Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Chio's School Road
Chio's got a routine, just like any other high schooler: get up from a night of gaming, get dressed, walk to school. But Chio's school is big on the public humiliation of tardy students, so she'll do just about anything to make sure she gets there on time – scale walls, beat up thugs, avoid embarrassing confrontation – by hook or by crook, Chio's going to get to school!
There's an odd sort of relatability to the first volume of Tadataka Kawasaki's Chio's School Road. Getting to school is a fairly universal subject, and at some point in most of our school lives, we discovered something that made it more of a struggle than usual, be that icy, unplowed sidewalks, oversleeping, or the bus being late. For Chio Miyamo, the difficulties are even more insane, in part because she's so utterly determined to avoid humiliation of any kind at school, whether that's the public humiliation of standing in the hall with the other tardies or just not making waves outside of her social group. This leads her to drastically overthink just about everything, with the resultant solutions being equally overwrought.
There's no better example of this than the first chapter, which is analogous to the first half of the anime adaptation's premier. In this scenario, Chio finds her route to school blocked off for construction, which has closed the entire road instead of just a part of it. Reluctant to take a less-direct route and fresh off a video game where she played an assassin, Chio instead opts to try to get to school on the rooftops and fences lining her usual street. If you've ever made the attempt at copying something you saw in a game or read in a book, Chio's antics will feel all-too familiar – not only is it much more difficult than she assumes from the game, it's also more dangerous and comes with the question of how on earth she's going to get back down. It's a calamity of errors from start to finish, and a very funny testament to how the best laid plans of teenage gamers rarely pan out as they're supposed to.
That Chio is often oblivious to the consequences of her actions adds to the humor. Her exit strategy from her roofwalk only looks good to her while inadvertently starting an alarming rumor, and her encounter with a girl from class from a different social stratum is a masterpiece of unaware overthinking. When you think that diving into garbage is a great way to avoid the potential embarrassment of waving to someone who wasn't waving to you in the first place, you perhaps are going too far – unless you're measuring the risk in terms of high school social status, in which case, it may make more sense. That's a large part of the fun of this volume as well: everything Chio does makes some, if not perfect, sense when you think of it in context of how a sixteen-year-old might see the situations. It's exaggerated, sure, but surely most of us have a similar solution we tried out at some point that makes Chio's actions just close enough to reality to work.
Among the other issues faced by Chio in the volume, her desperate need for a bathroom and her encounter with a biker thug are major highlights. The latter is much more over the top than the former, but both make good use of Chio's trademark desperation and thought style. The bathroom chapter even features a version of a scene from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes when Marilyn Monroe's character gets stuck halfway through a window. Needless to say, Monroe's a bit more dignified about the whole thing than Chio, which just makes Kawasaki's variation even funnier. Likewise the short comics between chapters of the hapless teacher who has to deal with the fallout from Chio's misadventures make for good humor, especially since Chio herself has no idea that she's causing anyone any outside concern.
Kawasaki's art is fairly loose and nowhere near as breast-filled as its anime adaptation. (Although the buxom mom in the first chapter/episode remains and is still ridiculous.) While not quite on the level of strictly gag art, there is a willingness to eschew anatomy and perspective in order to more fully convey the ludicrous nature of Chio's stunts, which at times can make the book a bit difficult to read. Pages are very crowded with both panels and out-of-panel images, and Kawasaki could give Arina Tanemura a run for her money on screentone usage, but once you get used to the style, it isn't terrible hard to read and it does capture the manic quality of Chio's adventures very well.
Chio's School Road's first volume is a consistently funny book about one girl getting herself into more trouble than strictly necessary. Capturing the overactive brain of a girl determined to get to school at all costs, it uses its busy art style and jokes to create an entertaining whole. How long this can drag on does seem like a valid concern, but for a funny read to get you read for the back-to-school season, this book is a safe bet.
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : B-
+ Consistently funny and oddly relatable, minimal joke repetition, good use of details
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