Reviewby Theron Martin,
High School Girls
Eriko Takahashi, Yuma Suzuki, and Ayano Sato have all tested into the Yamasaki Girls Private Academy, a private all-girls high school known as “Saki Girls” for short. As a trio who has come in from public high schools, they are quickly referred to as the Outsiders, while those who entered Saki Girls from lower grades in the academy are known as Insiders. Though the Insiders are standoffish at first, the trio soon wins new friends, most notably the theatrically-inclined Kouda. As time passes and they adjust to the reality of boyless life, their “clique” eventually becomes known as the Moron Group because some of its members are clueless academically and Eriko, who is a top student, is hopeless athletically. As their high school lives progress they deal with all the typical high school tribulations – perverted teachers, class trips, health exams, sports fests, aggressive club recruitment, distinctive cliques, and endless (and often comically inaccurate) discussions about sex and who is or isn't a virgin, among other things. They also come to an unsettling discovery: as nasty and slobbish as boys can be, teen girls isolated from boys may be even worse!
High School Girls is the work of young female manga-ka Towa Oshima, who claims to have based much of what happens in the series on her own personal experiences. This is a point she reiterates on a few occasions when some of the events depicted in the manga seem just too strange (at least to an American reader) to be credible. Some of the stories she spins could come from most any high school anywhere in the world; tales about the nature of cliques and how they form or juvenile ponderings about sex, for instance. Other stories are distinctly Japanese but typical of content seen in other high school-based series, such as the tradition of the top entrance exam scorer addressing the class on the first day of school, the emphasis on club memberships, uniform inspections, and occurrence of sports and cultural fests. In some places, though, the content not only steps well beyond the norm for series which make it to the States but also offers a distinctly feminine perspective on the problems confronting teenage girls, such as issues concerning tampons, menstrual cycles as it relates to sports, and hair removal. Are these issues that teenage girls in any developed nation have to deal with? Of course. The casual frankness of such content may be a little unsettling for male readers, however.
That brings up one critical question: is this a series aimed more at male or female readers? Some aspects seem to suggest that it's intended for guys (occasional sexy poses by some characters, bits of what could be construed as fan service here and there) but the content carries a distinct female perspective and deals more with female issues than male issue. The overall impression is that it's intended for guys who want to take a look into the “other side” of high school life, although most female readers could probably find a lot to relate to here.
High School Girls takes a decidedly comedic look at its content, with the three main heroines falling into common behavior breakdowns: the smart and enthusiastic but clumsy one, the jock, and the one with a boyfriend. Most of the supporting characters are stock figures out of innumerable other manga and anime, and of course some of the teachers are perverts. Comparisons to Azumanga Daioh are inevitable, but the emphasis on sex and the more straightforward use of humor sets a substantially different tone and execution. This is a series intended for more mature readers, as evidenced by the 15+ age rating on some volumes and the 18+ rating on others. Characters also occasionally violate the “fourth wall” or talk like they're aware that they're in a manga, and the manga-ka sometimes throws in side comments of her own, too. Although such incidences are not prevalent, they're used often enough that it's more a disruption to the regular flow of the storytelling than a cute gimmick.
On the artistic front, Towa Oshima does a good job of making her sizable cast of main and supporting characters all look distinctive from one another, mostly through the use of varied builds and hair styles but also occasionally through more subtle variations in features, like one character having pudgy cheeks while another has a more pointed chin. The quality of the artwork is otherwise only a little above ordinary, with background detail often minimal. Cover artwork features a color portrait of a different girl and a different primary color scheme each time. Sound effects, which are not used heavily, are retained in original Japanese form with an English translation in the same print style nearby. These translations are sometimes very hard to read but they do fit in well enough with the Japanese print that they don't draw attention to themselves. The translation of the text seems solid, although a little more explanation of some cultural references would have been appreciated.
And about the name: some have quibbled over the inaccuracy of “High School Girls” as a literal translation, but it is the only option that is grammatically sensible for English.
Although a reference is made about an upcoming volume 7 at the end of volume 6, only six volumes have actually been released in the States (courtesy of DrMaster) or Japan to this date. An anime adaptation has been announced, though, and is scheduled to start on Japanese TV in April of 2006. If it stays true to the manga then it, like the manga, will not be a series for everyone. Those who do give it a chance will find it to be a fairly typical but usually entertaining slice-of-life comedy series.
Story : B-
Art : B-
+ Distinctive character designs, provides a different perspective on a common manga topic.
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