Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Darling! Miss Bancho Volume 1

By Mayu Fujikata. Released in Japan as "Ah! Itoshi no Bancho-sama" by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by CMX.

I have to admit that I had different expectations going into this. I knew about the basic premise - a girl finds out that she's the only female at an all-male Vo Tech, and through a series of wacky misunderstandings, ends up as the Bancho of the school. But I was sort of expecting the girl to be an ass-kicker. Similar to Sachie from Wild Ones, a manga not entirely dissimilar to this one.

Instead, Souka is pretty much a normal shoujo heroine. Happy but shy, easily stressed, and understandably upset that she's being kowtowed to by a bunch of thugs. Now admittedly, the thugs are pretty nice once you get to know them. These are Shoujo gang members, and the one or two stereotypical guys are knocked off fairly quickly, leaving us with the main pretty boy and his pretty companions. It is amusing that, with all the teen gang shonen manga running for 47 volumes in magazines like Shonen Champion and Young King in Japan, we end up with this as our bancho title.

As other reviewers have indicated, given the basic incredibly silly premise, it's best to treat this as goofily as possible. The early parts of the manga serve as setup, but are a bit too realistic, which just makes you feel bad for Souka. They do have a nice moment, however, where Souka is being threatened and gets half her hair hacked off. These little moments of "Souka reaches down and finds her inner ass-kicker" will be what drives the manga, I hope. We get an even better one at the end of the volume, which leads to the cast bowing down before her. No, seriously.

There is the guy as well, and I admit I haven't really gotten a handle on him as much. Then again, this is Volume 1. Yuuji seems to be the ideal boyfriend type seen in so many of these manga, though it's nice to see him get a few more flaws later on, such as his jealousy. His three cohorts, likewise, have had very little to do at the moment, but I expect that to change. I'm hoping the cast will get a little more well-rounded, but this is a comedic shoujo manga, so it may not happen.

The art is good, with CMX getting decent reproduction for once (this has been an issue for me with several past CMX titles). I liked the way that they handled the near-constant use of the term bancho, which is after all the main reason for the entire plot. Souka brings it up in her first line of dialogue ("Bancho?! You mean a gang leader?!"), and from then on it's just used as if it was an English word.

This series is not going to go outside the norm, and likely will merely be 'cute and fun' the rest of its run. But cute and fun is enough sometimes, and the series is likeable, with a refreshing lack of long-term jerks. Another good mid-range title from the folks at CMX.

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