Friday, March 4, 2011

Oresama Teacher Volume 1

By Izumi Tsubaki. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.

First of all, Viz, if you're going to keep the original title, perhaps you might want to actually define Oresama somewhere in the book. (For the record, it translates to "My Teacher", sort of, but with the 'My' in an over the top way.)

I was a big fan, as readers of this blog are well aware, of Tsubaki's previous release from the Shojo Beat line, The Magic Touch. In fact, at times it seemed I was one of the only fans. After The Magic Touch ended, I had hopes that Viz would pick up her new series, still running in Japan, which no doubt would learn from the flaws of her first manga (lovable yet messy and scatterbrained) and give us a powerhouse shoujo manga that takes no prisoners!

Well, can't have everything. :) In its defense, I found Volume 1 of this series a lot of fun, with a highly amusing and kickass teacher, and the addition of not only a smirky guy but also a grumpy guy - two stereotypes for the price of one! Her art has evolved so that it looks more polished, though the panels are still as packed as ever. Magic Touch sometimes had trouble figuring out if it should focus on the massage or the romances - here, the author tells us straight up she's writing a comedy, and is quite happy that she doesn't have to worry about the love. And there's tons of funny stuff here, exactly as you'd expect from a comedy. The bunny mask was a highlight.

But oh my god, it's as messy as ever. This is not helped by the oversharing in the author's sidebar notes, where she tells us how the manga came to fruition. This is not untypical in manga sidebars, especially with HtY titles, but the overall feeling is that the author is a giant ditz. Now, most of this is the author writing in such a way that it paints her as this deliberately, and we do get a good sense of the editorial process here - submit idea, rejected, try again, editor suggests a type of plot, suggest ideas around that, editor leads you towards what they want from you - but it combines with the breathless quality of the first volume itself to make you imagine the author is telling you the story as fast as she can speak after running 2 miles to find you, while backtracking every few minutes to toss in something she just remembered.

This can actually work in favor of the series as well. Possibly my favorite part of the volume is in the chapter where Mafuyu (our ex-delinquent heroine - though the ex is in question after only a few pages) gets the suspicion that her teacher Takaomi might have been the high school boy she fell in love with as a child. After trying various amusing yet dumb ways to get her teacher's personal info, he finally confronts her. He then flat out tells her "Since you're already looking into it, I'll tell you - yes, I was the boy next door." What would be, in a normal shoujo manga, one of the longer-running subplots, where our heroine finally realizes the truth around Volume 7, is stated flat-out on page 106 of the first volume. The anticlimax is wonderful.

That said, we then get the background for this, which starts with a suspiciously false-sounding explanation that she fell from the parallel bars the day before he moved away and had memory loss, and then shows us that their real-life past interaction seems to be him bullying and torturing this nice, sweet little girl into becoming a thug. It's totally played for comedy, but the suggestion is still there. What's more, it's laid out in such a way that I had to read it 3 times to get it - the "Mafuyu, go!" running scene especially needed something in Chapter 1 or 2 to lead up to it, so there's more of an 'aha' moment for the reader.

So yeah, it's another series from Tsubaki that looks like she simply sits down every week, starts drawing whatever, and then stops 30 pages later. Luckily, the whatever is great fun, with another in a series of Hana to Yume heroines who are strong as an ox and about as dense. And with the romance de-emphasized (though I'm sure it will be there), we get to see the denseness play out in terms other than "What is this strange feeling in my chest?". I look forward to more.

2 comments:

  1. I would say "Oresama" is more "I" or "Me," the teacher speaking about himself. A possessive "my" would be "oresama no teacher." Anyway, it's a really arrogant and masculine way of referring to yourself, as I understand it.

    Very entertaining review—I can't wait to get my copy!!! Izumi Tsubaki is nuts, but that's why I love her work.

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  2. So probably the closest approximation to it in English would be something like "I, the Great Teacher" or "I Am the World's Greatest Teacher." This misleadingly makes it sound as if the teacher is the viewpoint character, and might also be thought to sound too much like the unabbreviated title of the unrelated shonen(?) manga "GTO"--i.e., "Great Teacher Onizuka." Under the circumstances, I guess I can see why they decided to stick with "Oresama Teacher."

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