Reviews are subjective things. A reviewer is drawing on many things when they write their review. Besides technical things such as story structure, character development and art, a reviewers personal preferences and experiences can affect their feeling about a book. And sometimes, even their gender can make a difference as to whether a book gets a good score or bad. In the following discussions, reviewers Alex Hoffman and Lori Henderson will look at different books and examine the similarities and differences they have over each of them.
Oresama Teacher is about Mafuyu, a delinquent who often got into fights. After being expelled from school, her mother sends her to an isolated school, where Mafuyu is determined to turn over a new leaf, and be more feminine, and not fight anymore. But her sense of justice gets her into trouble the night before her first day at school. She comes to the aid of a guy who is getting beat up, who also turns out to be her teacher. Now, Mafuyu has to struggle to keep her past a secret while her teacher continues to bait and blackmail her into more fights.
Lori Henderson: I never read Tsubaki’s first series released in the US Magic Touch. I read the preview chapter in Shojo Beat and wasn’t impressed. Subsequent reviews revealed I wasn’t missing anything. But when this volume came out, I was curious. Would this be any better than the infamously bad Magic Touch? Well, I can say it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I felt lukewarm about everything in this book; characters, story, and art. I wasn’t repulsed by it, but I was taken by it either.
Alex Hoffman: That’s an interesting point of view, and I would definitely like to hear why you feel the way you do, but first, let me give you some of my background with Tsubaki’s previously published manga.
I. HATE. MAGIC TOUCH. I originally reviewed the first three volumes and I disliked everything about these volumes, starting with the sketchy premise and its boring/unimaginative characters, the fumbled plot lines, the “massage competition” in the fourth volume and everything that entailed, and even the artwork. I am not sure if it was the poor writing or just the premise in general that originally caused my aversion to the series. I know that the series has some ardent fans, but I am militantly against Magic Touch. I think it is utter dreck.
But Oresama Teacher…? I’m not on the other end of the spectrum here, but the series has definitely kicked off in a much cleaner, more interesting way than Magic Touch. Lori, could you explain to me why you thought it was a “meh” instead of a “yeah!”?
LH: Like I said, it was the whole package. Mafuyu was cute but not engaging. I liked her enthusiasm for making friends and trying to be normal, but she really not too bright, and she’s the kind of dumb I dislike. Takaomi just plain repulsed me. He came off as slimy, especially around Mafuyu. Hayasaka was the most interesting, but he relied too much on Mafuyu, either as a foil for her to fight or as comedy relief. I have no objections about the art, but it didn’t appeal to me either. As for the story, it seems to have a direction, but it’s hard to tell what that’s going to be at this point. Takaomi seems to have something in mind and/or in play, but my dislike for him really doesn’t intrigue me enough to really want to know more.
You seem to like the series more Alex. What do you think it has going for itself?
AH: I think I have a different impression of the main character, Mafuyu, than you do. I like her spunk and her cute naivete about being normal after being a thug her whole life, and while she isn’t necessarily the most intelligent (or perhaps the “dumb” is played for cheap laughs) she definitely knows how to get things done in her own way. She has a great attitude, and she is genuinely a fun character to read.
Another thing that I find interesting is the interaction between Hayasaka and Mafuyu – obviously much of the “I don’t understand her intentions” content is played for laughs, but these are two very different characters interacting in interesting ways, and I find that at least somewhat refreshing. I think the whole series and how interesting it can be hinges around the interactions between these two characters, and I’m not sure if Takaomi is a distracter or a sort of antagonist for that interaction.
Speaking of Takaomi – this character is a bit of a cipher for me – yes he’s a slime-ball, yes, he’s a negative character, but that’s mostly the point. Is his interaction with Mafuyu extremely negative, or is this relationship just very convoluted? I have a hard time deciding. I can’t say he repulsed me, but I don’t like him, and the fact that he engendered such a strong reaction from you means that Tsubaki is doing something right with her writing.
LH: You’re much more forgiving of the “dumb-ness” than I am. I can take a dumb character to a point, but Mafuyu crosses that line. I did like Hayasaka and Mafuyu. Their scenes together were the highlights of the book as far as I’m concerned, and not just for the laughs. At the end, you could really see a connection starting between them.
If dislike for Takaomi is what she was going for, she certainly got it! But I have my doubts about him. Like you, I’m not sure about his intentions toward Mafuyu. Actually, by the end of this volume, I got a real “Degenki Daisy” feeling from this series. It might be that I had read volumes 1 & 2 of Degenki Daisy before this and the similarities stood out, but compared to that series, Oresama Teacher really fails. Even if it turns out that Takaomi is trying to help Mafuyu, or right some past wrong, his means of going about it doesn’t justify the end.
AH: So, Lori, what are your plans for volume two?
LH: I wouldn’t mind reading volume two, just to see where things go from here, especially with respect to Takaomi, but it’s not one I’m going to go out my way to get. If I could borrow it or buy it for a buck used, then I’d read it. But, I have so many other titles that I want to read, that this one gets pushed back to the back burner.
AH: I guess you have a point – there is a lot of great manga to read this summer, especially now that Kodansha is in the manga market – still, I have plenty of space in my shojo roster for Oresama Teacher, at least for one or two more volumes. It really depends on how well the Mayafuyu and Hayasaka interaction is written – if it is good, then I’m sure that I’ll enjoy the comic.