I now have High School Girls Volume 9 in front of me. Despite the cover featuring the
two male teachers in the cast, and not a cute girl like the previous 8, it’s a good volume. (Standard ‘I don’t read Japanese so am guessing via the pretty pictures’ review warning.)
The first chapter does indeed focus on the teacher, Odagiri, and how he’s getting along on this trip. The answer is, not very well. His fellow teachers are freaks, and Kouda and the others torture him. He has a flashback to 3 years earlier, where we see him meet Kouda, fat Himeji, and Ogawa, and it’s clear that Kouda has been an appalling thorn in his side for a long time. Towards the end of the chapter we get the start of a running gag, as Eriko and Kouda imagine the female tour guide being taken advantage of by the horny male teachers. Instead, she’s drinking them all insensate.
The next two chapters are basically short little gags all strung together. Kouda discovers her appalling bathing suits are not the best when it comes to actual swimming… Ogawa resents being unable to wear a bikini as she’s so small, and Himeji tries to help her out… more touristy things as the group explores a cave… they once again think the tour guide is having sex, but she’s just getting her feet rubbed by the bus driver… and some more female-oriented bathroom and shower gags.
We then get a slightly longer bit where Yuma once again runs into the fact that her friends, mostly Eriko, have much larger breasts than she does. She thinks about the remedies she’s tried… drinking milk, working out, toilet plungers (?!), prayer… Eriko seems to suggest injecting silicone, something which is unlikely to work out well.
Then there’s a chapter with Yuma’s sister Momoka going to a boy’s school festival where they’re all cross-dressing. Including Ayano’s boyfriend Shimotakatani. I don’t care for Momoka, so this chapter wasn’t as good as the others. Perhaps translation may improve it. It’s filled with ‘guy’s in women’s underwear’ gags.
Then comes the chapters yuri fans will love. We get Nao and Sayaka, sitting on the hotel balcony at night after Eriko and Kouda have fallen asleep, reminiscing about how they met three years ago. Nao is in the nurse’s office for some reason and Sayaka comes in. We get a definite ‘my true love’ manga stare when they meet face-to-face. :) Nao’s lunch has gone bad, so Sayaka offers some of her ‘all-natural’ lunch, which isn’t much better. Then Kouda, fat Himeji (I do this merely to note the time period, sort of like Fat Elmer from Looney Tunes), and Ogawa burst in, as Kouda has done something stupid and hurt herself. More scenes of the two of them becoming friends and hanging out together. Then Nao shows Sayaka her dog, and the dog slashes open Sayaka’s hand. Off to the ER we go.
At the ER, Nao is being very apologetic and taking care of all the paperwork when she stares at Sayaka’s medical care card. And now, for those who recall Volume 8, we learn the Terrible Secret of Sayaka. No, she’s not secretly a man. :) She’s a year older than Nao, having been held back in school because of her various illnesses and allergies. Turns out Sayaka’s not just a naturalist because she wants to be – she’s allergic to almost everything in the world. Needless to say, being held back a year is a big deal, so she asks Nao to keep it a secret. As they walk back from the ER, we see the first scene of Nao acting cool and yuri-ish, and she notes that she’ll be Sayaka’s protector. From that point on, they were inseparable.
Isn’t that just adorable?
There’s a short epilogue where we see Nao (who was fairly lone wolf before this) dealing with Kouda’s being insane (there’s a short shot showing the now-thin Himeji beaming, so this is clearly the following spring) and Nao and Sayaka getting caught up in their antics a bit. Back in the present, we see the two of them wake up Eriko and Kouda to give Kouda her wish of the pillow fight. Of course, they have to use their own, natural pillows. Which are noticeably more solid. And Sayaka is VERY deadly with them. Despite this, Eriko and Kouda are clearly delighted to be ‘bonding’ at last.
Then there are some 4-komas, including Eriko smacking Himeji in the face with her bra pads using apparently just the sheer power of her boobs.
We then get the final big chapter, with the trip on its last day. They have a big party, with karaoke, and thank the tour guide woman for everything she’s done. The tour guide, watching them, gets melancholy and goes off, and Eriko follows her. After demanding an explanation, the guide notes that when she was in high school, she too had a group of inseparable friends that did everything together. And then came graduation, and now she hasn’t seen or heard from any of them in years. This horrifies Eriko, who is in tears. She returns to the others, determined that she will not let the same thing happen to the Baka Group, and a quick epilogue of them returning home, and Eriko being bright-eyed, optimistic and genki (as usual).
The manga then ends as usual with some more 4-koma wackiness.
I thought, aside from the Momoko chapter that didn’t hold my interest, that this was a very strong volume of HSG. It still had all of what makes it so not-beloved by others including grotesque toilet and sexual humor. But there was also some very good character development (notably, we see Kouda’s ability to be both totally appalling and draw people out of their shells in two different flashbacks) and even a good serious scene. And the story with Nao and Sayaka was not only perfectly done as a comedic romance, but for once handled the yuri beautifully. Can’t wait till Dr. Master imports this.
Art: 7. The art has lost all of the awkwardness it had in early volumes, and is very clean and well-defined. Plus, gotta love those funny faces.
Character: 8. Extra bonus points for Nao and Sayaka’s backstory.
Story: 6. To be honest, half of this was just standard gag manga. But it was FUNNY gag manga. And the story it did have was well done.
Yuri: 9. We didn’t get any of the usual fanservice yuri from the others, but instead we get the reward of REAL yuri. No, there was no kiss, but I don’t care. This was lovely.
Service: 6. The usual ambiguous rating, as the manga is filled with both titillating nudity and grotesque bodily function conversations.
Overall: 8. An excellent addition to the series.