by Nico Tanigawa; adapted by Krista Shipley and Karie Shipley
published by Yen Press; $13 US
Ah, it’s time for a price rise (from $11.99 to $13 — and I’m glad Yen has gotten away from the .99 dodge). Thankfully, I’m still enjoying this series enough to keep buying. I’m not sure why, since normally I hate comedy based on “look how pathetic this person is”, but somehow, I’m still rooting for Tomoko, even when she’s doing the stupidest things possible. I think it’s because there’s a fondness in her portrayal that allow me to focus on similarities without cringing from the discomfort.
As No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! Book 4 opens, Tomoko has forgotten how to talk to other people, particularly boys. To improve her social skills, she decides to become a club hostess — which is like deciding, since you can’t get a basketball through the hoop, to join the WNBA. It’s the exaggeration that makes this so funny instead of painful. Of course, as soon as she seizes on this idea (based on a TV interview), she envisions herself as the best hostess ever.
I’m impressed by the non-verbal humor segments that work so well. As part of her self-imposed hostess training, Tomoko is working on lighting cigarettes and preparing drinks. She still thinks of life as a video game, working on speed instead of human interaction and trying to figure out tasks to complete to mark progress. In spite of how out of her league she is, she’s still keeping a positive outlook, as though she just needs to find the next new trick to make things all better. I think it’s that optimism and the resulting enthusiasm that makes her such an interesting read to me.
Also, it’s rare to me to see a teen character who’s shown as so honestly sex-crazy while having absolutely no idea what to do about it. She has bizarre fantasies, but I think that’s a realistic part of having adolescent hormones.
Much of this volume revolves around end-of-year activities, from a school marathon (where Tomoko is handicapped by badly having to go to the bathroom) to not knowing what to do with her winter break holiday — although Mom has ideas about cleaning — to a Christmas party with school friends. The last chapter ends on a high note, as Tomoko marks her sixteenth birthday by pretentiously engaging in what she thinks of as adult activities, which include drinking black coffee at a cafe and appreciating the depth and fascination of mature literature, without pictures. Again, she’s marking life by ultimately pointless details, but those elements give her hooks to start understanding the bigger picture.