Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Manga Review: Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou (volume one)

This review originally appeared on OASG

Title: Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
Genre: Slice of Life
Publisher: Shonen Gahosha (JP), Crunchyroll (US)
Story/Artist: Ruri Miyahara
Serialized in: Young King Ours
Reviewed: Volume 1 of 6
Review copy provided by Crunchyroll.

As I mentioned last time, there are many different kinds of slice of life manga out there. Some rely on character growth to move the story along and others use the passage of time to keep the story flowing. Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, which was adapted into an anime titled The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior, doesn’t use either of those methods and in this first volume it’s hard to believe that any time is passing at all since nothing in the story seems to change.
Usa, like many other anime and manga protagonists, is a high school boy living on his own due to parents working overseas but he’s not totally alone, he’s just moved into the Kawai-sou apartment/dormitory complex and would have moved right back out if his crush, Ritsu, didn’t also live there. Usa is turned off by the other eccentrics living there and I have to sympathize with him, a more generous person might call them “colorful” but that would indicate that there was something interesting about them in the first place. Almost every character is a gag, they have quirks instead of personalities and I found myself getting tired of them very quickly. Shiro, Usa’s roommate, wasn’t actually as annoying as I expected, probably because the other characters were right and that he’s harmless, but the two older women, Sayaka and Mayumi, became tedious to read about after just a chapter or two.

The only characters who manage to defy this are Ritsu and Usa but even they do so just barely. Usa reminded me of Hase from One Week Friends who was also bizarrely determined to hang out with a withdrawn classmate. It’s a trait that you find more in fiction than real life, a character who obviously has some social skills but yet is only truly interested in one, specific person, and it highlights how this story apes real life in only the barest of ways. In my experience, slice of life manga try to mimic life to a certain degree (or at least in certain areas), this manga however doesn’t seem to care about imitating life and doesn’t let details like “Usa should have more of a personality than ‘I really want to grow closer to Ritsu'” get in the way of the tone it’s trying to convey.

Ritsu does also have personality, she is withdrawn but the series does a good job at balancing her own, natural preference for quiet with what seems like some genuine loneliness. She explains to Usa that she would rather be alone that indulge in superficial conversations, like catching up with former classmates and exchanging numbers all while knowing they won’t ever call, and it’s a cynical yet rather relatable feeling. She also has her more open, happier moments in the series, despite how cliched her character sounds in some ways Ritsu is starting off as the most developed character of all. It’s not so much growth as it is a slow unveiling of her personality at this point and easily the most interesting part of the series.

Despite that, ultimately I didn’t find Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou engaging enough to recommend except to the most hardcore, slice of life manga fans who don’t mind if the story is more of a wistful fantasy of real life than anything else.

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