Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Haru Jigokumeguri is your typical rich-girl stereotype – she calls other people “commoners,” she brags endlessly, but underneath it all, she just wants to change so that she can make real friends. When she transfers to an ordinary high school, she's not sure she can make it work, but then she meets Tsurezure Kawayanagi, the class weirdo. With his odd fashion sense and loner tendencies, he's like no one she's ever met before. Can the two of them overcome their boundaries and find friendship…or maybe even love?
Ojojojo is fairly different from other titles by coolkyousinnjya that have been released in English before. Not in that it's a four-koma title, although that is different to a degree, but rather in that it simply tells a story without a focus on big boobs, supernatural creatures, or even particularly zany antics. Instead it focuses on the relationships ultra-rich girl Haru Jigokumeguri forms at her latest school, a regular old Japanese high school, as she tries to break out of a stereotype she's been actively reinforcing for most of her life.
What's interesting is that the series doesn't start out that way. At first, and in fact for at least the first half of volume one (this is a two-volume omnibus), the series seems set to just be a fish-out-of-water situational comedy. Haru announces her wealth to all and sundry as frequently as she possibly can and is a little perturbed when her bragging has zero effect on Kawayanagi, the kid she ousted from her window seat on her first day. In fact, nothing seems to make Kawayanagi react, which, along with his mid-twentieth century style, has earned him the label of class weirdo. Fortunately the author changes track after about fifty pages of this and begins to actively develop Haru so that she becomes more than the ojou-sama stereotype. We find out that she's actually been cultivating that image (and why, but not until well into the second volume) and would very much like to break out of it. The problem is that she's been using her money and purported snobbery as a shield from hurt for so long that she's not sure how to go about breaking away from them. That Kawayanagi never reacts to any of her rudeness or loud proclamations makes him attractive to her, and before either of them quite know what's going on they've become friends.
Most of the book is told from Haru's point of view, which means that we're privy to her insecurities without really knowing what's going on behind Kawayanagi's poker face. By the second half of the omnibus that has changed, but while that's a nice treat, it isn't strictly necessary because Haru is the more dynamic of the two main characters. She's sheltered to the point of ludicrousness and working hard to overcome her issues, which makes her ripe for use as a way to poke fun at the ojou-sama archetype she represents in anime and manga. (One particularly great line is when Kawayanagi asks her if the “oh-ho-ho” laugh is required by law for rich girls.) Her family's elderly butler, Jiiya (not Sebastian, thank goodness), is quick to point out her foibles in a way her peers don't, which is both interesting in and of itself and also says something about the kind of home life Haru leads with her dad mostly away on business and her mom absent. Arguably, her classmates at her new school are more supportive of her than her usual guardian, which reaffirms Haru's need to change herself and become friends with them. Less seriously, when Haru's dad does appear on the scene, he's nothing like the overbearing autocratic rich fathers we more typically see – he honestly wants Haru to be happy, and if that means that she's not going to agree to the potential marriage partners he's lined up, that's fine with him.
By the time the story morphs into a romance (of the mildest sort), two more characters have been added to the main cast in the form of Akane Tendou, another classmate and Haru's first real girl friend, and Chris, one of the aforementioned marriage candidates. The story does get stronger from the point where Akane becomes a regular player, mostly because she helps the humor in Haru's situation to come to the fore. Since Kawayanagi is basically the straight man, Akane's intervention helps the story to progress, especially since she generally knows what Haru's emotions are before Haru herself can figure them out.
The art here is less refined than some of coolkyousinnjya's other series, but it works well in its simplicity for this particular story. There's little-to-nothing in the way of background art and Haru's hair seems to vary in length and occasionally style from panel to panel. This does change when the we reach the second volume in the omnibus, which also sees the addition of several longer, non-four-panel chapters, generally in service of developing Kawayanagi as a character, or in one case Akane. Given that the author says in his afterword that he initially didn't plan this to be more than one volume, these chapters seem to speak to his realization that a longer series would need to go into a bit more depth than he'd been using. They don't take away the lighthearted humor of the shorter segments, but instead ground them in firmer characters with real pasts.
Apart from the joy of Ojojojo looking a bit like a Spanish rendition of the ojou-sama laugh, this is a fun book. It gets meatier with its content as it goes on, but all in all it's simply a light story about two disparate people becoming friends, and that's all it needs to be.
Overall : B-
Story : B
Art : C+
+ Light and fun, good jabs at stereotypes
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