Manga-ka: Negi Banno
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: August 2008
Synopsis: “There are many manga out there about school life, but those are mostly about the students. Here is the first about the young female teachers. S.S. ASTRO follows the adventures – romantic and otherwise – of a group of young teachers working to make ends meet. Fun doesn’t have to end after high school!”
There are two new homeroom teachers this year at Asashio High School, and even though they’re supposed to be teachers, they’re almost as lazy and irresponsible as the students! Japanese teacher, Nagumo Yoko, can’t seam to stop stuffing her face and the gym teacher, Maki Izumi, is either sleeping or playing video games. Both alumni of this school, they do take their jobs seriously but it’s what they do on their down time which makes them questionable candidates for teachers.
Get ready to fall in love with S.S.ASTRO (Asahio Sogo Teachers ROom) as we take a look at what happens behind the scenes in a ‘mostly’ normal high school teachers lounge. There’s little to no complexity or depth to the plot, things just happen, and as they happen they build off each other in a wonderful snowball effect. One event leads playfully into the next and running jokes aren’t run so long that they stop being funny. All the characters are easy to understand, and even easier to find entertaining, be it the bloodthirsty nurse or Izumi-obsessed foreign language teacher/HR support. All four characters, Izumi (PE), Yoko (Japanese) , Arai (Nurse) and Karasuma (Foreign language) are women working in a professional setting and being themselves in the process.
Artist Negi Banno does a lovely job working with the flow of the story. The art is very clean and the characters’ facial proportions are pleasing. Basically, they don’t suffer from mega eye syndrome, misplaced nose phobia (not having a nose for no apparent reason) or any other strange symptom I can make a weird name for. It is, however, a little hard to tell when the occasional miscellaneous background character moves to the forefront and if they’re a fellow teacher or just a student. I attribute this to the teachers themselves being pretty young, Izumi for example, recalls being about twenty-three (she can’t remember entirely).
Yen Press seems to be bringing out a lot of four panel strip style books right now, and I say BRING IT ON! Because, quite frankly, every single one of them so far (that I’ve read) have been fantastic and all in their own, mostly cute, ways. The part that really grabs me about this one is that it’s more adult than the previous four panel books I’ve read, though on one downside, I can truthfully say that a twelve year old would probably not easily enjoy this book based on the fact that they shouldn’t really understand half of what is going on.
Overall, S.S.ASTRO pulls away from the pack by being all around awesome, it’s not just cute, it’s not just funny and it’s easily one of the best things that has happened to my bookshelf since Cynical Orange.