Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Manga Review: Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches

Sorry for the lateness here again, as I said in my round-up post yesterday I actually did finish writing this on Monday but my late work shift left me too drained to do all of the copy editing. And this is going to be the last of my manga Mondays, the winter anime season ends this week so next Monday I'm diving back into the anime reviews with new shows and comics every other week (well, and manga reviews every week on OASG, at this rate I'm set to review about 70 different comic and manga series this year which is a bit of a terrifying number).

Yamda-kun and the Seven Witches by Miki Yoshikawa

Ryu Yamada is a delinquent at Suzuka High School and wholly unpopular so while he's heard about honor student Urara Shirashi he's never talked to her until a fall down some stairs causes the two of them to switch bodies.  It takes some experimenting to switch them back but the two of them actually liked switching bodies, Yamada likes having friends and Shirashi enjoyed having a chance to study in quiet. Too bad that body-switching involves kissing, although it turns out that this isn't the only  "witch power" in the school and if they and their friends want to figure out what's going on it's going to involve a lot of smooching. 

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is a silly manga that never forgets that its cast is composed of high school students and just what dorks high schoolers are. I work with kids every day so there are a few series that have been just ruined for me when I see fictional kids that are eons more mature than their real life counterparts. Yoshikawa seems to understand this however and has her cast use their new, strange superpowers both to solve the problems these powers cause and also just to have fun. One of my favorite scenes was when Yamada was trying to convince his friends that it's him and asks them about their favorite kind of underwear which unsurprisingly doesn't go over that well but then he sneaks back later and finds them having a lively discussion over it and everyone has opinions on both genders since everyone has switched bodies that many times! 

The manga doesn't have a slow start or a rough start but the early chapters have a little bit of a different tone to them. The humor starts off as a little less silly as the cast gets to know each other and the guys look a little bit more rugged as well. The fanservice is a little different as well, in the early chapters you get more "oh I guess I just did a round-house kick in Shirashi's body, there's a panty shot!" from Yamada but that hasn't been happening as much in the past few months. The story doesn't shy away from showing boobs and underwear (and making jokes about the guys bits as well) but the fanservice never feels degrading to the characters the way a lot of ecchi series do. I think this is (at least partially) because Yoshikawa is one of the growing number of women doing shonen manga and simply approaches the fanservice differently. Personally I'm not that fond of fanservice but when it's just characters at the beach in swimsuits instead of characters having their clothes ripped off in revealing ways it's much more tolerable and easier to ignore. 

Getting back to the story, the manga has been running for a tad over three years now (as a weekly series) and I am starting to get a bit nervous about when it will actually end. There was a chance a while ago (I think right before the two year mark) where there was a good chance to end the series but it didn't and seemed to stumble for a little bit after that. I wonder if there was editorial pressure to continue the series and that Yoshikawa didn't have more arcs planned or if she just had some writing trouble, Sean Gaffney of Manga Bookshelf makes a good point that short/medium/long series are paced and plotted differently and that you can tell when a manga-ka is suddenly having to switch from one to the other so that could simply be what happened here. I do think that the manga has recovered by this point and it's entertaining again and is determined to become even whackier but I also like series that have a definite end in mind and it's starting to feel like Yamada-kun might not have that (the cast has also gotten a bit too large to easily keep track of and that will only get worse).

Regardless of my worries there, this is a fun series and I'm thrilled that Kodansha USA has picked it up for a print release this coming year and that it's also finally getting a full anime series. If it's only 13 episodes I'll be worried again (I've seen the live action adaptation which did pull off the whole series in 13 episodes but it also made some major changes to the story line) but I'm more excited to see the cast in full color with their rainbow of hair colors more than anything else.

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