Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto
No one knows where he came from, but new student Sakamoto is amazing. There's nothing he can't do – win the hearts of boys and girls alike, increase sales at MacDoodle's restaurant, take down bullies, sword fight with wasps...this guy is beyond amazing. Is he even human? It doesn't really matter, because he's Sakamoto – and Sakamoto is awesome.
Who is Sakamoto? No one seems to know, but they can all agree on one thing – he is preternaturally awesome. Recently transferring to an average, everyday high school from someplace known as “Innocence,” Sakamoto is a gorgeous, bespectacled, clean-cut young man who is good at pretty much everything. In this volume he saves thugs from a fire, helps a bullying victim, and takes on a killer wasp, while winning over both boys and girls with his suavity and charm. If this sounds like it wouldn't be interesting to read about, however, think again: there's a reason this series won Comic Natalie's best series of the year, and mangaka Nami Sano uses just the right combination of deadpan and over-the-top to make Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto a lot of fun.
While it wouldn't be strictly true to say that the story begins in media res, it also doesn't start with Sakamoto's first day at school. We learn from background commentary that he's new to the school, but otherwise Sano starts in with Sakamoto being his attention-getting self. This adds to his mystique and the other students' confusion, pulling us into the story more quickly than if we had started at the exact beginning. The book opens with some thuggish classmates planting an eraser at the top of the classroom door to land on Sakamoto's (shiny, perfectly coiffed) head when he enters; the girls tell them not to do it. As it turns out, they needn't have worried: Sakamoto glides in, snatches the eraser before it hits him, and brightens the classroom with his patented shoujo sparkles. The bad boys try twice more to quash his brilliance, only to fail: he takes an umbrella with him into the bathroom stall to prevent an undue soaking and when his desk is stolen, he simply lounges elegantly on the windowsill. That's Sakamoto – prepared for any event, no matter how bizarre or unlikely, winning over his detractors in the end.
The volume, which is full of such incidents, does run the risk of getting repetitive, and it does fare better if you read it in chapters rather than as a whole. Impressively, Sano does not repeat any of his solutions to the many issues he and other classmates face, so there is some variety to be had; the repetitive quality comes from the fact that you know Sakamoto is going to prevail no matter what the circumstance. Fortunately he pulls it off with such panache each time that the repetition is lessened, and it's really only if you read it all at once that it becomes obvious.
While Sakamoto is the star of the volume, several of his classmates do get names and make repeated appearances; probably the closest approximation of how the other students are present in the story is Assassination Classroom, where you learn more about each member of the class as time goes on. Only two characters seem to be true recurring roles, however: Sera, who loves to be the center of attention, and Kubota, whom Sakamoto teaches how to stand up for himself. Kubota becomes actual friends with Sakamoto, the only classmate to do so, which is interesting, as is the fact that Sena decides to channel his need for attention into becoming a stand-up comedian, perhaps one of the more honest portrayals of the high school class clown in manga.
Sano's artwork is not entirely up to the task of storytelling, although it certainly does work. We have to take the characters' word for it that Sakamoto is incredibly good looking, and perspective and body proportions are often off kilter. Sano relies on speed lines to show moment rather than any dynamic quality in her art, but since this is a comedy, it generally doesn't matter too much. It isn't pretty or polished art (and tends to be a bit heavy on the grays), but it also doesn't take away from the story being told.
I'm almost positive that Sakamoto isn't really human – some of his skills, such as seeing through someone's head to the blackboard, seem to imply a supernatural origin of some kind – but figuring out what he is is part of what makes the story so much fun. Whether he's just an overly gifted human or some kind of high school angelbeast, it doesn't really matter. Sakamoto is here to save the day, and getting to meet him is a treat.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : C+
+ Very funny, Sakamoto's solutions are always different and ludicrously skillful. Extra story about shoulder pads is weirdly fun.
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