Welcome back to Guest Review Wednesday here on Okazu! Today I am delighted to welcome back Ayra for a review of the last volume of this series. Thank you Ayra, thank, thank you! As always, it’s a genuine pleasure to have you here.
The decisive moment is here! In this final chapter of Ichiroh!, Nanako, Akane and company finally take the series of exams that will determine their fate. Will they pass and become proud university students, or will they fail again and become niroh?
Upon reading long-running stories, it’s not uncommon to feel as if the author ran out of ideas regarding the setup of the story and its characters. This is, unfortunately, the case for Ichiroh!, Volume 5. Even the author mentions that Nanako’s year as an ichiroh (nickname for someone who failed the university exams in their first year of studying to retake them) could not be dragged out further. This lack of ideas unfortunately shows quite clearly within the first few pages.
All volumes of Ichiroh! have pages 1 to 9 in color. In the first three volumes, they were regular story pages. In the fourth, they were story pages with fanservice overlays. In the fifth volume, they are merely pure fanservice images with no text and no relationship to the actual story. This definitely sets a bad first impression for the volume.
The first part of the story consists mainly of wrapping up ‘loose ends’ such as Wakaba’s mother returning, how the maid cafe manages to be succesful without Nanako, while Kozue improves her relationships with friends from her own school.
The second part consists of Nanako and company selecting universities to apply for, as well as actually taking the exams. Nanako and Akane both get acceptance letters but, from different universities. While Nanako resigns herself to that fact, Akane cheerfully rips her acceptance letter, stating that there’s no point in going to that university if Nanako isn’t there with her. And so, they decide to try the more difficult National University exams instead. Shino instantly rips her own acceptance letters to the best universities in Japan upon learning of this, Kozue claims that she failed the private university exams and so she ‘unfortunately’ has no choice but to try for the national exams and Mai’s reasons are never explained.
The third part has Nanako getting a huge fever right before the exams, which causes her to fail it while everyone else gets accepted. For multiple pages, every character seen in the story come to praise her about how kind, awesome, motherly, gentle, intelligent, etc., she is while praying and cheering for her success.
The final part has the entire cast celebrating their success with Nanako giving long speeches at how thankful she is for everyone’s support. Everyone rejoices at the fact that they will be going to the university in the same town as they had currently been in (the same university Shino has been going to), so they will be able to keep having fun with everyone else, with the last page showing the new university students going on a well-deserved trip to Okinawa.
The best word to describe Volume 5 is, “repetitive”. While it is expected for 4-koma comics to recycle jokes and punchlines, Volume 5 does it for multiple strips in a row. For example, it is common in this volume to have 5 virtually identical “Nanako is cheap” jokes in 5 consecutive strips. The result is that, while the first one may be amusing, and that the others could also be if placed at proper places further along in the volume, the constant consecutive repetition gets tiresome very quickly.
The same applies in the second and third part: We see Nanako and crew making last minute preparations to take the private exams. Then we see them doing last minute preparations for the final exams. And then we see Nanako making last minute preparations for the make-up exam.
Finally, while it is somewhat ‘touching’ to see everyone being so supportive of Nanako, it gets tiresome and repetitive extremely fast after a few pages. There’s a profound sense of ‘deja-vu’ while reading this volume, and it’s definitively not a good thing when the volume consists of only 100 pages of story (plus 10 of fanservice and nearly 20 pages of publicity for other manga at the end). It’s also a bit unsettling how no main character beyond Nanako has any goals in life beyond being where Nanako is (or Akane, in Kozue’s case).
Fortunately, there is some redeeming value. There are a few extremely funny and clever strips, the art is pretty good for a 4-koma comic and the story ends on a cheerful, happy note.
Yuri-wise, the content has been increased slightly and it’s the subject of many strips, but it’s still played mostly for laughs. Kozue is now madly in love with Akane and keeps getting in situations where she can spend as much time as possible with Akane, with a helping hand from Shino, who tries her best to hook them up – so that she has Nanako all to herself. Akane obviously loves Nanako and keeps making statements like “I’m nothing without you Nanako,” (as well as tearing up her acceptance letter just to be with Nanako,) but she doesn’t seem to actually realize her own feelings. She obviously likes Kozue very much also, although to a much lesser extent. Finally, Nanako gives Akane a kiss on the forehead to console her during the stressful examination time, which she claims was just as a friend, while she gets teased mercilessly about it by Baa-san and Anko.
Ichiroh! is certainly no masterpiece, and Volume 5 might have been slightly underwhelming, but the series overall is relatively amusing. As far as english Yuri-ish comedy manga go, you could certainly pick worse.
Art – 8 (By 4-koma standards).
Story – 3
Characters – 5
Yuri – 6
Service – 6
Overall – 6