It’s a double shoujo Friday, featuring two new(ish) titles from Viz Media. Oresama Teacher launches in March, and we’ll also look at the second volume of Kamisama Kiss, which also comes out in March (both should have come out March 1st). Both of these titles are quite cute, but they’re lacking a bit in the “heart and soul” department. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from either series, but having looked at them now, I think they have some potential. They could certainly grow on me, as long as they grow stronger.
Title: Oresama Teacher
Author: Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2008 by Hakusensha in Japan, March 1, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Comedy, romance, school life, shoujo
Mafuyu Kurosaki is a high school delinquent. She is constantly getting into fights, and somehow has managed to unite the school gangs under her rule. She hasn’t done it on purpose; what Mafuyu wants most is a normal school life. But her short temper and excellent fighting abilities draw a certain kind of person toward her, and she often finds herself triumphant over a battle without even realizing what’s going on. Eventually, Mafuyu is caught by the police and expelled from her school. Her mother, with the condition that Mafuyu is never in another fight, sends her daughter off to Midorigaoka Academy, a school well known for accepting anyone with enough money to buy their way in. On the night before her first day of class, having attempted and failed to make her own dinner, Mafuyu goes to a convenience store. On her way home, she overhears a fight in an alley and goes to investigate. Worried about breaking her promise to her mother, she observes and then tries to sneak away, until she hears one of the bullies pull out a knife. Mafuyu can’t stand an unfair fight, and her inner delinquent bursts out as she chases off the bullies, leaving her face to face with a mysterious young man. The man realizes she is a student of Midorigaoka, and blackmails her into giving him her food. Disappointed and hungry, Mafuyu none the less arrives at school the following day ready to start her new life. Almost immediately, she runs into the stranger from the night before, who turns out to be her homeroom teacher. He seats her next to an obvious class delinquent named Hayasaka. Before she knows it, Mafuyu ends up in the middle of one misunderstanding after another, leading her to (secretly) rescue Hayasaka in a fight twice, and making Hayasaka mistakenly believe that she’s a blood thirsty delinquent out to take over the school from day one. Not only that, but it turns out that her homeroom teacher, Takaomi, is actually the boy who lived next door to her when she was a child, taught her to fight, and whom she developed a crush on.
It’s a delightful premise, sure to provide plenty of laughs. And it does provide a giggle here and there. It’s not as strong as it could be, but hopefully it will get better, because it’s definitely cute. Mafuyu is hilarious. She attempts to tamper down her frightening personality, that has so far made her unable to make any real friends, but in the end, doing so only makes her even more frightening. When Hayasaka and Mafuyu sit next together in class, Tsubaki shows us their inner thoughts, side by side. Mafuyu may be sitting in her seat, her butt sore from sitting still for so long, trying to hold on until class is over, but the aura that radiates off her makes Hayasaka think she must be wound up enough to kill. Her friendly advances toward him make him think she’s out to get him. At the same time, Hayasaka’s attempts to avoid her often lead Mafuyu to mistakenly think he is trying to help her, as in an incident when Mafuyu is gathering up the courage to ask her teacher to be allowed to use the restroom, and Hayasaka ends up asking to go in order to get away from her. Mafuyu thinks that Hayasaka was trying to break the ice for her. Their relationship really makes volume enjoyable. Takaomi on the other hand….. Well, it’s harder to see where that is going. He seems to have some mysterious agendas of his own, as he mentions there was a reason he became a teacher (but didn’t explain the reason), and at the end of the volume, he’s shown making a mysterious deal with the school’s chairman. Mafuyu almost seems to be a pet project for him, and he is constantly teasing and harassing her. Though I do see a love triangle brewing.
Title: Kamisama Kiss
Author: Julietta Suzuki
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 2 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Hakusensha in Japan, March 1, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Comedy, supernatural, shoujo
High school student Nanami Momozono finds herself alone and homeless, after her father reneges on his gambling debts and runs away, causing Nanami to be thrown out onto the street. As she wanders town wondering what to do next, she comes across a strange man who is being attacked by a dog. After she saves him, they share their troubles, and the stranger gives Nanami a kiss on the forehead, imparting the mark of the local land god on her. In effect, he has given her a new home, as Nanami must now live at a local run down shrine as its deity. Guarding the shrine is a sarcastic and carefree fox spirit named Tomoe, who initially wants nothing to do with her. After she finds herself in some trouble, Tomoe arrives to mock her, but she sneaks a kiss on him, which binds Tomoe to her as a familiar and guardian. Tomoe has to obey any command she gives him. It is in this way that Nanami finds herself living at a shrine with Tomoe and the two shrine attendants, Onikiri and Kotetsu, who assist her and help her answer the prayers of shrine visitors (though they are tragically few). The new school year is beginning, but Nanami has zero interest in attending…until she sees a news report announcing that the famous idol Kurama will be attending her school. Anxious to meet him, Nanami convinces Tomoe to let her go back to school, on the condition that she keep her position as the land god a secret and hide the mark on her forehead with a head scarf. Unfortunately, the scarf itself attracts attention, including Kurama’s. Though Tomoe comes to mock her situation, when the entire class starts to bully and hone in on Nanami, Tomoe comes to her rescue. Nanami continues to attract Kurama’s attention, but unfortunately, it’s because he is a tengu (bird yokai/demon) and wants her powers for himself. Tomoe quickly dispatches him, but to Kurama’s surprise, Nanami admonishes Tomoe and has him release the tengu as long as he promises not to cause any more trouble. Their troubles are only just beginning, as a sky god and former master to Tomoe, the demanding and selfish Raijin Narukami, comes to challenge the spiritually weak Nanami and bring Tomoe back with her. When Tomoe comes to protect her, Narukami shrinks him with a magical mallet, and steals the mark of the land god from Nanami. With a helpless and feverish Tomoe to take care of, Nanami runs to Kurama for help, who miraculously offers his aid. Frustrated by his own helplessness, Tomoe pushes Nanami away and returns to the shrine to handle Narukami himself. Unfortunately, he refuses to cooperate wth Narukami, who becomes furious and threatens to destroy the shrine. Desperate, Onikiri and Kotetsu seek out Nanami’s aid, and Nanami strikes a deal with Narukami to save Tomoe.
This one reminds me a little bit of Black Bird, but lighter, and without all the smut and misogyny. A young girl fought over by various yokai, and protected by a yokai. It’s really very charming, but it’s not as expressive as I’d like. It needs more heart and more emotion. A little more tension, maybe. It may be too light a series for there to be some serious danger involved, but it would be nice to really see Tomoe in action, instead of just playing around with someone weaker than he is. The romance is pretty light, but I can already see the capacity for a love triangle. It’s hard not to look for the romance when you’re reading sparkly shoujo. The characters are well formed, but still have plenty of mystery. Tomoe has a hidden past that appears in short flashbacks now and then. Kurama enjoys mocking Tomoe whenever possible, but finds himself moved by Nanami’s kindness. Nanami doesn’t have a lot of depth yet, but she seems to be a fairly strong heroine. The main theme of the story so far deals with finding a home and a family to belong to. With Nanami, obviously, but even Tomoe has some issues with abandonment and loneliness.
Most of all, I’m glad to see two new shoujo manga with active heroines rather than vapid ones. Both of them are energetic and capable, though perhaps on the clumsy or inept side. I look forward to seeing where both of these series will go in future volumes.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.