Manga-ka: Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: March 2011
Synopsis: “Mafuyu is the no-nonsense, take-charge and hard-hitting leader of her high school gang. But when she gets expelled for being a delinquent, her mother, fed up with her daughter’s wayward ways, sends Mafuyu to an isolated school far off in the country. Determined to make the best of the situation and make her mother proud, Mafuyu decides to turn over a new, feminine, well-behaved leaf. But her fighting spirit can’t be kept down, and the night before school starts she finds herself defending some guy who’s getting beaten up. One slip wouldn’t have been a problem, except the guy is…her teacher?! How can Mafuyu learn to be a good girl if her teacher won’t let her forget her wicked past?”
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that manga is rarely the result of one person’s talent and hard work, that there is in fact a fleet of people (assistants, editors, publishers) who work with the manga-ka to create the final product. This is clear in Oresama Teacher volume one, a manga that has an editor’s fingerprints all over it. While there are lots of funny moments in this volume, overall the work feels like it’s being pulled too hard in different directions as the manga-ka and her editors try out different approaches and ideas. It comes off as a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.
Mafuyu ruled her old school as the leader of a gang of juvenile delinquents, but when she gets expelled she’s actually pretty relieved. She figures at her new school she will be able to start anew as a perfectly normal teenage girl and have friends instead of followers. That plan goes to hell when she meets Takaomi. When she saves him from getting mugged, he sees her awesome fighting powers and knows that she’s not the sweet, flighty girl she pretends to be. Things go from bad to worse for Mafuyu when she finds out that young man is actually her homeroom teacher. Will he reveal her secret? And why does Takaomi seem so familiar?
The reveals about Takaomi are easy to guess, but still enjoyable. My favourite parts of this volume were the flashbacks to Takaomi and Mafuyu’s shared past. Not only were these scenes funny, they showed just how much of an influence Takaomi had on Mafuyu. While the manga seems to waffle about what exactly their relationship is (love interests? Tormentor and victim?) at the very least it establishes that these two people have a strong connection thanks to their history.
The scenes set in the present day are a little less exciting. Takaomi is a vague character, changing from chapter to chapter. He’ll be a complete jerk one chapter, aloof the next, and then kind and caring. It feels like the manga-ka and editor realized that they made him too mean early on and tried to fix things by making him nicer. But instead of making Takaomi likable, it just makes him inconsistent.
Mafuyu is at least the same throughout. While easily excitable and given to bloodlust, she has a strong moral code and in true heroic manga fashion only resorts to violence to defend others. I like shoujo manga with non-feminine female leads, and Mafuyu fits the bill.
There’s another main character, a loner/tough guy named Hayasaka in Mafuyu’s class. He and Mafuyu become quickly friends (or, to put it more accurately, Mafuyu gets it into her head that they’re friends and won’t leave him alone). He’s not really all the memorable, but his interactions with Mafuyu are funny.
While plot-wise the series still seems to be finding its footing, the art style is consistent throughout. Tsubaki’s art is a nice half-way point between shojo and shonen, a good fit since there are a lot of brawls and fights. The art isn’t especially pretty, but it suits the atmosphere of the series.
It seems from volume one that Tsubaki (and her editors) still haven’t quite decided what kind of manga Oresama Teacher is and in the authors notes it’s shown that the story’s gone through several revisions already. It seems like they’re going for a comedy manga with lots of gags, but near the end there are hints at a larger, more dramatic plot emerging. I like Mafuyu enough to be curious about where it goes, and to see if the manga-ka and the editors can find their groove with this series.