Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Tired of cooking for herself, Mafuyu decides to take a brief trip home to recharge. While she's there she runs into some of her old gang members, but their behavior is decidedly cold. And there's the little problem of a gang war, but more importantly, why are her former friends so mean? When she returns to school, Mafuyu is dismayed by the resurrection of the Public Morals Club...at least until she gets an eyeful of the student council chairman.
Comedy has been called the hardest genre to write successfully. What one reader finds roll-on-the-floor funny another finds plebeian and lame. The third volume of Izumi Tsubaki's Oresama Teacher wanders from the vaguely amusing to the laugh-out-loud, making a few stops for sentiment along the way, resulting in a mixed bag of a book. Some of Tsubaki's jokes are resounding wins. Some are not. The end product is uneven, but still worth reading if you liked the previous two books in the series.
Mafuyu's past as the leader of her high school's delinquents has been the subject of flashbacks throughout the series thus far, being used more for context as she begins her new life than actual plot points. That changes in this volume. The first half of the book concerns Mafuyu's brief return home after discovering that all she has left in her refrigerator is a head of cabbage. (“I'll add candles to it to make it look cute!”) When her mother asks her if she has made any friends, Mafuyu is forced to once again confront the fact that she is not good with members of her own sex. While moping around town, she is captured by her old gang's rivals – the delinquents of West High. Once she is imprisoned in the requisite abandoned building, she discovers that her top aides from East High are also there. She expects a touching reunion followed by a resounding defeat of the guys from West, only to discover that she is no longer considered a member of the gang. Mafuyu then spends half the book brooding about this turn of events, while demonstrating her amazing gang leader skills.
All in all this is the weaker of the two storylines. Tsubaki's attempts to integrate humor and introspection don't precisely fall flat, but they don't mesh well either. Some moments are genuinely funny, like when Mafuyu and her former lieutenants have to MacGuyver their way out of a situation with a bouncy ball, super glue, and some obscene photos. Others, like Mafuyu ruminating about why the guys won't give her their cell numbers, feel dull and overly sentimental. That is not to say that comedies cannot have more emotional components – merely that the two don't work well together here. When Tsubaki is lampooning well-known manga cliches, she is at her finest. When combining that with those same standard tropes, she stumbles.
The second half of the book is, on the whole, more enjoyable, though also uneven. The Public Morals Club is back, and with it come two special bunny masks for its members. Hayasaka and Mafuyu can't figure out why they need them until they confront the student council chairman. This is where Tsubaki shines. Naturally the student council is made up of the richest kids in school, and naturally they are all above and beyond normal. But the chairman is so perfect that he literally sparkles. The effect this has on people is a hilarious send up of the shoujo pretty boy trope, combined, of course, with the corrupt student council theme, which has hints of development. These are easily the best chapters in the book.
Tsubaki's art is nothing special. Characters have a vaguely generic Hana to Yume look with sharply pointed chins and spiked eyelashes. The backgrounds are minimal. Tsubaki does make good use of pseudo-chibis and stick figures for emphasis, as well as overdoing the mosaics for the supposedly dirty pictures. There are minimal creator's notes, although one is particularly interesting. At one point in the story the characters are discussing sexual harassment. In order to be sure her readers know that the characters are idiots, Tsubaki provides the Kojien Dictionary's definition of the term: “To rob a person of their dignity using sexual language or conduct.” Compared with the definition in the Collins English Dictionary of “the persistent unwelcome directing of sexual remarks and looks, and unnecessary physical contact at a person,” this is certainly food for thought.
Oresama Teacher is neither the best nor the worst shoujo manga out there. It is fun in places, less so in others, and a bit uneven overall. If you've been reading it and liking it thus far, there's nothing here to stop you from enjoying this volume as well. But if volume two left you cold, this one won't win you back.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : C+
+ Tsubaki's got a flare for making fun of manga tropes, good use of visual gags.
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