Tomo-chan Is a Girl!, Vol. 1

By Fumita Yanagida. Released in Japan as “Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko!” by Star Seas Company, serialization ongoing on the online site Twi 4. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jennifer O’Donnell. Adapted by T Campbell.

When you’re doing a 4-koma series based around a very simple premise, it takes a lot of care to make sure that the audience comes back on a daily basis to see what happens next. The characters have to be interesting but not annoying, and the premise has to amuse but not bore. Tomo-chan Is a Girl! does a pretty good job of this. In Japan it’s helped by being released daily on a website, one comic at a time, much like a Western comic strip. Here, however, we read it in volumes, so the bar to clear is a bit higher. Especially when three of the four main characters are, for lack of a better word, dense in some degree or another. If you’re reading the series and thinking “man, I hope that they figure things out and get together soon”, I would drop it right now if I were you. Payoff will eventually come, but the whole point of series like these is a long, slow burn based around comedy and frustration.

Tomo is the titular heroine. She grew up as a tomboy, learning karate at her father’s dojo and hanging out with her best friend Jun. Now they’re in high school, and Tomo has grown tall and busty, but is still very much the rough tomboy sort. This is a problem, as she’s in love with Jun, but he just sees her as one of the guys! Can she make it clear that she likes him the way a girl likes a boy? And if she ever did this, would she even notice, as it rapidly becomes clear that she’s just as bad at noticing the obvious when it comes to matters of love. Indeed, Jun’s obliviousness may be played up to hide his real embarrassment over the whole thing. Added to this mix are Misuzu, Tomo’s best friend who is there to offer jibes and support, in that order, and Carol, an exchange student who may be flightier than the rest of the cast, and is definitely bustier. Will anyone end up making their feelings clear?

Not so far, but I’m enjoying the journey. The first few chapters are rougher and a bit less fun, and it’s very clear that Jun is not playing things up, something that rapidly changes as the book goes on and the author realizes he can’t keep that going forever. Tomo is a likeable yet very fallible girl, who longs for reciprocated affection but wouldn’t know what to do with it if she had it. And I know, you’re shocked) Misuzu is my favorite character, as her dry retorts and “war” with Jun over who’s closest to Tomo ground the series a bit and also adds a new vein of humor. This is 7+ volumes in Japan, so I’m not sure it can quite keep up the pace, for reasons I mentioned above. But for now I’m amused by Tomo-chan Is a Girl!, and want to see how far the series can go with its (seemingly) dense leads.

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