Manga-ka: Kaneyoshi Izumi
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: November 2010
Synopsis: “Remote, lonely and surrounded by the ocean. This isn’t Alcatraz we’re talking about, it’s Seiho Boys’ High School, where the student body is rife sexuality frustrated hunks! How can these young men get girlfriends when they’re stuck in the middle of nowhere? These are the stories of the students of Seiho High and the trouble they get into as they awkwardly pursue all girls who cross their paths. When the boys need to put on all-male performance of Snow White, they come up with the brilliant idea of finding a girl to sneak into the title role. And what’s this? Has Maki found a new love interest…?”
Another volume of Seiho Boys’ High School and more opportunities for the boys to woo some women. Or try to anyway. While one new girl is brought in, the bulk of the volume reintroduces two characters we’ve seen before – the school’s recently-revamped nurse and Fuyuka Miyaji who comes back to the school to return a favour.
This volume’s first chapter I enjoyed most in the book overall. The boys, in a want to win a play contest, ask Fuyuka to pretend to be a boy pretending to be a girl in their performance. She’s obviously reluctant and doesn’t think she can pass as a boy. Not so of course and she takes up the cause after a brief run-in with the competition. It also proves a good chance for her to get closer to Kamiki. I liked her gusto towards the situation, and had a good chuckle during the final page at the expense of a mentioned student.
After this first stor comes a quasi-romance chapter between Nogami and the school’s nurse as she tells the students she’s planning to quit and wishes to tell Nogami how she feels before she does (why would anyone like this guy…?).
In full disclosure, I know Ysabet MacFarlene, the book’s adapter, but I still need to note how entertaining and detail-oriented I find her work in this book. The care to writing these boys creates a winning combination of being believably benign or memorably vulgar. The use of bolds and italics on specific words to capture just the right influx makes it all doubly effective (thus credit as well to the letterer). Continuing to be the standout character is Nogami who is such a jerk that you want to reach in the book and give him a sharp kick to the crotch, but instead will likely be just as satisfied sitting back and shaking your head in amused disbelief as a reader. The words that come out of his mouth, from describing his disdain of their living conditions, to his version of romance towards the school’s nurse, is nothing short of near-painfully hilarious.
In the book’s last story-arc, it utilizes a plot element that’s quickly tiring itself out for me. Maki meets a young woman who spends each morning surfing near their school. Eventually he proposes that she pretends to be his girlfriend in order to prove he’s capable of getting one to his friends. Her icy stares and sullen mood is a bit odd but nothing proves more perplexing then when she calls him an uke. Yup, it’s another yaoi fangirl and it’s apparent the moment she enters the school that she’s more interested in seeing Maki have some guy-on-guy action with his attractive friend, Kamiki, then anything else. At the very least she lacks the obnoxiously obsessive tone that the fangirls from My Girlfriend’s a Geek or Fujoshi Rumi have so while the quirk feels played out, it’s a slightly less socially painful stereotype.
To this chapter’s credit however, it’s a lot of fun reading it in a Viz Media manga. It feels just out of place enough to succeed a level of quirk that the trope itself fails to achieve. Far more fun in playing on tropes is a scene earlier in the book where Fuyuka envisions how she thought scenarios with a girl pretending to be a guy would play out. I had fun seeing the panel where she imagines a male student falling for a disguised girl while questioning his sexuality. It’s a fun call-out to shojo series such as Hana Kimi and Girl Got Game.
Unfortunately the yaoi fangirl aspect didn’t bother me as much as the ending did where Erika, who I did like for her honesty and stern character, flashed the same generic smile and swoon that every girl in the story eventually does. It just felt so out of character and I felt like she and readers were done a disservice by forcing another ‘isn’t-the-guy-such-a-charmer’ moment at the end. Her face, which then looks like every other girls’ in the series, also harkens to the over-consistency much of the book’s artwork suffers from.
All in all, Seiho Boys High School continues to be a mixed bag for me. On one hand I really like the candid-type lifestyle shots of a bunch of female-starved boys living in an all boys’ school. On the other hand, the stories themselves feel repetitive and dull, and the females that while occasionally offering one or two lines genuinely respect-worthy, still all eventually fall to the same role as blushing-damsels to the emotional comfort of the boys. While in terms of storytelling, the cons do outweigh the pros yet at the same time I’m irrefutably entertained by the comedy. It makes Seiho a book I’ll continue to enjoy, but perhaps not one I’d recommend past a worthwhile borrow from your local library.