By Toru Fujieda. Released in Japan by Akita Shoten, serialized in the magazine Princess. Released in North America by Yen Press.
Toru Fujieda is one of those manga artists who's been around for some time. In the 1990s she was working at Sony Magazines, putting out short shoujo under their imprint. Then in the 2000s she moved to Akita Shoten, and has been releasing fun, medium-length shoujo series in their magazine Princess. One of her previous works, Oyayubihime Infinity, was released over here by CMX, and now we have the Ouendan-loving manga Dragon Girl, which Yen is releasing in 2 giant omnibuses, each covering 2 1/2 volumes of manga.
Yen has a lot of helpful translation notes (which are at the end of each 'volume' in Japanese, slightly awkward for the reader, and make me wonder if the omnibus decision was last-minute), but doesn't actually get into the concept of ouendan, which may be unfamiliar to readers here. 'Male cheerleaders' doesn't really describe the culture and history of the thing, and they aren't really much like female cheerleaders at all, something which is pointed out in this volume. However, they do have similar goals. You can read more here.
Into this school comes Rinna Aizen, a tall, athletic, overly enthusiastic girl whose father was king of all ouendan at this school. It's just recently gone co-ed, so she can finally pursue her dream of following in her dad's footsteps (and also meet the cute boy who encouraged her years ago). This despite the presence of numerous obstacles in the form of high school boys: the leader of the club today, who wants to stay traditional; the unemotional pretty boy who ignores her; the boy who inspired her years ago, who now seems to have become a delinquent; and above all, the evil Class President, who seems to enjoy torturing her because that's what he's like.
Yes, in case you hadn't guessed, for all of its focus on cheering clubs and high school drama, what we have here is a reverse harem series. This is actually one of its strengths, as we're halfway through the manga with this omnibus and I'm still not entirely certain who she'll end up with. Most reverse harems (or regular male-lead harems, for that matter) give a large pile of love interests short shrift while concentrating on the boy you know the heroine will pick eventually. But honestly, we could go in one of three directions here with no real logical leaps. Impressive.
To be honest, a lot of this is shoujo paint-by-numbers. If you're looking for shocking twists or new variations on a standard theme, you're not going to find them here. That said, this is a fantastic manga for me, as it pushes a lot of MY buttons. Rinna is exactly my sort of manga heroine - tall, strong, loud, a bit dense, and cheerful as the day is long - and seeing her personality slowly win over others is another favorite plotline of mine. Also benefiting the series is the fact that Rinna's immediately given two best female friends (who are almost polar opposites), who help make the reverse harem aspect of the plot slightly less obvious, and give a wall of common sense for Rinna to occasionally run into. Nice to see this in Volume 1, where usually it takes series like Ouran 9 or 10 volumes to do this.
Most of all, Dragon Girl passes my most important test: I really, REALLY want to find out what happens next. After reading it, I went to Yen's site to see when the 2nd and final volume is due out. (Yen says 'Spring', Amazon says February.) It's not the best shoujo in the world, but it's fun, funny, and doesn't offend my sensibilities. That's a winner for me.