Monday, February 7, 2011

Seiho Boys High School! Volume 4

By Kaneyoshi Izumi. Released in Japan as "Men's Kou" by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Comic ("Betsucomi"). Released in North America by Viz.

I have to feel bad for Maki here at the start of this volume. Much as we'd all like our relationships to be honest and above board, when his new "girlfriend" Erika discovers a picture on his cell phone of his old girlfriend, he just can't bring himself to say "That's actually a picture of my old dead first love who I've been unable to get over and who shares the same name and personality as you, but it's a TOTAL coincidence that I'm trying to date you now." I probably would feel awkward too.

And so the quasi-relationship between the two of them vacillates back and forth here. They're clearly a great couple, and there's a wonderful moment when she's teaching him how to surf when they both briefly drop all the baggage they have and are adorable and sweet... but it's balanced by Maki's utter inability to open himself up, which is not something that can just be dropped. The end of the chapter here does feature Maki and Erika kissing fiercely, and would seem to indicate resolution of some sort... but for some reason it just feels temporary, and indeed when we next see Erika the text labels her as temporary girlfriend again. This is going to take time.

Chapter 2 deals with Arata, a minor character who seems to br the dark, strong, lone-wolf type... but is really just bad at expressing himself. This has led to his girlfriend breaking up with him, as she simply never got any sense he had any feelings for her at all. Sadly, she is trying to get over him by dating a known two-timing jerk. Maki and company to the rescue! Since their school is nowhere near anything, of course, they fix this by arranging a 'mixer' with the school of Arata's girlfriend, and manipulate things so that he finally is able to admit... reluctantly and quietly... that his ex-girlfriend is super cute. Interestingly, the ending remains ambiguous here as well, and we're not sure if the two get back together.

The last two chapters take us back to Miyaji and her crush on Rui. She's starting to get a bit obsessed, apparently having gotten over Rui's stunning rudeness to her a volume or so back... but Rui still isn't taking the hint, and she lacks confidence in herself, thinking that hot guys like Rui are 'A' guys that a 'C' girl like her could never hope to catch. She ends up turning to Hanai for advice (nice timing given he's on the cover), but ironically all she learns to be good at is wearing a mask to hide her real self, something that all the boys who star in this manga are masters of. Rui is, of course, not fooled.

So Miyaji seemingly gives up, and tries Hanai's approach with other guys, but kinds keeping up the act exhausting. And then... oh dear. I had thought that the faux incest plot would be one and done in Volume 1, but no, Mana's back, and she's still desperately in love with her brother. She ends up coming to Seiho with Miyaji, and Rui naturally tries to fend her off by saying Miyaji is his girlfriend. (This makes approximately the 40,000th fake girlfriend/boyfriend in these 4 volumes alone.) As things heat up, and Mana comes on stronger, we remember that, just like Maki, Rui has a past he's trying to overcome. Unlike Maki, his past is throwing herself at him. He's mature enough to know it's bad for both of them, though, and stands firm. Mana may be back, though...

And so at the end Miyaji, now that she knows Rui's past, suggests they try dating for real. Does he accept? Who knows? This volume of Seiho was excellent, but felt incredibly uncertain. Every relationship we see seems to be on rocky footing (even Nogami is hinted to be having another fight with his nurse girlfriend), and half of them are created by false pretenses. Of course, we see this sort of thing in shoujo manga all the time, but it's rare to see it with every character, and it almost seems like the main plot of the series. Love is awkward, requires a lot of work, and a lot of the most passionate love ends up being bad for you. Still, we're halfway through the series, and I suspect at least one of the couples we see here will actually get a happy ending. Probably.

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