Reviewby Caitlin Moore,
My Senpai is Annoying!
Futaba Igarashi has been cursed with an annoying senpai! Just because she's small enough to be mistaken for an elementary school student and he's huge, he's always doing things like patting her on the head or driving her home after she's had too much to drink. She absolutely, definitely, for sure does not like him. No, really! Stop looking at her like that! How could she like someone so… so… annoying?
I have some questions about My Senpai Is Annoying. First of all, is Futaba Igarashi supposed to resemble Yotsuba of Yotsuba&!? She has green hair, and her name means “two leaves” to Yotsuba's “four leaves”. But while Yotsuba is a curious, outgoing five-year-old, Futaba is an angry adult, like a tiny, aggressive cat.
Okay, apologies for rambling. The truth is, My Senpai Is Annoying failed to leave much of an impression on me. It's just so fluffy and insubstantial, there's hardly anything to hang onto, and it was a struggle to keep everything about it from flying out of my head the instant I put the volume down.
Part of it may stem from the fact that rather than developing the characters naturally, the author saw fit to introduce them and their personalities through profiles at the start. Character profiles are common enough in manga, it's true, but rarely do they come before even the first panel of the comic proper. This way, instead of letting us get to know the characters through their dialogue and actions, we know what to expect right off the bat. Instead of, for example, showing that Futaba's coworker Satou is boring, we're pre-empted to this particular trait of his and forced to interpret his dialogue and actions in a way that either supports or denies that, rather than organically drawing that conclusion ourselves.
But My Senpai Is Annoying doesn't really deal in narrative arcs or development. Its structure is closer to that of a gag manga, but it has very few jokes. Rather, the focus is on creating cute or heartwarming moments. In the very first few pages – after the character profiles, of course – Futaba and Takeda, the titular senpai, are getting drinks together. When Takeda says he'd like to have a daughter like her, Futaba mumbles, “Why can't I be the wife?” With some narrative buildup around them ahead of time, it could have been a heartfelt moment. However, as it is, I don't know these people. I don't care about their romantic travails or misadventures the same way I would in a more traditionally-structured romance narrative.
And so the volume continues that way. Ideally, even if it were mostly focused on creating cute moments, I would have grown attached to the characters by the end of the volume. However, with how one-note they are, I never really did develop that attachment. Their profiles list one or two traits per character, and they never really show much personality beyond that. In the case of Sakurai, Futaba's female coworker, it's not even a real trait, just that she's popular with the men around the office.
Nor are they particularly likable. Futaba is a classic tsundere; cranky and defensive, she keeps calling Takeda “annoying” as a way to deflect her real feelings, until it's time for a cute moment and she suddenly becomes vulnerable. Takeda is nice but dense and misses Futaba's very obvious signals that she likes him. Satou is boring, and Sakurai is pretty. It's all insubstantial and surface-level, leaving nothing to hold onto once the volume concludes.
Probably the most noteworthy aspect about the manga is its use of color. As a digital magazine, Comic POOL is freer than physical magazines to publish in full color, since there's no concern about printing cost or paper quality. The coloring in My Senpai Is Annoying varies from page to page, even panel to panel. Sometimes it's completely in black and white; other times it's mostly black and white, but with flat colors for the characters' clothing and Futaba's green hair. Sometimes, it's in full rendered color, using warm sunset shades.
It takes a few short chapters to fully settle into the color scheme, which appears to be most determined by Futaba's mood, especially as it pertains to Takeda. Goofy, comedic scenes tend to have flat colors, with colors used on elements meant to catch the eye, such as Takeda's new smartphone or a cute toy that caught Futaba's attention at a fast food restaurant. Depictions of everyday life, sandwiched between setups for jokes or heartwarming moments, are almost black and white, with some soft watercolors in the background. The warmest, fullest colors come when Futaba is at her most affectionate, wrapped up in her feelings for Takeda. It's actually quite effective, though it can't take the place of substandard character development or storytelling.
Of the many, many romance manga I've read over the years, My Senpai Is Annoying bears the most resemblance to Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku, with their brief chapters that largely capture moments in time without a ton of narrative structure. However, while Wotakoi is rife with gags and referential humor and has multi-dimensional characters, My Senpai Is Annoying mostly concerns itself with trying to make the reader say, “Awww,” without doing the work to make those moments effective. It's like chowing down on cotton candy: aesthetically appealing and one-dimensionally sweet, but leaves you unsatisfied in the end.
Overall : B-
Story : C
Art : B
+ Interesting use of color; fluffy romance that aims to be heartwarming
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