By Bisco Hatori. Released in Japan as “Urakata!!” by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz.
It can be hard to find a balance between trying new things and doing what you know you do best. This is particularly true for manga authors, as they have a popular style or way of writing, and fans who get their new series expect more of the same, only different. As do editors. And Bisco Hatori has earned her reputation from the insanely popular series Ouran High School Host Club, which ran for almost 10 years. As a result, it’s not really a surprise that her new series, Behind the Scenes!!, also features a school club filled with eccentrics where the new character is dragged around and slowly learns what the people are really like.
The main difference is in the main character. Hatori no doubt wanted a contrast from the blunt, deadpan Haruhi of Ouran, who could get frustrated at the antics of those around her but was, for the most part, rather quiet and matter of fact. Ranmaru, on the other hand, is a new student from a fishing family who is trying to be shy and retiring, mostly due to his past school life where he ended up, for one reason or another, being the scapegoat. It’s left him with a low opinion of himself, which informs his character during the entire first volume. That said, when the chips are down he proves to be a wonderful improviser, something that the club he’s accidentally gotten involved with notes right away.
The club, on the other hand, is filled with extroverted eccentrics. They provide costumes, props and special effects for the college’s four varied film clubs, and the clubs are of course all egotistical impresarios, so they’re always changing things at the last minute. It is, unfortunately, the sort of club where the reader will need several volumes to get them all straight, with the exception of Ryuji, who is the manipulative but with a good heart sort who bullies Ranmaru into joining the club for his own good. There’s a nice balance shown between the various functions of the club and the need for last minute changes – as well as the pettiness of your typical director with a vision.
The drawback, of course, is that this all feels a bit more-of-the-same. As I said, that’s what readers and editors want, and it’s great to see more of Hatori’s standard humor, but there’s less room for experimentation, such as the sort we saw in her earlier series Millennium Snow. Nothing really surprises you, and the plot beats roll out exactly as you’d expect. There is, perhaps, less of the BL tease that was found all over Ouran, but given how much of it turned out to be simply tease, that’s likely not a bad thing. Fans of Bisco Hatori will enjoy this, but I would wait a volume or two before making judgment – I think it’s a slow burner, and so far it’s merely simmering.