Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Darling! Miss Bancho, vol. 1

The story: After her parents’ divorce, Souka is determined to not be a burden on her now-single mother. Choosing to attend a technical high school, she sets her heart on learning a trade that can help her get a job immediately after graduation.

But, there’s a major kink in her plans—her new school’s male delinquents have caused all the girls to leave and she’s the only one left! Refusing to reveal the truth to her hard-working mom, Souka stays on at the troubled school and, in a hilarious turn of events, ends up a gang leader. Just what will Souka do now that she’s surrounded by tough guys committed to honoring and protecting their new bancho?

Reaction: This story is certainly a different take on reverse-harem comedy—instead of being surrounded by beautiful and silly rich boys, Souka must deal with a bunch of knuckle-headed gang members. While the antics here are as silly as any high school shojo, the technical high school setting and ensemble cast proves a difference maker.

I really liked Souka, especially because she disproves the stereotype that girls don’t like science. If she sets her mind to it, Souka realizes that she “gets” science. Other characters proved equally likeable, especially Katou who belies his greaser exterior with a laughable mother hen personality. It’s a great balance and entertains with its unexpectedness.

Deep thoughts: I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of science-related manga lately. While this book isn’t very scientific, it does drop a few mathematical formulas and chemical names here and there, providing a backdrop of sorts. Overall, I think technical high schools are an interesting facet of Japanese secondary education options and I wonder why more manga don’t feature them. While they don’t have an exact American equivalent, California's high school ROP, or regional occupational programs, are fairly similar, preparing young adults and others for "further educational, employment and occupational changes."

Artwork: There’s a definite evolution of characters in this first volume—in the opening chapter, faces are awkwardly shaped at times. The art is reminiscent of some of the early work by Nari Kusakawa, mangaka of The Palette of 12 Secret Colors and Two Flowers for the Dragon. By volume’s end, there’s more consistency and uniformity in design; I especially liked one character's design in particular, an anonymous gang member who looks like Aang from Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, his bald head tattooed with an arrow. Otherwise, the art here is nice enough, but it doesn’t make a big impression in comparison to other shojo manga.

The verdict: If only… While the humorous story definitely carries this book, there’s a sense of repetitiveness in each story. It wasn’t until volume’s end that things got interesting by introducing a love rival and other complications between Souka and Katou. Luckily, that’s enough to keep me reading until volume two! My Darling! Miss Bancho is available in the U.S. from CMX.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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