Featured Columns

September 26, 2011

Bento Bako Weekly: Oresama Teacher 4, Library Wars 6

Title: Oresama Teacher
Author: Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 4 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Hakusensha in Japan, September 6, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Comedy

[Volume 3 review.]

The Public Morals Club is back in action…at least for now. A new problem has arisen. The school doesn’t allow two similar clubs to operate simultaneously. One of the clubs must be dissolved or absorbed into the other. Unfortunately, the club in question is the Yojimbo Club. The student council chairman gives the Yojimbo Club leeway to deal with the problem however they see fit, and Takaomi has decided that the Public Morals Club will fight the Yojimbo Club for supremacy. In order to do that, Takaomi insists that Mafuyu disguise herself as Natsuo (the male student she created to help Hayasaka in a previous volume) for the time being so that she can fight without revealing her identity. In order to make sure Hayasaka doesn’t get too close to Natsuo, Takaomi makes up a story that Natsuo is gay. Mafuyu grabs a troublesome looking student to question, and finds out that the Yojimbo Club doesn’t like to fight fair. Concerned about Hayasaka’s reckless fighting style, Mafuyu decides to train him. As Natsuo, she attempts to train him to protect himself through tumbling and blocking, however, Hayasaka proves to be surprisingly clumsy (and stubborn), and she has little luck teaching him much of anything (but it is a totally hilarious section of the volume). These little courses in being a delinquent are becoming a highlight of this series (last volume she taught her former followers how to escape rope bindings). The training doesn’t have time to pay off, as soon after the Yojimbo Club makes its move. They kidnap “Natsuo” (though they intended to kidnap Mafuyu) and hold her hostage, intending to force her to watch the club goofing off and having fun together while she remains tied up and can’t participate (their idea of torture). Mafuyu quickly realizes that since she’s being held hostage, Hayasaka must be in danger somewhere, and sets about planning her escape. Mafuyu rushes to Hayasaka’s side, but is too late. She completely snaps when she sees what’s been done, beats the tar out of the guys there, and demands that the rest of the club come after her so she can take the whole group on. She ends up teaching them a lesson in friendship, but at great cost to herself, and it’s Hayasaka who arrives to teach the same lesson to Mafuyu. Up next is a side story featuring Maizono, who has journeyed to Mafuyu’s school with a gift of homemade cookies from her former gang. He doesn’t find Mafuyu, but he does find Hayasaka and Bancho. When he asks them if they know his former leader, they immediately think of the Mafuyu they know, but just as quickly decide that it’s impossible they’re one and the same. This misunderstanding doesn’t stop the rumor mill, however, as Maizono runs around telling horror stories of how powerful his leader “Mafuyu” is. The volume wraps up with a very bizarre vacation taken by Mafuyu and Takaomi to a beach. Takaomi, pent up with frustration since he’s not allowed to fight anymore, drags Mafuyu off with him to the beach so he can relax. I’m not sure why he makes Mafuyu go with him, but it does lead to more hilarity, and I can’t say no to that.

Hilarious. Hilarious, hilarious, hilarious. Isn’t that reason enough? I find myself constantly laughing out loud reading this series. It’s so incredibly goofy, and even though everyone in the book appears to be on a continual pocky sugar rush, the fast pace and hyperactive characters work so well in the hands of Izumi Tsubaki. If you want a lighthearted and hilarious series, then this is the one to pick up, especially now that Ouran High School Host Club is ending. You won’t get as much romance as typically colors a Shojo Beat title, but it’s lurking around in there underneath all the crazy antics and entertaining characters. Highlights of this volume include the bizarrely violent way in which Mafuyu gained her followers at her previous school, which she uses in front of Hayasaka, who then thinks that “Natsuo” must be some kind of scary demon. Also a nice touch, was the way that Mafuyu (as Natsuo) bonded with Hayasaka during their fight, when Mafuyu went from trying desperately to protect her friend, to learning to rely on him instead. The chapter where Maizono runs around the school and town spreading rumors about “Mafuyu” is amusing, but suffers from a distracting pronoun issue. Maizono keeps saying “she,” but Hayasaka and Bancho use “he,” which makes their conversations a bit nonsensical (well, more so). It’s not like Maizono is mumbling; he appears to be talking clearly enough, so it doesn’t make sense that the other two just ignore the pronoun. Now, pronouns in Japan are different than our pronouns, so this is most likely a translation issue. Unfortunately, it’s an awkward one and makes the chapter a confusingly ridiculous read. The final chapter leaves some questions hanging, like why Takaomi suddenly wanted to run off (there’s a definite trigger, but it’s left a mystery), and there’s some more teasing about the past that he and Mafuyu share. Volume 5 can’t get here fast enough.

Title: Library Wars: Love and War
Author: Kiiro Yumi (original story by Hiro Arikawa)
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 6 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2010 by Hakusensha in Japan, September 6, 2011 by Viz
Genre: Romance, comedy, drama

[Volume 5 review.]

Love is in the air this volume. Well, it was last volume, too, but this time it’s a holiday! It’s Valentine’s Day, and the celebration isn’t neglected by the Library Forces. Iku, deciding she doesn’t have anyone specific to give chocolate to, brings a bag of chocolate to share with everyone on the force…though she does make a point of keeping an eye on the pile so Instructor Dojo will be guaranteed one. Unfortunately, Major Genda eats them all, and Iku becomes too embarrassed when she spies Dojo receiving a lovely wrapped gift from another girl to bother giving him the final piece she managed to snag. While Iku’s unlucky streak with men continues, Shibazaki gets asked out by a frequent library user named Asahina. At first bored by the man, she quickly realizes that he’s smarter than he lets on, and his straightforward nature reminds her of a certain roommate. As Shibazaki finds herself trusting and opening up to Iku more, we’re treated to some flashbacks of Shibazaki in junior high and high school. In junior high, Shibazaki was seen as arrogant and cold, so because of the way she was treated, in high school she decided to act kind and friendly to everyone, hiding her true self and not trusting in anyone. She continues that affectation to this day, but finds herself beginning to show her true self to Iku when they’re together, and finds that Iku is accepting her. However, she tires of putting on an act in front of Asahina and attempts to dump him, but is surprised by his reaction. Meanwhile, there’s another crisis in the library, when the newest edition of Weekly New World becomes a target of censorship for an illegal and controversial article. The Library Task Force is prepared to defend the right of Weekly New World to publish what it deems should be published, however, the new Head Librarian, General Sadahiko Eto, may have other ideas for how to deal with the problem. It’s the Library Forces to the rescue in the final two chapters, as the gang tracks down a lost little boy and reunites two brothers, and then takes down a pair of bank robbers while enjoying a trip to a hot springs hotel.

The highlight of this volume has to be the way Iku is used to bring cheer to the force. Shibazaki receives this cheer personally, and we see how Iku affects her directly as her roommate and friend. Shibazaki is a rather lonely character, so it’s nice to see that she’s really opening up to Iku now and seeing the other girl as a good friend. Iku’s straightforward nature and honesty is refreshing, and constantly brings a smile to her face and brushes away her problems. It’s a pleasant friendship, and I look forward to watching it grow. Iku’s clumsiness brings a smile to everyone’s tired and deflated faces after the disappointing fate of Weekly New World. She gets a black eye running into a door, and the perfect shiner on her face sends everyone into gut-wrenching laughter, turning everyone’s frowns upside down. She may mess up in her duties now and again (well, more now than again), but she can so easily bring much needed cheer to a room; it’s no wonder everyone is so fond of her. There’s a very brief glimpse of a new character in this volume – Tezuka’s brother. Well, technically he’s been brought up before; it’s understood that Tezuka called in a favor from him when Komaki was captured in the previous volume (er…if I remember correctly; I’d have to dig the volume out again to double check, but it’s buried somewhere). At any rate, he should be coming into play soon; Tezuka’s connection to his brother is something he’s clearly been trying to hide from his coworkers, so I’m definitely curious to know just what this man does and what their relationship is like. The romance between Dojo and Iku is still present, though it’s moving slowly as usual. If that’s something you’re keeping track of, well, it’s about in the same place it’s been since volume 1 in terms of progression, but if you’re a fan of the romance aspects, it’s there like it always is. As a bonus, Shibazaki seems to be cultivating her first real relationship, so fans of her character have something to look forward to. Despite my initial grievances with this series, I’m really enjoying it. The book censorship aspects still aren’t as strong as I’d like, but they always get spotlighted somehow, and with the introduction of General Eto, the way the library functions may slowly change, and it will be in such a way that Iku will have a hard time adapting. Hopefully some interesting character conflict lies ahead.


A copy of Library Wars: Love and War volume 6 was provided by Viz Media for review.


One Comment

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