Manga-ka: Natsuho Shino
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: October 2008
Synopsis: “Next to my big brother, who I really, really love, is him, who I really, really love. ‘He’ is student council vice president, Izumi. He’s always with the council president, my big brother, and whenever I get close to them they find a way to bully me! But… when Izumi sometimes shows me his gentle side or his cool side when he’s working, I get somehow excited…! What’s happening to me?”
“Stop Bullying Me!”, a cry from the boys’ love story’s lead, Tomo Masaki. Despite his difficulty with schoolwork, he’s managed to make it into a prestigious academic high school, all so he could be nearer to his brother, Ei. Ei is the school’s council president with a kind personality, hard working ethics and an attractive on top of that. Doesn’t seem the same can be said for his best friend, Izumi however, who just won’t leave Ei’s little brother alone.
Take a cute and naive schoolboy, toss in some popular older classmates, sprinkle on a brother complex for good measure and mix with a healthy dose of misunderstanding. Bake with fluff. There you have Stop Bullying Me. It’s pretty average as far as boys’ love stories go but manages to attain it own subtle charms.
Tomo Masaki is stupid, words from the manga-ka herself. He’s cute, for sure, but definitely not too bright in the thought department which keeps his motives simple, transparent and generally honest. This attribute is the story’s saving grace from complete mediocrity I’d say, because with a character like that, it’s hard to completely fault them for missing out some obvious stuff, reacting to things so enthusiastically and coming to occasionally logical, though ultimately completely wrong, assumptions. I particularly enjoyed his petty little actions later in the story which certainly speak out to the teenage girl within him and probably most of the readers, be it clinging to the object(s) of his affection, or running away for attention and being miffed when someone doesn’t follow him.
Tomo’s older brother Ei and his friend, Izumi, don’t really stand out so much as characters I found and were more stand-ins to help prop up a plot with Tomo, who took centre stage nearly the whole way through. Izumi, who likes Tomo though often teases him, is the more blunt of the two. His acts of affection to Tomo are held back, which suits the fact that he sees Tomo as naive as he actually is. It also keeps the story at a fluff-safe side so the most you’ll see is a little kiss here and there. To the personality defence of Ei, I was entertained by his reaction to the developing feelings between Tomo and Izumu and he didn’t react to them in a way I’d have thought he would.
A fun side character is another member of the council, Narihara, who lashes out at Tomo for constantly interrupting his work. Narihara’s time in the story was very limited but I always enjoyed him being there. What can I say, I’m a sucker for spazzy manga smart guys in glasses.
For the story’s art, I’m a fan of Natsuho Shino’s work which some readers may recognize from her other series released in English, such as Oh My God! by Deux Press. I was a little hit or miss with the stylings of Stop Bullying Me, which seemed a little uneven. I really like Tomo’s design which is wide-eyed, cute, nicely proportioned and with a thick head (pun intended) of hair made for tosseling. In contrast, Ei and Izumi are larger, squared and with more mature looking facial features. Their thick necks and boxed shoulders were a bit awkwardly shaped for my liking, but past the designs themselves, they were drawn well enough. The whole style has a faint sketchiness to it and is very lively, making it a fun series for the eyes that carries along the dramedy of the plot. Thanks to DMP’s treatment of the book, which sticks to the look of the original, the cover is also very colourful, shiny and eye-catching.
Stop Bullying Me is overall not a manga that will break any new walls, show veteran boys’ love fans anything they haven’t already seen or even be all that memorable after you’re done, but thanks to some fun artwork, a charming dunce of a main character and some sweet moments balanced with comedy, it makes for an enjoyable one-shot to sit down for a while none the less.