Seiho Boys’ High School 8

November 2, 2011

Kaneyoshi Izumi – Viz – 2011 – 8 volumes

I loved this series all the way through. It’s all about the characters, and the one-shot-ish stories are all the right mix of humor and sweetness and romance. It’s one of those types of series where I can’t point to any one thing and say that it does it better than other shoujo manga, but it just does everything really well, and it was fun to read.

I was a little disappointed by the ending. The humor fled the stories here, in favor of taking care of serious business and wrapping up the story. Actually the story didn’t really “wrap up,” and the series finishes with the characters still in high school. There’s just some Very Serious Developments between Maki & Erika and Kamiki & Miyaji. The developments are well-trodden shoujo ground, but it does pull a few fake-outs, and just when I thought it was going to take one way out, it turned around and picked a completely different path.

While I do appreciate some character development, it’s the humor I love most in this series. The way the characters make jokes and interact with each other is just so… them. It’s perfect. And if the series was going to have a non-ending anyway, I would have liked it to go out on a happy note, which is why I liked it best.

Still, Seiho Boys’ High School is worth reading. Don’t let my disappointment with the ending dissuade you. The last book is still okay, and the rest of the series is fantastic. Well worth reading for any shoujo fan.

I also liked the last, unrelated story that fills out the volume. It’s set in the “universe” of Seiho Boys’ High School since the girl mentions the all-girls school that Erika and Miyaji go to, and I thought I recognized the male character, but it’s obvious that the two characters attend a co-ed high school, something that doesn’t come up in the series. It’s a lot… spicier than the main story, which is strange given Izumi’s comments in the side bars about not wanting to write all-boys’ high school stories that were too raucous for shoujo manga. It’s got an asshole love interest, unfortunately, but I love that the female main character more-or-less acknowledges this. Liking it probably makes me a bad person, but what can I do.

But yes. This series gets high marks for me. There are series I like better, but this one definitely ranks near the top, and is one of the funniest to boot. Give it a try.

Kaneyoshi Izumi – Viz – 2011 – 8 volumes

I love this series. It makes me so happy to read it, and it’s so funny and charming that I can’t help but read the newest volume as soon as it arrives. It’s still a series of mostly unconnected short stories about the students in an all-boys high school, but that’s all it needs to be when the characters are as charming as these.

The first story is, unusually, about a character that isn’t in the main group. He’s a freshman, so a year younger than Maki and company. We learn about his self-professed cross to bear: a guy-crazy female friend he went to junior high with. He applied to Seiho, the isolated boys school, as a way to get away from her, but she continues to call him about her boy troubles and comes out to visit in order to hit on the other male students. This drives him crazy, as he has a crush on her and she looks in every direction but his. It’s a sweet and very indirect love story, and the chapter offers no good solution to the problem. The two continue on their troubled way.

One interesting thing about this story is that Maki plays the part of a bully. It almost hurt, seeing him being so cruel, even if it was for a good cause. I have no idea why he had to pick a fight in order to make his point. Uncharacteristic, I suppose, but it was definitely unusual.

Continuing on with stories that feature characters acting off, the next story is about good-looking, popular, dependable Kamiki. He suddenly snaps, and basically acts coldly and rude to just about everyone. He even tells off his girlfriend. We get some backstory about why Kamiki is the way he is, but it’s nothing terribly heavy. Seeing him being so mean is definitely a shock to the system, and it upsets all of the characters a great deal. And again, Maki picks a fight with him and they nearly come to blows. I wasn’t terribly satisfied with the resolution to this story, but I did like that the theme was about how even the perfect guy can have a bad day.

The next story was about a student teacher that all the boys admired for breaking down and raking them over the coals for their poor decision to go to a boys school, informing them that they would emerge tragically ill-prepared to deal with life among women. The boys admire him a great deal for this pep talk (there is a typical panel with the shocked faces of all the main characters thinking “This guy is totally qualified to prepare us for real life!”). Not believing that Maki, Kamiki, and Nogami have girlfriends, he pesters Maki to meet his until the two come to blows. This is resolved wonderfully and very realistically at the end of the story by none other than Erika herself.

The final story is an unusual one, about the friendship between Erika (Maki’s Girlfriend) and Miyaji (Kamiki’s girlfriend). It’s the type of bittersweet story that this series does so well, where Miyaji spends the whole story listing all the things she admires about Erika. In an attempt to make Miyaji feel better, Erika encourages her to repeatedly text Kamiki, and we see the other side of the conversation from earlier that ended with Kamiki blowing up at her. Miyaji then says many hurtful things to the brusque Erika, who refuses to comfort her. It’s al okay in the end, but seeing the friendship between the girls at work, what sweet Miyaji thinks of her wonderful friend and boyfriend, and seeing the other side of what some of the other stories show us is always a lot of fun.

And while these are all good stories, it’s just important to keep in mind that the key to Seiho is that it’s a genuinely funny manga with excellent characters. It knows just what to do to make these guys both funny and touching, and we have very little to work with save for the seemingly boring lives of the students in an isolated boys school. It always makes me laugh, and I love seeing the characters interact in every volume.

Funny, sweet, a little sentimental, and great at capturing the fun things about high school without being overly dramatic or going over-the-top with its jokes. I love it, and I can’t wait to see the next volume. It’s the last, and I’m very curious how a meandering series like this can be brought to a close.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Kaneyoshi Izumi – Viz – 2011 – 8 volumes

I feel like I’ve already talked about this series’ good points a thousand times, but they bear repeating, because every volume is just as funny and sweet as the last one. I loved the first two chapters in this volume (well, two chapters, and two short bonus stories), as they were about super-jerk Nogami and how much he really cares for his girlfriend. The two of them were having issues, but their relationship was never really in any danger, and it was wonderful to see Nogami so completely at a loss and asking for help.

And did I mention that this took place during the school festival? One where Nogami suggested crossdressing as a theme, and everyone was depressed because they made such ugly girls? Oh yeah, that was gold. It goes right along with the comments I made about the humor in Goong, about how I love comic creators who can utterly humiliate their characters for maximum laughs. You have to have really strong characters to be able to pull that off, and Seiho Boys’ High School definitely succeeds in that.

The next story was pure comedy, about a gigantic box of “blue ribbon” pornography being passed from room to room, the story of how and why it was making its move around the dorm, and what happened during a dorm inspection. But even during pure comedy, Maki paused for a moment to reflect on graduation and what his time in high school might mean several years down the road. It was a nice pause, and the bittersweetness mixed well with the comedy.

The final story… the final story was about Takano and Maki. These stories are always a little bit about the two of them getting closer as a couple. But this story was also about how Maki is apparently the only virgin among his group of friends. Many things happen in this story. One of them is this.

(an image, sorta NSFW, but not really dirty… mostly just funny)

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Kaneyoshi Izumi – Viz – 2011 – 8 volumes

Have I mentioned how much I like this series? I like it a lot. It’s really hard not to. It’s full of humor and a lot of little nuances and insight into the lives of the characters, who are mostly just normal high schoolers with normal high school lives. Not too much drama, and what’s there is easy to address, overcome, or laugh at. The format is also perfect, with each chapter covering a mostly-standalone story. Maki always worries about his girlfriend, and Miyaji is always trying to get together with Kamiki, but other things happen, too.

I still love the running joke that all the students at Seiho are grossed out by the all-male status of their school. Not just because they want dates, but because teenage boys are sloppy and unkempt when left to their own devices. They bring this up every chance they get. There’s an entire chapter about how Hanai wants to “photograph the beauty around him,” but can’t find any and has to resort to selling photos of his classmates to acquaintances at an all-girls school. This ends in embarrassing photos of Seiho boys doing strange things, as you can imagine.

As often as it is serious, there’s usually a funny twist to keep things light, and vice-versa, things can turn bittersweet in the middle of a humorous story. The best example of the flip-flopping in this volume is the first chapter, where the exam-weary students swear there is a ghost haunting the grounds. Maki worries that it is the ghost of his dead girlfriend, but by the end of the story, it turns out to be… something a little less serious. Even so, Maki’s worry isn’t entirely groundless, and the story goes from funny to sad to sweet in just a few pages at the end.

And I know I’m like a broken record with this business, but really, this series has great characters. I say that every time. There’s just something likable and addictive about Maki, Nogami, Kamiki, and all the guys at Seiho. The stories would be mundane if they didn’t have such great personalities. And they never break character to get too serious or over-the-top. I really like that about this series.

Lots of good things happen here. Connections are finally made, and relationships re-affirmed. While I’m never on the edge of my seat waiting for the next volume, since there’s no ongoing storyline to look forward to, a new volume of Seiho Boys’ High School is an almost guaranteed pleasure to read all the same, and it’s easy to pick up and read for that reason alone. Highly recommended.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Kaneyoshi Izumi – Viz – 2011 – 8 volumes

This series is a great example of how a character-driven series works: give your characters enough personality, and their quirks make for a wonderful reading experience. The best way to describe this series, still, is just chapter after chapter of boys being boys, and the weird girls that find their way into their all-boys isolated world. It does it without sliding into shoujo manga stereotypes about all-boys schools, or bad male stereotypes in general. Each chapter still mostly focuses on one of the central cast of characters, with Maki more or less holding everything together.

The first chapter takes a look at the relationship between Maki and his new sorta-beau Erika, and how honesty figures in. Maki is honest about his relationship with his former girlfriend, but of course he leaves enough information out (such as the fact she passed away) to put his honor in doubt. More or less, it’s just a complex little dance between Maki and Erika as they learn more about each other and how they feel. As mundane as that sounds, the characters are written so well that it doesn’t really matter what’s going on, but the relationship between the two is believable and, really, all that story needs.

The second story is about Arata and his long-distance girlfriend. Arata’s the type of guy who’s huge and quiet and is mostly misunderstood since he looks kind of scary. He doesn’t really know how to express himself, or show his feelings to his girlfriend, nor how to react when she breaks up with him. He’s upset, but how does he fix it? We haven’t seen much of Arata, and his girlfriend hasn’t appeared before this story, so it’s interesting to compare it to the first story (where both characters have a well-established backstory) and see how little time it really takes for Kaneyoshi to build up likable characters and still tell a story that’s all sorts of sweet. Also, funny. I probably don’t give the sense of humor in this series enough credit, but the group date the characters go to here is really great stuff.

The third story (that takes up the second half of the book) takes a look at Kamiki and Miyaji, a girl with a huge crush on him that takes a lot of teasing from the other students for constantly hanging around heartthrob Kamiki. She’s wonderfully shy about how to approach Kamiki, and Kamiki is a little clueless about her, but it’s another cute story about the two of them getting together. Also, about Miyaji trying to be someone she’s not in order to impress him, and learning how to handle herself in front of the other students. Lots of love in this volume, and Kamiki’s one of my favorites. We also get to meet his equally funny sister in this volume, who inspires all sorts of interesting outbursts from Miyaji.

This series is really subtle and completely character-driven, but every volume’s a real treat. It’s one of my absolute favorites right now, and I think it’s flying completely under the radar for a lot of people, which is a shame. There’s not a whole lot of flash here, but it manages to forego all the stereotypes and really delivers some quality characters that make it a thoroughly enjoyable read. Pick it up!

Seiho Boys’ High School 3

November 22, 2010

Kaneyoshi Izumi – Viz – 2010 – 8 volumes

Again, this is way more charming than it has any right to be. It’s also one of the only girls/boys only school stories that hasn’t resorted to romantic triangles, wacky gender misunderstanding hijinx, or undercover boys/girls.

The reason it’s not relying on very many of the plot devices common to its premise is that it’s way more character-driven and slice-of-life than the other stories. The boys don’t really need anything to shake up their lives because… well, the story is about their lives and how normal they are in such a school. It helps that the characters and dialogue are quite funny and well-written, too. It’s not quite like a shoujo manga, and this volume takes things a step further by making fun of the many things I thought it would contain. A girl points out the difference between her disappointing situation (the boys sneak her in to pass her off as a guy in drag in order to win an AC for their dorm, she accepts because one of the competitors is a boy that’s prettier than she is) and what would happen in a gender swap shoujo manga, where all the boys would fall in love with her but act confused since they would think she is a boy. Later, Seiho Boys’ High School punished me, personally, by having an entire chapter dedicated to how much the boys hate it when a fujoshi comes in and… assumes things.

The chapters are once again mostly one-shot stories focusing on different characters, with most of the emphasis on Maki. The school year starts again, so the cast is all second years now. The first chapter is about a play and a girl that may or may not be falling for the charismatic school stud Kamiki, the second chapter is about the friendship between Kamiki and Maki, the third chapter focuses on hilariously rude and insensitive Nogami and the school nurse (a subplot from a previous volume), and the fourth story is about Maki and a girl he met in chapter two, the aforementioned fujoshi.

While the stories are self-contained, they do have threads that bind them together, and the experiences of all the boys and the people they meet come into play along the way. The characters and the school setting build with each chapter in every volume, and the characters are all funny and well-written. It’s more slice-of-life than it is shoujo, and it’s quick to remind you that it doesn’t really have to be anything. I like it a lot for that, and it did teach me a lesson about not automatically judging a story based on genre cliches before I’ve read it. Though I would argue that method is valid 99% of the time.

The sense of humor really is top notch, though. The second story… has a scene at the beginning that made me laugh really hard. While complaining about the meat in the cafeteria, the lunchlady lets on that she knows a spot where the boys might be able to see dolphins. The boys get excited, with adorable smiles on their faces, until she reveals the bizarre meat they’re eating was the last dolphin she spotted in the harbor. The boys look so sad, then ask her what the Americans would think. It was perfect. The lunchlady breaks the news with a little heart, and there’s a cute dolphin speech balloon coming out of the bowl of meat.

Give it a try. I think it has the potential to appeal to a lot of people outside the shoujo fanbase. Hopefully the good word will spread and a lot of people can give it a chance. It’s not stupendous, or groundbreaking, or anything like that, but it is a nice, funny story with wonderful characters. It gets better with every volume, too, in its own slow way, so maybe it’ll really knock my socks off later.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Seiho Boys High School 2

September 20, 2010

Kaneyoshi Izumi – Viz – 2010 – 8+ volumes

There’s a panel in one of the chapters that almost perfectly sums up my attitude towards this type of shoujo premise (ie what kind of crazy/potentially sexy things happen at an all-boys school): at one point, when talking to a prospective student that rubs him the wrong way and also asks why he doesn’t have a girlfriend, Kamiki gets a scary voice, a far-off look in his eye, and a strange background with “a door to another world” while suggesting that “a boys’ school is not limited to just girls.”

Which is why I don’t read these, but thankfully Seiho Boys’ High School avoids almost all the traps that these series fall into. There is a gay character or two, but there’s no fanservice between the boys in this volume at all, and it’s very character-centric in a way that surprises me, since these are usually driven more by wacky hijinx-type stories. There’s none of that here. And it’s very sweet.

The sweetness mostly comes from the main character, who is a genuinely nice guy to everybody. Maki’s past with the girl he had a crush on is revealed in this volume over the course of three chapters. Initially it’s easy to hate his love interest, the rude Erika, because she tends to say the worst things to Maki when he attempts to be nice to her. But he continually insists that it’s because she’s bad with people. He finds it endearing, and it gets turned around pretty quickly when the rude things she says continually cross the line into the absurd. She won’t give Maki the time of day, but he has it bad, and continuously courts her and stands up for her despite everyone else badmouthing her constantly. Watching them slowly grow closer and closer, with Maki’s nice guy act and Erika’s prickly personality, was quite endearing, and changed my opinion of this series around entirely. The ending was especially worthwhile, and while it can be seen as a kind of cheap emotional cash-in, it was still effective, and something you don’t often see in this type of series.

Maki aside, there are two other side stories in the chapters in this volume. One of them kicks off the flashback, when Maki takes an insistent girl on a tour of the school. Looking at her, he constantly thinks about how she’s the type of cute girl he wants to date (not necessarily looks-wise, but he thinks about how a girl with a nice smile and a cute personality are the ones he likes best). She’s slightly manipulative, which puts Maki off, and when it turns out she went to the same junior high as Maki and badmouths Erika, he rather harshly kicks her to the curb, with the raucous support of all his friends.

One thing is, when Maki stands up for Erika, it’s usually because people call her “a nasty eyesore” and state outright that she’s not good enough for Maki. Maki counters this with… really terrible comebacks. For instance, “Don’t ever call Erika an eyesore, you ugly bitch!” The point is that he loses it when it comes to Erika, but it still seems out of character and a little hypocritical.

Another, unrelated, story is about a lonely local girl who laments the fact she doesn’t have a boyfriend and has to play hostess to her best friend and her boyfriend for the weekend. She runs into the boys from Seiho, and winds up convincing Kamiki to pretend to be her boyfriend for the weekend. This doesn’t go any of the usual places. The girl doesn’t fawn over or develop a crush on any of the Seiho boys, and even when Kamiki plays the part of the most gallant boyfriend on Earth, saving her from her lies more than once, the story is never about the two of them hooking up. It’s about her and her friend, with the Seiho boys playing foils to some extent.

Again, that’s one of the main reasons this stands out, in my mind. What other all-boys’ school series has the boys taking a backseat to a female character who isn’t likely to reappear? The side stories are very sweet, the characters likable, the stories touching, and I’m happy this goes against the formulas like that. It’s not super-stand-out as far as plot and characters go just yet (and its episodic formula has me thinking it might maintain this status quo for some time), but it’s a great light read, and definitely good for shoujo fans. Don’t let the title scare you away.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.