This is the first of a series of manga reviews by yours truly. I’ll be concentrating on off-the-wall stuff that I happen to like, and largely avoiding the really popular stuff that other people have already covered extensively elsewhere. I mostly buy my manga in the original Japanese (at the local Kinokuniya), and many of the titles I’ll be reviewing–including this first one–aren’t yet available in English.
Title: ヤンデレ彼女 (“Yandere Girlfriend”)
Mangaka: 忍 (Shinobi)
Publisher: Square Enix (GanGan Comics JOKER)
Price: ¥476 (US$7.55 at Kinokuniya U.S.A.)
Publication Date: August 22, 2009
Page Count: 144
Yandere Kanojo Cover
Yandere Kanojo is a gag manga with a very direct, straightforward style. It stars Reina Ryuuzaki and Manabu Tanaka. Reina is the leader of the female delinquents in her school, and Tanaka is a diligent but otherwise unremarkable student. “Yandere” normally refers to a girl who’s sick and twisted (from yanderu/病んでる) but has a flustered, lovestruck, sweet side (deredere/デレデレ). It’s a scarier variant of the tsundere thing that’s become so trendy. Yandere Kanojo doesn’t have a yandere character; instead, the “yan” in the title comes from Yankii (a female delinquent). Reina is this peculiar kind of “yandere,” a mean girl who can kick the crap out of anyone who crosses her path, but can be embarrassed and downright sweet when it comes to Tanaka.
So, like, I figured we could start dating and stuff…
In a typical manga storyline there would probably be a volume or two of them fumbling around trying to connect despite secondary characters with rivalries and jealousies going on. Here, Reina falls for Manabu, and while she’s trying to figure out what to do about it, it turns out that he likes her too. Problem solved! (Well, at first she assumes the letter he put in her locker was a challenge, but…) That’s not to say there’s no conflict in the story, but it tends to come more from Reina getting embarrassed or angry, or just falling back into her delinquent habits and slugging people.
After years of titles like Love Hina where an actual relationship is the end-point of the story rather than a beginning like in real life, I find it refreshing to read a manga where two lovers can earnestly connect. That said, while the comic is occasionally heartwarming, for the most part it’s about a bunch of really strange people. Tanaka is the most normal character by far, but his cute younger sister Mayami is a masochist who gets off on having Reina beat her up. Tanaka also has a rival in Tsubasa Shiratori, a “perfect” student who prizes his #1 spot in the school’s test rankings.
Mayami’s perfect vision of the future.
The format is an odd mixture of 4-panel comic strips and full-page strips (which typically have 5 or 6 panels), and while most of them have a gag at the end, they always cohere into an ongoing storyline, however absurd. This first volume catapults the reader through its take on a series of cliché manga high school tropes (athletics festival, studying for a big test, etc.). This could be a turn-off if you feel like you’ve read one high school manga too many, but seeing Reina trying to participate in a more normal school life despite her delinquent tendencies is the main appeal of Yandere Kanojo.
Does she even know how a 3-legged race actually works?
Shinobi’s art style seems like it has a little bit of shoujo manga influence, especially with Tanaka’s character design, but on the whole it’s expressive and fun despite not being the most technically proficient. Some panels—like where Reina wears cute, normal clothes for her first date with Manabu—are very well done, while in others the characters get badly out of model.
Her mom came up with this outfit for their first date…
Shinobi does a good job of cartoonishly portraying Reina’s over the top reactions, whether she’s blushing furiously, yelling at the top of her lungs, going crazy and attacking people or (as is often the case) all three at once. It lacks the stirring depictions of scenery in Azuma Kiyohiko’s recent works, but I was never confused about what was going on, and where the art could’ve been better, it didn’t particularly detract from the experience.
What *is* that?
I picked this manga up at Kinokuniya on a whim because I thought the title was amusing, and I voraciously read the whole thing in about a day. It’s not the very best manga out there, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun. In the final analysis, Yandere Kanojo is a little technically flawed, but in my opinion just too fun to pass up. I give it a 4 out of 5 rating.
Also, I love the visual table of contents, and I’m totally going to steal the idea for some of my own projects: