Benten Botan, Volume 1 (弁天ぼたん) by Saida Nika is awesome.
It’s been a while since I had a chance to read something by Saida-sensei, creator of Cirque Arachne (which fixed the biggest problem of Kaleido Star). When I saw that Saida-sensei had a new manga about a gang-girl, I knew I needed to read it. ^_^
Bentenshima Botan has all her life been told about the awesomeness of the gang girls of Japan, by her late mother. When her father decides to leave their home in the Himalayas and return to Japan, Botan could not be more excited. She arrives at her her new all-girls school and announces that she’s willing to take on all comers. Instead of a challenge, all the girls go gaga over the tall, attractive newcomer. When she turns out to be good at sports and smart, too, she has an instant fanclub.
She asks one of the girls where the local banchou is, but cute classmate Sumire informs Botan that that’s ancient history. Bummed, Botan heads off home. On the way she spots an obvious sukeban-type and she and Midori butt heads – literally – for the first time.
The school principal confronts Botan and challenges the young girl to bring it on, but Botan is nowhere near as strong as the principal, who is clearly one of the old-school sukeban her mother admired and, it becomes plain, who admired her.
Sumire confides to Botan that while she has a boy’s body, it was always her dream to go to a girls’ school. Botan promises to protect Sumire and her secret and almost immediately has a chance to insist that Sumire-chan be treasured as is. Midori recognizes that Botan and she share more than just love for the sukeban life and she softens a bit
Sumire, Midori and Botan become friends, which amazes and confuses Midori as, up until now, as the only girl in her household and engineering school, she’s never really has had girl friends, except Sumire. But she learns to like it pretty quickly and Botan’s disarming naivete’ even makes her laugh out loud.
At her grandmother’s bathhouse, Botan encounters a former boy gang member who takes her out for a ride on his bike, and kisses her. She loves the bike, find the kiss interesting and thinks he might be a good guy, until one of Midori’s brothers let her know that he really isn’t. And, as the book comes to a close, we can see Take-chan has some not-good designs on our heroine. What they are we don’t yet know.
In a final chapter we see that along with her fan club at school, Botan has the complete attention of her teacher who has developed a crush on her. But Botan breaks her heart when speaking to her classmates she says she likes Mizuki-sensei – she reminds Botan of her mother. Mizuki works on making that okay in her head while the principal sulks that Mizuki’s nothing like Botan’s mother.
Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 9 There’s no one unlikable
Yuri – 1, LGBTQ – 4
Service – 2 A little, but more artful than gross
Overall – 8
This manga was just a ton of fun in every direction! It runs in Hibana magazine along with After Hours and My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness both of which have been licensed by Viz and Seven Seas, respectively and Shimanami Tasogare, so clearly I am going to have to get this magazine now. You can read a sample chapter of Benten Botan on the Hibana website. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did.