An attempt at light, cheap laughs and fanservice, Wakaba-soh has neither the humor nor the art to succeed at either.
Writer/Artist: Chaco Abeno
Translation: Hiroya Yamazaki
Adaptation: Hiroya Yamazaki
What They Say
Kentarou Sawai has fallen in love at first sight with the extremely beautiful schoolgirl, Karen Touguin. In order to chase the girl of his dreams, he decides to live at the school dorm. But though Kentarou thinks he only has eyes for Karen, he suddenly finds himself in the enviable position of being up to his eyeballs in beautiful schoolgirl neighbours! For this teenager, evey minute of every day is about to get his heart racing...
Set up like Yen's four-panel releases, Wakaba-soh is presented in a larger trim size and has eight color pages at the start of the book. The front cover features a picture of Karen holding a watering can, which wraps around the back cover, where the three other female characters are depicted. The translation is also better than average, containing a page of notes in the back of the book; however, the sound effects are only defined once per page, which still strikes me as odd. Paper and ink quality are good, which is an absolute blessing when you consider the overly-faint lines that much of the characters' hair is drawn in.
The art itself is quite mundane; the girls have cute, distinctive character designs, but their faces are too angular for my taste. Kentarou has the standard design given to any standard weak, generic male lead, and clearly is the least of the artist's concerns; the wispy, ill-defined lines he's drawn with would be enough evidence, but he's also noticeably absent from the color pages, which instead focus on Arashi and Karen. Backgrounds are mediocre, but that’s because there’s simply no room for them--frames are tiny and unchangingly rectangular, and always crammed onto the page in the least imaginable way possible.
Kentarou Sawai is determined to do anything to get closer to his first love, Karen Toguin, including enrolling in her school just to be closer to her. Unfortunately, he discovers that Karen is on a leave of absence, and even worse, he ends up stuck at a rickety old apartment building filled with beautiful, shameless girls. He's saved from this personal hell when the new caretaker shows up--and it's none other than his beloved Karen. But if this sounds like a plot you've seen before... Well, it is. Even the manga-ka doesn't attempt to deny it, although Maison Ikkoku is referenced only as an "influence" rather than what it clearly is--an inspiration for at least half of the basic set-up.
As the (very short) chapters continue, so do the stereotypes. Karen is perfect, but the other girls are noticeably less so; Arashi fulfills the "forgotten childhood friend" role, and also handles much of the violence carried out against Kentarou, while Kokage and Hinata, the two other residents of Wakaba-soh, are the "high school manga artist" and "kendo enthusiast." However, the bulk of the story line (if it can be called such) for the first two-thirds of the volume belongs to Karen being cluelessly perfect, and Kentarou hopelessly chasing after her. Near the end of the volume, some variety does appear, as a few chapters focus on Arashi and her feelings for Kentarou, and a few on Kokage and her manga woes. Kokage's may, in fact, be the best of the volume, simply because the supposed male lead fails to appear. And if that's the best part of the book... Well, it's just not good.
Wakaba-soh is one of those titles that simply mystifies me. With chapters that are only eight pages each, it's clearly not meant to be anything deep or meaningful, but it doesn't even succeed at getting the cheap laughs it tries for. The female characters are all cute, but the art falls flat in many different ways. And... There's not much else that it even attempts to offer. There's no denying that it will appeal to some people (again, the girls are cute, and the story line is dull enough to at least not be offensive), but I'm just not one of them.