Manga Village

Ichiroh! Volume 1

September 28, 2009

Now that I don’t get to talk to my family, I’ve noticed I talk to myself more often…

Ichiroh 1By Mikage
Publisher: Yen Press
Genre: Humour/yonkoma/yuri
Age rating: T/teen
Price: $10.99

Yonkoma (or “four-cell comics”) are the Japanese equivalent of comic strips like Penny Arcade or Garfield: short, continuity-light gag strips that may or may not build up into a longer story. The best-known yonkoma in the English-speaking world is probably Azumanga Daioh. Ichiroh! concerns two girls, Nanako and Akane, who have failed their college entrance exams and must spend a year studying at a prep school to re-take them — hence the title: they are “ronin” because they failed the exams, and “ichiroh” because they’re in their first (“ichi”) year of studying to catch up.Added to the picture is Shino, a classmate who is hopelessly infatuated with Nanako but who unfortunately managed to pass her entrance exam and so can’t join her in prep school (no matter how hard she tries), and a very eccentric dorm manager, whose dorm is also a Shinto shrine which Nanako and Akane are expected to help maintain as mikos to offset their rent.And as if that wasn’t enough, Akane is addicted to video games and thinks one hour of study in a day is a heroic effort…

There are dangers in translating humorous works into another language. Certain kinds of humour simply don’t translate very well. Slapstick and character-based humour tends to be fairly easy to translate; country-specific humour based on cultural references or unstated rules of behaviour is trickier; wordplay and puns are almost impossible. What’s more, yonkoma have a comedic rhythm that’s just different enough from the rhythm of American comic strips to make them slightly awkward to get into when you’re not used to them. Ichiroh! is no exception, and enough of the humour is culturally specific (from the setup onwards) that a number of the jokes sailed right over my head; there were notes at the back, but nobody ever laughed at an explanation of a joke.

That said, there’s enough plain ordinary character humour in Ichiroh! that I did laugh quite a bit; the absurd lengths Shino goes to in pursuing her crush on Nanako, and the similar lengths Akane goes to in trying to avoid doing any work, are universal enough to make anyone smile. The jokes about Nanako’s brother’s incestuous leanings didn’t work for me — I’ve come across this “hey, look, incest! HAHAAHAH!” trope before in manga and anime, and it’s never made sense to me. Even if you don’t find incest creepy (and at least in this case it’s utterly unconsummated and likely to remain so), I don’t get how it’s inherently hilarious. And the art, while competent enough, is exactly the opposite of distinctive; all the girls are pretty big-eyed moeblobs, distinguishable only by their hairstyles.

There are laughs to be had in Ichiroh!, and the characters are endearing enough and the story decent enough that I’m not going to write it off; but on the whole, it’s no more than okay. It is okay, but no more than that.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

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About the author

Katherine Farmar

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