by Ken Akamatsu
published by Kodansha Comics; $19.99 US
Ken Akamatsu’s classic harem manga comes back into print in a super-sized omnibus, reprinting the equivalent of three regular volumes.
I’m not sure the larger size does the story any favors. There are 14 books of this, and they’re pretty formula. Klutzy Keitaro falls down a lot, and he usually manages to accidentally grab some piece of female anatomy on the way. Reading this over and over doesn’t make it any fresher. Plus, I found the bigger book harder to read without damage to the spine. This thing has almost 600 pages, and the thin cover stock seems overpowered by the size.
I actually read all 14 of these books from 2002-2003, when Tokyopop put them out. KC was working at a comic shop at that time, and he brought them home. It may have been the first manga series I read start to finish, come to think of it. (Isn’t that odd?) Aksmatsu does have an attractive, easy-reading style, classic manga to American eyes, and it wasn’t a bad beginning. I wasn’t so aware of the formula back then, either, or the term “harem comedy”, denoting a large number of attractive women as supporting characters to the male hero.
As happens often in manga aimed at younger readers, Keitaro had one of those childhood friends he made a vow to but can’t remember the name of. They promised each other they’d meet at Todai (University), only Keitaro has tried twice to get in and failed. Now, he’s retreated to his grandmother’s Japanese inn — only unknown to him, she’s turned it into an all-girl dorm.
Keitaro’s a schlub, good at nothing, and all he really wants is a girlfriend. Now, he’s living with a bunch of girls, many of whom exist (in a story sense) so he can run into their cleavage or accidentally see boobs or butt. This is teen boy wish-fulfillment, and it’s quite satisfying at what it sets out to do. It’s just that I no longer have such open standards or catholic tastes for what I’m willing to spend time reading. There’s a lot more manga out now than there used to be, so it’s almost imperative to be more selective.
I’m only talking about it now because 1) it’s the current Manga Moveable Feast and 2) I wanted to see it again, almost 10 years later, since I didn’t remember much of the details from my first read-through. My memories of reading it, back when manga was all new and intriguing to me, were better than the practice, but isn’t that always the way?
Comparing this edition to the previous Tokyopop volumes, I noticed the following changes (most of which today’s readers will consider improvements):
- Hinata House is now Hinata Inn.
- The honorifics have returned; she’s Shinobu-Chan instead of simply Shinobu.
- What was Tokyo University in the old books is now Todai, its nickname, with a translation note about its meaning.
- It’s not quite so casual. Instead of “this has gotta be the hotel Grandma runs”, we get “so this is the Japanese inn owned by Grandma.”
- Sound effects are translated, in small script next to the Japanese characters.
I slightly prefer the more colloquial older version, but I know authenticity is a bigger watchword these days, and Kodansha did the right thing getting a new translation, if only to give people like me a reason to check out the new edition. (The publisher provided a review copy.)