Last month, the criminally intelligent and funny Kate Dacey added a few new items to her Manga Hall of Shame. Among them was 4-koma series Lucky Star. Among her many – and all completely valid – criticisms was the plaintive request, “Dear Manga Publishers: Please stop licensing 4-koma titles. Most of the translated material in this format is at best dull — wait, was that a joke? — and at worst incomprehensible…”
I wish I could disagree with her but, despite the ridiculously large numbers of 4-koma series I follow, I can’t. Before you get all bent out of shape about it, consider this:
4-koma are the equivalent of “comic strips” here in the west.
My gut tells me that few people would rush to read “Blondie” or “Sally Forth” if they were translated into Japanese for much the same reason 4-koma fail to be hysterical here – sitcom-itis. Each character has one, maybe two qualities, each of which is rendered down into a joke or visual gag. The sum of the plot is three or four situations into which this 2-dimensional (both figuratively and literally) ensemble is thrown, with resulting yucks and heehaws. The only way to change the dynamic is to add characters or props.
This is not to say that *all* American comic strips are bad, nor is it to say that all Japanese 4-koma are impenetrable or unfun. Realistically though, even a lot of the ones I like are not that great. :-)
Which brings me to the subject of today’s review, Rakka Ryuusui (落花流水), Volume 4.
It’s not bad…but it ain’t great. Here are my reviews for Volume 1 and Volume 2. I never did get Volume 3, in which I apparently missed nothing because the main topic of conversation in Volume 4 is…allergies. Yes, still.
It’s both funny and really, really boring all at once. Animal allergies, pollen allergies…I sympathize but seriously, how many comic strips about high school girls’ post-nasal drip can one read before the glamor wears off?
What passes as Yuri in this series is taken up by Akatsuki who idolizes and follows around Yu, who suffers allergies. And Akiho still has a crush on her sempai.
The only real downside to this particular series of comic strips is that while I tuned in to read about the allergy-suffering of the Kyuudo club while wearing cool hakama and carrying cool weapons, I’m subjected to them suffering allergies while wearing bathing suits and… horror! cheerleading outfits. It was unforgivable. They can be as sniffly as they like – while doing archery. Once they stop that, I’m outta here.
Art – 6
Story – 6
Characters – 6
Yuri – 2
Service – 4
Overall – 6