Up till now, I’ve mostly been doing reviews of anime along with some movies now and then. Oh, I also did that brief post on my history with manga. I guess it’s time to get onto reviewing manga too. There’s a catch, though. ‘Why Are You Not Reading?’ is less of a review series and more of a recommendation one. All the manga I’ll talk about here in this series’ posts are ones that, I’ve noticed, don’t have much of a following. Let’s get down to business!
Today’s post, that is volume 1, is about two manga series. Well, it’s actually about a relatively unknown gag mangaka (manga artist/author) called Hiroyuki Nishimori. He is regarded by fans to be a god of slice of life comedies that are easily accessible by both children and adults. Almost all of his manga have a heavy emphasis on delinquents in a high-school setting with unique characters and, sometimes, highly interesting circumstances. We’ll be taking a look at his two most famous works and earliest works. If you happen to greatly enjoy these two manga then you can look up the rest of his portfolio to sate your hunger. Or thirst. Hmmm… Do we eat or drink laughter? I’m pretty sure at least one of his characters has had this thought before. Anyways, onto the first manga.
Nishikmori’s longest running manga series is Kyou Kara Ore wa!! (From Now On, It’s My Turn!!). It very much deservedly ran from 1988 to 1997 – almost a decade. It has been lauded by fans to be Nishimori’s funniest series and I have to agree with them: I was laughing out loud with almost every chapter.
The story of KKOw is not original by any means. Though, I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before; nothing is original, everything has been rehashed one way or another with slight differences in execution here and there. It’s a matter of who manages to find that just right combination that spells success. Look at Sword Art Online and any .hack series. Glare at Shakespeare and contemporary tragedies.
Anywho, back to the topic at hand, KKOw follows the 3-year shenanigans of Mitsuhashi and Itou who both had the same idea of changing hairdos to change the gears of their boring lives and stand out as delinquents in high-school. Mitsuhasi adopted a blond hairdo while Itou decided to be as one with his inner sea urchin. There is no actual plot nor any sense of a goal that needs to be accomplished. It’s just ridiculous dudes getting into even more absurd and, often, very dangerous circumstances. You’ll get to see showdowns with the Yakuza, running away from the cops, dojo hunting, raiding a rival high-school, and Mitsuhashi doing everything in his power to ensure that others’ relationships fail. Except for that last one, all of these sound like a recipe for brutal violence but the way the characters approach these situations is just what the doctor ordered to remove your sides. There are even some highly relatable situations like Mitsuhashi going around sneezing everywhere on his enemies when he has a fever.
The comedy in KKOw is, I repeat, its most inviting point. This is improved upon by the quite large cast of characters ranging from Satoshi, a rival banchou (head of delinquents) who graduates from high-school to run a takoyaki stall; to Ryouko, a girl who goes around beating the crap out of her crush and gifting him bananas and ropes. Every single character interacts with most of the cast thus giving us a crystal clear view of how they progress when it comes to their ambitions, regrets, etc.
The characters are not all entirely saints nor are they demon incarnate. Mitsuhashi has a habit of throwing whatever he has near him at people who piss him off. Here, pissing Mitsuhashi off means a broad range of things. Happily munching on a snack is grounds for him to throw a trashcan straight for your head. Itou is the manga’s go-to character when it comes to most of it chapters regarding morals and yet he’ll beat the crap out of anyone who dares to insult him. He can also be a bit sexist at times when it comes to his girlfriend. Imai, another banchou, is a dumbass. He’s probably my favorite. The point here is that each and every character has flaws. Flaws that don’t stick out like a Lego-abused foot like in most high-school comedies. The characters act realistically. There’s not much angst nor ecchi fanservice bullshittery going on here.
A thing to note is that the most of the characters will get fully fleshed halfway through the manga. If you’re one of those poor sods who want characters to keep changing over the entire course of a series (even when it’s not needed) then this might be a turn off for you.
Speaking of getting turned off, the art… I personally loved the art style while quite a lot of newcomers to Nishimori’s manga complain that it is too simple. In my opinion, it is perfect for the kind of stories Nishimori likes to tell. It is miles better than the prevalent art style of the 80s and early 90s which had characters designs looking like they took inspiration from Metal Mario. The paneling is neat and done in such a way that the flow is never hampered. Just the sheer simplicity will be often enough to elicit a hearty chuckle from you when you least expect it. The dialogue fits the art well. You won’t believe how many panels there are, overall, showing the characters having a good ol’ laugh. Which reminds me, the characters ACTUALLY laugh at all the things they do unlike in most comedies where something funny happens and the characters just stand there for a second or feel the need to explain the joke. There is very little of the Tsukommi and Boke relationship and more of ‘show than tell’ in KKOw.
That’s it for KKOw. Onto the next manga which is Tenshi na Konomaiki. It’s called A Cheeky Angel in English.
I have fond memories of Tenshi. It is what accidentally introduced me to hentai… I blame my horrible typing skills at the time. Anyways, I had actually watched Tenshi’s anime a long time ago when I was around 7 or 8 years old. It was probably the very first Chinese cartoon I had watched that I was aware of as something called an ‘anime’. We’ve all, I hope, seen Pokemon, Digimon, and Beyblade as kids but not many of us were aware that they were anime until much later.
I then read Tenshi’s manga the year I started reading manga in general. I was relieved to find out that it was just as good as I remembered it from childhood. That’s a good feeling, yes.
Unlike, KKOw, Tenshi’s actual plot seemed to have been planned out instead of going from arc to arc. The story starts with a young boy who encounters a fairy who tells him he can grant him one wish. The boy asks to be made the manliest of men. The fairy twists his wish and makes him the womanliest of women. Thus, the boy-turned-girl called Megumi has the goal of finding the fairy again and getting it to reverse the wish. She/he is helped by his/her (I’ll use x, xe, and xir for Megumi now) best friend named Miki and a banchou called Genzou who fell in love with Megumi after being kicked in the balls by xir. They meet an otaku, a samurai, and a whole bunch of other crazy and adorable douchebags along the way.
While the essence of comedy is more or less the same in both series, Tenshi tends to sway just a tad bit more towards sexual jokes given the subject matter at hand. It also dives into more serious topics like arranged marriages since both Megumi and Miki are rich, and whether Genzou will still love Megumi when xir pair up there goes back down to where it belongs.
Whatever I said for the characters in KKOw applies to Tenshi’s ragtag bunch of misfits as well. While the most interesting character is quite obviously Megumi, the actual cherry (boys) are Genzou and the samurai who go through astonishing growth and really shine by the end of the story. I wouldn’t be wrong when I say that Genzou could very well be the protagonist.
Tenshi’s art is more detailed than KKOw’s but still essentially the same when it comes to the basic feel for expressions and poses. Tenshi began serialization just almost two years after KKOw ended and if you read KKOw, you’ll notice that Nishimori’s art style slightly evolves over time. Though, with Tenshi there is a little drawback to this art style. Nishimori is not good at distinguishing the designs for his female characters and since Tenshi has more chicks than dudes you’ll be getting annoyed and confused at times.
Before I conclude this, you should keep two things in mind. The first is a warning. Both Tenshi and KKOw have anime adaptations. Actually, they are the only manga by Nishimori to have anime. I’ve only seen Tenshi’s anime so I’ll speak for that. The anime’s ending is wildly different from the manga’s. If you want a happy ending then the manga is for you. If you want things to be bittersweet then the anime will suffice. Although the manga has a few more mini-arcs, both the manga and the anime are complete. You’re better off thinking of them as alternate routes.
The second thing is that fans consider KKOw to be better than Tenshi. It all boils up to an individual’s taste. Not a lot of people are okay with the gender bender genre but everybody loves comedy. Those who claim they don’t like comedy are attention whores. Hmmmph!
Anyways, both KKOw and Tenshi were 10/10 in terms of enjoyment for me. I hope you’ll get into them as soon as possible.