Ai Morinaga – Del Rey – 2009 – 12+ volumes
I reviewed this volume for this week’s Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, so check out the review over there.
It’s still funny, and I didn’t even notice the plot wasn’t going anywhere in this volume (but I couldn’t help but notice the horrible teaser pages in the back, which make it look like something exciting happens next time). One thing I always fail to mention when I talk about this series, though, is the food. That’s actually the main theme of the series (hockey is mentioned all of one time in this volume), and it’s quite good at spotlighting different types of Japanese regional delicacies. I learn more about Japanese food from this series and its end notes than I ever will from Oishinbo, which is both sad and amazing.
Noooo! I was all ready for plot development! Hana was all ready to go to France! She told Izumi off! I was so READY! Alas, it is a shoujo manga at heart. You are a cruel, cruel mistress, Ai Morinaga.
The first chapter is just disturbing in a way that only Ai Morinaga can write. It’s actually an entire story about the hate between Wacky and Seimei. Wacky is, of course, the pet chicken, and Seimei is… a little pet dog, I think. Wacky hates Seimei since it spoils the pure love between her and her master, the boy with glasses. She winds up staying with Hana’s childhood friend, the now-slender somewhat perverted kid. Wacky also seems to feed whoever she is with her eggs with some degree of disturbing relish.
Then there are a couple chapters about Hana quitting the Hockey Club in order to work at a bakery part-time and get free pastries. Of course Izumi and company tries to foil this plot, and it doesn’t work… you know. The usual loop, which is unfortunate because I really thought this volume would be the one that moved forward. But bonus points for those yaoi manga girls showing up again. They’re all pretty funny.
The last chapter is a flashback to the childhood of Natsuki, the pretty boy member of the club whose name I can never remember. It’s notable only because it’s mostly the story about this girl who has problems about boys teasing her for lacking a chest and being generally very un-feminine (she is also some sort of karate master) making friends with Natsuki, who she thinks is also a somewhat unfeminine, but very pretty girl. Natsuki goes along with her because he’s so angry about being called a girl. I’m not sure how that works, but it was still funny all the same.
I mean… yeah. I would love for something to happen between Hana and Izumi. I’ve been waiting for this for the ENTIRE SERIES. Every volume is very funny, which impresses me because I’ve never liked an entirely humor-based series for this long, but… I want plot, dammit. It’s a shoujo comic. It needs to act like one.
You know, I keep reading this series hoping for plot development. It’s still funny, but every time I get another volume with no plot development, I get more and more disillusioned. But it’s hard to stay mad at a series that can make me laugh so hard. The laughs were intermittent in this volume, but they were still laughs, and it’s hard to get me to laugh at something like this.
I loved the first chapter, which introduced a student advisor for the Hockey Club. Of course he’s ostentatious and annoying, and a very poor match for the boys. This may have been bad had the chapter not consisted entirely of the teacher doing insane things with a page of disturbed reaction shots from the boys and/or Hana. I mean, there was some dialogue, and a little bit of a plot thrown in at the end, but mostly it was just a litany of weirder and weirder things from the teacher and weirder and weirder faces from the club. They were making keba! faces. It was absolutely brilliant.
The other thing that made me laugh was towards the end of the book. There’s one story about a reformed yaoi fangirl who ungeeked herself in order to snag Izumi. She can’t help but secretly think yaoi fangirl thoughts, so all manner of slashy things happen throughout the chapter, which she tries her hardest to ignore. At the very end, we get a perfect cupcake shot of Izumi sans shirt with pants undone and loose around his waist, and the girl has an explosive nosebleed which splatters all over herself, Izumi, and the walls in a wonderfully convincing splatter pattern. It’s not a sight gag, as Izumi comments on the disgusting nature of what just occurred and the glasses co-captain rushes in to help wipe Izumi off. A lot of the yaoi fangirl jokes were falling a little flat throughout the chapter (it’s hard to top Flower of Life when it comes to that), but that nosebleed had me laughing hard in the back room at work today.
Let’s see, what else? One chapter features a game of kokkuri-san, or Ouija. The board is in Japanese, but the Japanese syllables have been translated into English. I’ve never actually looked at a table of Japanese letters without the Japanese letters, only the sounds. It looks a lot like the Periodic Table somehow. We also very nearly get a kiss between Hana and Izumi in this chapter, but alas.
The afterword is a lengthy discussion of the size of nipples vs. areola size. Very little in the way of context is provided, other than the original subject was a large nipple on a drawing of Izumi.
There are also occasionally very funny gags throughout the other chapters. I’m getting increasingly more frustrated with the lack of plot in this series, but I just can’t stay mad at Ai Morinaga.
Let me do this one really quick tonight. While digging through the stuff on my floor, I uncovered this and realized I’d totally forgotten about this series. I think this has been buried under other stuff for months, which is a shame because it’s still very funny. A double shame, because I read it and then promptly forgot about it again. I think it’s been riding in my bag for nearly a week and I haven’t written about it.
Unfortunately, the romance is still basically going nowhere, and where Ouran HIgh School Host Club starts out with humor that grates on my nerves and then developed a plot I fell in love with, this series started with humor that had me dying from laughing and then… well, failed to develop a plot.
There’s a chapter called “Beware of Lolita?!” which has yet another hilarious and obvious parallel to Ouran High School Host Club… but again, I don’t know what the timing between the two stories is, so I don’t know if Ouran’s kogal came first or the Hokey Club’s. At any rate, a kogal-type character shows up as Hana’s cousin, and then starts hitting on the members of the Hockey Club since she wants to marry a rich guy. This parallels Ouran EXACTLY, except the kogal in that series hit on the main boy, and the girl in this series hit on the second-in-command. Of the two, I think the Hockey Club’s story was funnier, mostly because much was made of the girl being still in grade school while she dressed, looked, and acted much older. I also liked that her love interest had… well, zero interest in her.
HOLY CRAP, THE TWO GIRLS EVEN HAVE THE SAME NAME BETWEEN THE SERIES. That’s… really something. I don’t know what to think of that.
The other really good story in this volume involved… well, boy-who-is-not-a-twin-leader-or-glasses-wearer. Normal boy. The fact I don’t know the names of any of the characters except Hana and Izumi is probably not a good indicator for the plot or character development in this series, but at least an attempt was made this chapter, when normal boy’s father shows up and reveals himself to be a treasure hunter who… well, dresses like a pirate and doesn’t actually find all that much treasure. The club goes back and forth with him since he wants to take normal boy with him to help him find treasure and the club wants to keep him, but things are settled when normal boy’s mother enters the fray. I actually like a lot of the jokes in this chapter, and even though I don’t know normal boy’s name, he’s usually pretty consistently funny when he gets the spotlight.
I still love Ai Morinaga’ sense of humor, but it’s a shame this is more of a gag series than a shoujo manga with a plot. I would love it dearly if it developed a story.
I think I’m sort of falling out of love with this series. It’s still very funny, but… after reading all that Ouran and learning to love that, I just miss not having romance in this series. If only the two main characters were getting together more quickly! Of course, it took me, like, 5 or 6 volumes to get into Ouran, so maybe the best is yet to come. I hope so, because I was pretty sad about not enjoying this as much as I should. I followed this up with the Tokyopop version of Your and My Secret to make myself feel better. That series is also awesome, but I won’t post about it now since I… already reviewed it four years ago.
Actually, to be totally honest, a lot of the humor fell flat in this volume, too. There was a silly chapter about the two twin boys falling in love with a pair of twin girls and everyone “helping” set them up on a date. Of course, things go badly when Hana botches her surveilance, and while there’s a priceless panel of the results of everyone’s grooming at the end of the chapter, things just really didn’t amount to much.
I did like the chapter where everyone was helping Hana study and she basically admitted she was just too stupid to go to school with them. Of course she is tempted with treats and there is a strict and comical study regimen she is forced to stick to, and of course her sleep time is cut into, but the main character is the one who helps her most, and Hana seems very appreciative of this in the end, though there isn’t really a nice moment between them like there sometimes is.
To make up for that, we get a chapter where he spites Hana’s lack of interest in him by petitioning the rest of the eager girls in school for a girlfriend. There’s a silly event where he holds a haunted house to take girls through and the rest of the members of the club dress up as horror-type characters, but bear in mind that the president of the hockey club hates ghosts more than anything.
But nothing major to report. I’m hoping Hana sort of starts… reciprocating the presidents feelings, even a little bit, sometime soon, or at least the stories get a bit more interesting, because while it’s still pretty funny, I gotta admit I’m getting a little bored with it.
Also, in case you were wondering, no hockey is played. Hockey may only actually come up like 3 or 4 times in the entire volume. I have to admit, the strict avoidance of hockey is something I really admire about it.
…Ooh. While I still thought this series was a riot, I wasn’t as charmed by this volume as I was by the first two. I’m wishing there was slightly more character development, particularly for the two main characters. They’ve got enough personality to make them funny though, and I still like the situations they wind up in.
My favorite chapter in this volume was one towards the end of the book which forced the two main characters to pretend they were engaged. This is in the rich boy’s house, and Hana doesn’t really know how to act, nor does she particularly care. But she has to pretend to be the boy’s fiancee so he is not forced to marry a girl who seems to be able to conjure ghosts. There’s lots of good gags, including the inexplicable appearance of his father. Hana also winds up drunk and disrobed at the end of the chapter, so I’m all for that as well.
There was another really funny chapter where the characters show up at an old-fashioned Hot Springs resort and find it a little too… old and run-down. In the middle of escaping, they break things, including the proprietress’s back, so they wind up having to stay on and help while she recuperates. The old couple that runs the inn exploits the boys for all their worth, and they wind up getting a lot of business by forcing the boys to do things like… bathe older women and the like. Hana winds up causing a really weird situation by feeding the boys aphrodisiac mushrooms, and then bails with them when something bad happens.
I take back what I said. This volume was hilarious and every bit as good as the first one.
In case you were wondering, volume 2 is still hilarious. The random, one-off gags were what got to me this time, and my favorite part was probably a one-panel gag where Hana was sleeping in a hammock, wakes up and looks at her arms, then yells “HAM!” with a shocked expression on her face due to the pattern the hammock left on her skin. I don’t know why this struck me as so funny, but I laugh every time I think about it. Another good one involved a Japanese pun that didn’t translate so well in English, but the feeling was there, and the boys suddenly appearing in overalls and declaring themselves the “Chub Club” is a hard image to shake.
The relationship between Hana and the main male character (whose name escapes me right now) is cute, but developing way slower than I would like. While it’s cute they keep falling asleep on each other, I would like more, please.
The best chapter this time around was probably where the Hockey Club got invited to play a game for the first time. The club who invited them turned out to be one who was too poor for away games, and actually so poor that they couldn’t afford proper equipment. Since their stuff was so broken, no one around their school would play them either. Of course, with the main characters all being rich boys, there are a bunch of obvious gags, but this situation just keeps building on itself and getting better and better. There’s food involved in the end (of course), but there’s a lot of weird stuff, too. The main male character, for instance, thought one boy’s cardboard shin guards were awesome, so he traded his. All the main characters are pretty fascinated with the way these boys work. The main male character also gets a lot of development in this chapter, and he even does a nice thing after being sort of a jerk to the poor boys.
Another good chapter involved the Hockey Club briefly becoming the Judo Club. The manly girls in the Judo Club are into this, since the main males are kind of rolling around on each other trying to pull off moves they saw in manga. Really, the manly girls carry the chapter in this case. Hats off to them.
And that really was the moral of this volume: hats off to manly girls.
Ai Morinaga is one of those mangaka that I think deserves a high five. Her and Moyoko Anno both. Unfortunately, Morinaga’s two other series in English are unfinished, but here’s hoping we see the end of this one. She’s one of the few people that can make me laugh HARD when I read any one of her volumes. I assure you, they are all awesome, but since this is the first one I’ve had since… 2004, I guess, it’s hard to judge it objectively against the other two series that are available.
This one doesn’t disappoint. It’s hilarious, and as I may have mentioned before, it’s hard to get me to genuinely like humor manga (I laugh quite a bit at Jojo too, but I don’t know if that counts). Both the plot and the characters are hilarious, and there’s no one-trick pony involved in its jokes. Absolutely everything is hilarious. The plot is basically that this group of rich boys decide to start a Field Hockey team, except none of them know how to play field hockey, and they all like to travel. Since there are no teams locally to play against, this means picking a spot randomly on the map and calling up a team there for a match. This usually doesn’t work out that well, but they get a lot of hot springs visits in.
There are some miscellaneous background characters, including a glasses-wearing team manager, a pair of twins that place no value on their individual names, and maybe some others I’m forgetting about, but there’s really just the main girl and main boy. The girl studied really, really hard to get into this high school because it’s 300 meters from her house and it means she can sleep more since she can get up later and get home earlier to take a nap. Unfortunately, on the way there her first day, she gets hit by the car of the main boy, who drafts her onto the Hockey team instead of making her pay for damages. She doesn’t like this since it involves morning practice. Apparently, he likes her, but they’re both such WEIRD people there’s not the normal romance you’d get in a shoujo manga. This is a Morinaga romance, which is hilarious and dysfunctional.
The main girl, Hana, just does not like this Field Hockey business at all, but can’t think of a way out of paying for the car. Throughout the course of this volume, her most pressing concerns seem to be succumbing to extreme bouts of narcolepsy and chastising the various club members for trying to drag her into their rich boy way of life. The more-or-less-one-shot chapters are, needless to say, insane. Two practice matches are attempted and one side vacation is taken. There are bears, cheesecake, monkeys, helicopters, and train v. helicopter wars involved.
It’s VERY FUNNY. It’s hard to adequately describe how awesome this series is. Get it if you want a good laugh. This is not a sports manga, and it’s all the better for pretending to be.