High School Girls Vol. #05 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Sunday, December 04, 2005
Release Date: Friday, October 01, 2004



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Oshima Towa
Translated by:Michiko Nakayama
Adapted by:

What They Say
High School Girls chronicles the quirky misadventures of a group of adolescent girls navigating their way through the pitfalls of love, friendship and high school. In this volume, the girls decide to try to nab a sex offender and somehow end up sex offenders themselves! It's summer vacation and the girls decide to have some fun in the sun, but get a lot more than they bargained for when, much to Eriko's horror, she and Hottie Otagiri are handcuffed together in a couples-only theme park... But doth the lady protest too much? And has Odagiri developed a serious case of the Lolita complex? And later, Eriko and Kouma are elected to the student council... what happens when these girls are in charge?! Find out in this, the latest exciting installment of High School Girls.

The Review
Packaging:
Packaged in a B6 sized GN, High School Girls is printed in its original format, right-to-left. DrMaster basically used all of the Futabasha cover design concepts. On the front cover of this volume is a member of the Bakagun-dan (Idiot Army Corps) second team, Ogawa-chan in her school customized uniform in front of a piece of yellow toned panel art. The opposite cover features some more panel art in yellow tone, beneath a long volume description.

Inside the printing is pretty good for most of the GN. There is more smudging in this volume than usual. Pages that were once originally in color are not very clean, either. This is a problem with many studios that scan their manga, instead of using digital files or original plates (lots of bleeding and the penciling is almost non-existent). Fortunately, I did not notice too many alignment problems; so overall, the printing is not horrible (though I have seen better from this series). DrMaster left in the original chapter headers and volume header. This volume features an ato-gaki where the girls talk about the official Joshi Kousei website (Japanese only).

Artwork:
Character designs are very cute. Drawn to scale and at normal proportions, these girls look really like healthy high school freshmen even though this initially ran in a seinen magazine known for busty designs. Characters have a great deal of variety in their designs, with varied body types, hairstyles and color, and personalized school uniforms. What I really liked is how there are so many different personalities that match the designs: sporty, genki, high fashion, trendy and plain Jane. This even involves the adults as well, so the entire cast looks as fun as their personalities are.

Backgrounds are okay and they are improving. I was initially surprised by how stale they were but Oshima seems to have picked up on how to best integrate the elite private high school to show off the high class world more. The layout makes up for the backgrounds. Character placement especially can be pretty fun, but overall Oshima shows a lot of variety with panel placement and size, and interactive perspective (that would be better suited for action manga but works well with comedy as well).

I wanted to also note that this volume does have some sexual innuendo and there are some the most gratuitous crotch shots and camel-toes I have seen in older teen rated manga (all done purposely to highlight the raunchiness of all girl high school life from the mangaka's personal experiences). What would you expect from a mangaka with hentai manga drawing experience?

SFX/Text:
One thing I noticed has happened since DrMaster picked up some of ComicsOne's titles is how the translations have continued to improve. I believe this volume was free of major errors, which is something to applaud. At the same time, this volume seemed to have one pet-peeve of mine in spades – poor text wraps. There are quite a few words that are split between lines at the most obnoxious places. Then there are times when the text was not placed properly in their respective bubbles. Therefore, there definitely is room for improvement. DrMaster has done well with how they keep some of the original jokes intact. They might sound strange but they are often dissected in the gutters. Most of the nicknames have not been changed and they use notes here and there to describe items/concepts unique to Japanese culture.

SFX are all translated. With this series, DrMaster has used a mix of subs and overlays. This concept works but it is not very consistent.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It is summertime and you know what that means. Yup, going to the pool, hitting the amusement parks and looking for excitement are everyday occurrences when you are young and bored. And mind you, after spending another long semester at school these girls cannot wait to get out of their classrooms and into the outside world.

Summer could not have come sooner. For they have had some hard times to overcome lately in and out of school. In school, there are new responsibilities to take on as two of the girls end up becoming class reps. There is so much extra work and much more unwanted stress, and for what? No one ever listens to the class reps, and that is why no one wants to be the class reps. At the same time, these people have to do more work. There are meetings to go to, events to plan and then there is the manipulating (the psychological warfare) that takes place when things need to be done. In many ways, it is like torture, but it is nothing compared to what can happen outside the school gates.

Summer means hot times and that means shorter lighter clothing. Moreover, that means the blood pressure for local chikans (perverts) is getting out of hand. As the skirts get shorter and the tops move closer and closer towards the bust line, hands get faster and um other things go faster as well. Life is hard enough when you have to deal with weird teachers and homework, but keeping an eye out for perverts should not be something high school girls should worry about.

Nevertheless, this is summer break and the gang knows that this will be the only time they will have to completely forget everything that happened through the first seven months of the year. If a day at the water park does not fix what aisles you, what will right? Then again, when your fun all of a sudden turns into a strange field trip/student-teacher day then you might be making nightmares instead ridding yourself of them.

Summer is only so long. Hopefully these girls will be able to make the most of it this year.

Comments
There is something about High School Girls that separates it from all the other English translated manga out there – the level of etchiness. Actually, let me take that back, because there are plenty of titles out there that are just as etchi (and more so) than HGS. What makes this title so unique is how it can just fly under the radar and appear to be another shojo/shonen title and still be able to push the envelope in regards to mature scenes and ideas.

On the surface, this could be another shojo title. This volume specifically touches on this with its concepts of horror and forbidden romance (both yuri and romances with older men). Then there is the standard shonen high school stuff - quirky adventures and goal oriented friendship building.

But then how many translated manga do you know openly explores real issues like sexual roles and school life like HGS? Taken from Oshima's experiences HGS digs into real social issues like train molestations and the right to privacy at school. Readers can relate on a personal level to these issues. At the same time, Oshima presents all of this with gut-busting adult humor, to make these moments even more common despite how intimate they may be. Then there are slice of life moments like the haunted school chapters where Oshima takes well-known urban-legends passed down through generations of high school girls and gives them a modern twist. This style of storytelling really made clear how well Oshima is able to make her stories accessible and meaningful to her readers, and how her stories have tremendous crossover appeal.

For every serious theme, there are moments where she has her straight up etchi moments. Her characters just seem to be constantly thrown into situations where they are testing the norms people have for sexuality. Oshima pushes the envelope at the most dangerous points - forbidden relationships, selling sexuality are two examples. When presenting scenes like this Oshima does not back away; she instead crosses that line and jumps way over it taking her readers to places that might be uncomfortable but are disturbingly funny.

High School Girls is definitely not shojo or shonen. Readers cannot go more than a few pages without running into a raunchy joke or an adult visual gag and that purposely done that way to shock readers. Luckily, the audience this title should be targeting - adults male and female - should be able to role with those jokes and find their own moments to relate to in Oshima's memories.



Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B-
Text/Translatin Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: DrMaster
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 200
ISBN: 1-59796-058-6
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left