Himouto! Umaru-chan, Vol. 1

By Sankakuhead. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Young Jump. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Amanda Haley. Adapted by Shanti Whitesides.

Over the past year or so we’ve seen a couple of titles from Shueisha’s Young Jump that seem to be hear to remind us that Young Jump is not entirely sex, violence, or manly men being manly. Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is a good example of this, and now we also have Himouto! Umaru-chan, a series that ran for twelve volumes, got three different spinoffs, and also an anime. Which is impressive given that it’s basically a plotless gag series. Well, plotless is perhaps mean, there is the one plot. It reminded me of the start of Kare Kano, and the idea of a “perfect” student who is completely different at home is well-mined. Umaru-chan’s success with the reader will, I think, depend on how tolerant they are of spoiled brats when it’s being written for humor purposes. Umaru-chan is funny, but I can see how she might wear on people.

As you can see by the cover, this is not a touching melodrama. “Himouto” is a term referring to a himono, who is a young woman who acts perfect in the outside world but is a lazy slob at home. Add “imouto”, aka little sister, and you have this series. The focus, at least for most of this first volume, is definitely on Umaru-s home life with her older brother, a salaryman who tries to be stern and parental but usually just ends up giving in because Umaru is too annoying, too cute, or both. (Fortunately there’s no suggestion of incestual themes in this at all.) By the end of the volume we are seeing suggestions that we’ll get more of Umaru’s school life – her best friend, a shy, busty girl with a crush on Umaru’s brother, has made several appearances, and we also see the arrogant oujo. The cliffhanger also makes it seem like we’ll get more of the misunderstood sinister stalker as well (the manga does not indicate she’s misunderstood in this first volume, but come on.)

There’s reaolly not much to this, but that’s not a bad thing in a gag comedy – you don’t want to have to think too hard. So Umaru games, and eats, and whines, and her brother suffers mobly. The scenes which I liked best are the ones that show off the contrast between her two roles, usually when she and her brother are both outside the apartment and she has to keep up the facade but is starting to lose it. As for Taihei (the brother), he’s driven much by the needs of the particular gag of the chapter, being strict and angry when required, but mostly just being somewhat wishy-washy about it. Umaru is a handful, and if the two of them have living parents they aren’t mentioned, so it’s up to him to try to help her grow up. It’s not going well.

This was quite enjoyable, but as with a lot of similar gag series, I’m not sure it’s 12-volumes-and-three-spinoffs enjoyable. But we shall see, and I recommend Umaru-chan for those who like seeing annoying little sister types.

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