams and vision, stick to your principles and never sell yourself out – dreams really do come true. The old cliché that we’ve all heard thousands of times before turns out to be a solid reality. After only reading halfway through the manga I was inspired to pick up my pen (or keyboard) and start writing again after not doing so for years. The power of this story is it can make you start saying ridiculous things like, “I’m gonna become a mangaka!” And…why not?

Doodles:
For another great article on Bakuman check out Manga Turtle here!

She Lives on Cat Street

Cat.Street2

Manga Title: Cat Street
Mangaka: Yoko Kamio
Genres: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life
Demographic: Shoujo

In a similar way that our protagonist Keito Aoyama finds herself in a world quite different from what she expected – so did I after beginning to read Cat Street. Despite the title, this manga doesn’t involve cats like Nineteen, Twenty-One, but is rather about a haven where human strays akin to cats go.

The story follows Keito, a 16 year old girl who has become withdrawn from her family and social circles because of an emotional incident that occurred when she was young. From when she was small, Keito was pushed by her mother to be a child actress, and her mom was so focused on Keito’s success that she neglected the ordinary, basic social needs her daughter had. Shunting her from one audition to the next, Keito’s childhood was scarred by loneliness and longing for the simple things that most other kids have.

Missing out...

Missing out…

Eventually securing a part in a well-known musical, she worked hard to help a new friend of hers, who was also aspiring to be a famous child actress. Something occurred between them that froze Keito emotionally and physically, and on the day of her performance she stood motionless on the stage, unable to carry on.

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Frozen…

From there, her subsequent life as a teenager went downhill; she isolated herself from people at school, having a reputation as ‘the child actress that froze up on stage’. She also became estranged from her mother and sister, who took her silence and anti-social behavior for arrogance. In this traumatizing situation, Keito meets a man out of the blue one day.

He introduces her to El Liston, a free-school where the students come and go as they please and aren’t bound by ordinary school regulations (wish there had been one in my neighborhood). Initially reluctant, she’s befriended by the amiable Rei Saeki, a boy who’s quite upfront with her about what he thinks of her situation and invites her to go to El Liston once again. Persuaded, she gives it another try and meets up with people that are very similar to her there. All these teenagers have become ‘strays’ from society due to various emotional circumstances.

Keito, Kouichi, Momiji, Rei

Keito, Kouichi, Momiji, Rei

For the first time, Keito begins to have experiences she yearned for as a child – walking home with friends, chatting, hanging out, watching the sunset and barbecuing. She also notices the internal turmoil her peers have gone through, and comes to a deeper understanding of them and herself in the process. She starts changing, coming out of her shell in a slow transformation that’s touching to read.

laughed

The art is truly shoujo in style – the girls are drawn with large eyes and pupils, whereas the boys are portrayed slightly more realistically and are all handsome. Yoko Kamio (also the mangaka behind the popular Boys over Flowers) adds her own individual touch to each volume with cute personal anecdotes drawn in the side panel that are really amusing.

Yoko's thoughts

Yoko’s thoughts

One aspect that stuck out strongly is that the focus in Cat Street is mainly on the characters and their development. I found this kind of character driven story to be a refreshing change too. You start to get into Keito’s inner world and thinking right away; her struggles, emotions and the personal backgrounds of all the characters play a major part in the story.

Yoko also has a wonderful ‘less is more’ style in her narrative; she doesn’t reveal too much at once and there are plenty of short sentences inserted perfectly that come across powerfully.

In all, Cat Street is like a journey to a different realm. It goes deeper into the heart and innermost thoughts of a girl coming out of hiding, exposing her faults as well as her good points with the friends alongside her. They’re all growing, changing, becoming closer and less and less like strays – on Cat Street.

– Thanks so much to Blue Variance for this suggestion! Check out her awesome anime and cooking blog Itadakimasu Anime here!

What is your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?

Cats Over Flowers – Nineteen, Twenty-One

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Manga Title: Nineteen, Twenty-One
Author/ Artist: Yu, Han/ Kim, Hye-Jin
Genres: Romance, slice of life
Demographic: Josei, Shoujo

Flowers hang from the sides of houses and hug the walls in a strange harmony. Narrow streets sprawl throughout a bright, well-kept neighborhood, showing signs of meticulous care. In this place of tidy order, there are creatures that exist in the small unnoticed spaces and that slink along pathways, keeping out of sight. Stray cats.

It’s here that we find Yun-lee, a 21 year old student who’s just started her life again after recovering from an accident for over a year, coming out to meet these unwelcome, ragged beasts. Though too cautious to actually touch them, she brings them food and tends to them whenever she can, showing a compassion that’s very much like the flowers about her, spilling their fragrances freely onto the wind for all.

Strays

Strays

One day a stranger comes leaping, like a cat himself, into her private world. He’s Dong-hwi – also a lover of cats, and the exact age Yun-lee was before she lost two years of her life: 19. They start getting together, feeding their beloved cats and nurturing the seedlings of their own feelings at the same time.

Leaping In

Leaping In

Both characters are at important points in their lives, standing in front of the same line. Yun-lee is starting shakily again after losing two years, and Dong-hwi is hesitant about entering into the adult world, with all its hang-ups and responsibilities. Amidst all of this, their budding romance for one another, as well as for cats – takes place.

 

A Love for Cats

A Love for Cats

Yun-Lee and Dong-hwi start to take care of a group of stray cats together, but encounter some difficulties in the community that tests their resolve.

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The challenge that faces them is something that’s posed to us all at some time or another: if you could do something worthwhile even though it only makes a small difference – would you still want to try? And so they make the choice to do what they can for their small clan of cats, despite the opposition and trials their own lives present them with.

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Every once in a while, you read a story that doesn’t get you psyched-up, but rather warms you up and leaves you feeling that way afterwards. Nineteen-twenty one is definitely that kind of story. The panels are big, with luxurious drawings of flowers, scenery, people, and of course – cats. The setting is within a small town, yet the art makes you feel like you’re inside a botanical garden.

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Nineteen, Twenty-One is a journey into an exotic wilderness, full of sights that remain behind your eyelids after closing them at night and thoughts that will keep you pondering, ever so gently, along with them.

What is your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?

 

Happiness is a Warm BB Gun – Assassination Classroom

Assassination Classroom

Assassination ClassroomManga Title: Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoshitsu)
Mangaka: Yusei Matsui
Genres: Comedy, slice of life, action supernatural
Demographic: Shonen

I picked up this title as a few people were talking about it, and the slogan used on the advert I saw for it caught my attention. The way it was advertised made me think the first page would have crazy-eyed students blowing away their real life teacher. A few pages in and I realized that this wasn’t the case – it was something even more bizarre.

koro sensei (2)

Good morning…sensei

The story revolves around a multifarious alien ‘teacher’ who has come to destroy the Earth, and just to prove his point he’s already destroyed most of the moon by the time the manga begins. The teacher – known as Korosensei (unkillable teacher) – states that he will destroy the Earth within a year unless humanity is able to assassinate him. After making an agreement with the government, Korosensei becomes the homeroom teacher of a class at Kunugigaoka junior high. They’re known as Class E, and he instructs them to attempt to kill him – whilst teaching them regular school subjects too. The government offers a reward of ten billion yen to anyone who can successfully exterminate him.

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Assassins

What follows is the ludicrous but entertaining chronicle of Class E’s endeavors to assassinate Korosensei. It should be an easy enough task for a whole class of students to bump off someone else, however Korosensei is no ordinary being. His face is like an oversized emoticon (complete with color changes for moods), his body is composed of a malleable material, he has octopus – like tentacles (the old favorite) and can travel at the speed of Mach 20.

In volume one, we meet some of the more proactive members of Class E. Nagisa Shiota is a gentle-natured bishonen who is at first unable to try assassinating Korosensei, but is later encouraged to do just that by the sensei himself! Later Nagisa takes on the job of recording Korosensei’s weaknesses in order to make a more successful attempt on his life in future.

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Nagisa and Karma

Karma Akabane is a student who was expelled for violence at school and returns after the first few chapters. His past experiences led him to lose confidence in his previous teacher, and he now has no qualms about murdering Korosensei. His ‘killing intent’ is far stronger than almost all the other students and he starts thinking up all sorts of methods to do their sensei in right away.

Two other adult teachers (who are actually just posing as teachers) are Karasuma Tadaomi and Irina Jelavic. The former tries to train the students and hone their assassination techniques, while the latter is a professional who turns on her womanly charms (one of Korosensei’s weaknesses) to get him to drop his guard and rub him out.

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Irina Jelavic

Of course, Korosensei steals the show with his contradictory actions and amusing antics. Whilst encouraging the students to execute him and even teaching them how to do it, he also teaches them life lessons and encourages them. In only a short time, the students come to see him as a warm teacher who actually cares for them.

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He melted!

Though Assassination Classroom is pure comedy, it makes some meaningful points about teacher/student relationships. Another draw for me was the wordplay used throughout the series. Most of the jokes are Japanese puns (especially involving the word ‘koro’ – kill) playing on the meaning of the words used and their associations. Despite that the translation is well done and pretty close English substitutions are provided with explanations.

Overall Assassination Classroom has lots of gags, slice of life content that’s particularly centered around school themes, Japanese word play and assassination tactics all rolled into one manga. My main concern about this title is how long the mangaka can keep it fresh when Korosensei is almost invulnerable and the rest of the characters are trying to do pretty much the same thing in each chapter. That all depends on how the story is handled as it progresses, though.

Last but not least, Yusei Matsui’s artwork captures the comic moments (and there are plenty), action scenes, and day to day life of the students with pleasing art that always holds a few surprises hidden in the frames. Particularly, the drawings Korosensei likes to leave in his students’ notebooks are worth a chapter all of their own!

Korosensei

scrap

What is your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?