First of all, thank you very much to everyone who sent their good wishes for our continued health. ^_^ I’m mostly okay, the wife is going to the doctor’s in about an hour.
Secondly, my deepest appreciation and thanks go out to everyone who sent me something from my Wish List. I will absolutely be reviewing everything you sent, but my sincere thanks to you all for your kindness and generosity. (Getting my mail today was a bit like Christmas morning. ^_^)
Now, on to today’s most excellent review, by our most excellent Guest reviewer, Sean Gaffney.
I received High School Girls, Volume 7 yesterday from Dr. Master’s online store, a mere year after Volume 6. HSG has ‘caught up’ with Japan, so I suspect we will start to see it as the traditional twice a year release that most caught up with Japan series get.
Content first: the series continues to be hilarious. There are tons of quotable lines, my favorite at the moment being “Teach me how dumb people study!”. The girls are as themselves as ever, though this volume does emphasize a subtle shift in the focus of the manga that we’ve seen since Volume 4.
When the manga began, Eriko, Yuma and Ayano were the stars, with Kouda, Himeji, and Ogawa as supporting players. The mere fact that the other three are *still* called by their last names emphasizes this. However, after a while it became clear that Kouda needed more air time, and needed to be paired with Eriko more. These were the most consistently funny situations.
So now you have the manga of Volumes 4-present, which stars Eriko and Kouda, with Yuma and Ayano dropping back to supporting. (Himeji and Ogawa have always had much smaller roles in the manga (they’re called ‘second string’), and the anime beefed up their presence a lot.)
In addition, when this shift takes place, the class itself, which had been fairly faceless, begins to get real people. Kouda divides them up into groups (A Girls, Sports, etc.) and they tend to stay there, but they do get personalities, especially the ‘Takarazuka pair’, our canonish lesbian couple. The manga has, to a certain degree, broadened its focus, and it’s made for a much better story.
This volume the stories involve the girls trying to figure out how to attract guys with the help of Yuma’s bitchy younger sister; Eriko suddenly finding it hard to concentrate and thinking that the others have turned her dumb (hands down the funniest story here); Himeji and Ogawa getting a focus story devoted to their friendship; and the school trip.
The trip is what would be called a ‘major arc’; it takes half of this volume and all of the following. Eriko and Kouda are naturally in charge of it, and find that the others have all agreed to hang out with other groups for a change. Himeji with the A-Girls, Ogawa with the Funky-Girls, Yuma with the Sports group, and Ayano with the Freaks. This leaves our heroines rooming with Nao and Sayaka (as Yuma notes, “Make sure you don’t get in their way…”) Eriko, thinking they’re all ‘divorcing’, then begins to freak out as only Eriko can do.
The volume ends with a nightmarish plane ride in which Kouda deals with air sickness and Eriko with her period, in the traditional unsubtle style of this book. The trip itself will be covered in Book 8.
So, I enjoyed the content, now what about the presentation? Well… they’re trying a lot harder, I’ll grant them that. We now have honorifics, complete with a guide at the back. The cover is handsome, and there are color pages at the start. I could do without the mature content label being in a voice bubble on the front cover, but hey. There are some culture notes, which are mostly… inadequate. Takarazuka is not described well at all, and some jokes are simply altered for the English volume, such as Yuma missing being the ‘tsukkomi’ of the group. But yes, it’s much better than Volumes 3-6 were.
There’s 4-komas interspersed throughout, and the end has a character poll that was done in Japan. The poll itself is very interesting, and tells you a lot about the Japanese audience for HSG; Ogawa’s #2 behind Eriko (loli loli loli get your adverbs here…), while Himeji is #11, behind some really minor characters. The art of Himeji sitting at a desk in deep depression is funny and rather touching. :)
The cover art style has changed, as the Japanese publishers redesigned 1-6 and re-released them before doing 7. Dr. Master are unlikely to re-release 1-6, so we just get a major style change. Yuma’s sister Momoko is on the cover.
Lastly, any yuri? There’s pretty much the usual. Nao and Sayaka are as gay as ever without actually saying they’re gay, holding hands on the plane and gazing adoringly at each other. Kouda, as Erica has noted in past reviews, has an unconscious crush on Eriko badly, and the scene where she poses in fairly outrageous bathing costumes for her would be Yuri if it weren’t so dumb.
This is likely hard to find at the moment (it was solicited late from Diamond, and Amazon has it in their ‘1-3 months’ category for shipping). I got it from the publisher’s store. But if you can get it, grab it. It’s the usual funny, vaguely gross, occasionally heartwarming High School Girls antics. Oh, and you get to see Kouda wearing a King Cobra as a bathing suit. And nothing else.
Art: 7. Mostly for the very amusing Kouda costumes.
Story: 8. Very funny, and more focused than before.
Characters: 7. Ditto.
Yuri: 4. Despite an ‘almost canon’ couple, there’s not much in this.
Service: 8. As always, there’s a high sleaze factor balanced with the practical discussions of life as a woman that would drive away many Fanboys. But any manga which has Kouda wearing a strap-on on her forehead will have a high service rating.
Once again, thanks so much, Sean! I’ve got so much floating around here, I’m not even sure where to start. (I know, you all feel my pain, I’m sure.)
I’m back to work tomorrow, and quite possibly overwhelmed, so no promises for reviews, but I’ll do my best. ^_^