Ojojojo, Vol. 3-4

By coolkyousinnjya. Released in Japan by Takeshobo, serialized in the magazine Manga Life. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Ben Robert Trethewey. Adapted by Clint Bickham.

I feel a bit guilty about this, as the author admits that this was one of their earliest series. But frankly, Ojojojo is easily the best thing we’ve seen licensed by this author, and it’s not even close. Dragon Maid is OK, but this was really, really good all the way through, keeping up the “plotless 4-koma” st5yle while actually having quite a good plot. There isn’t much of a plot, but that lets the series breathe, and allows its characters to drive things. We move towards a climax, taking in Haru’s little sister (who tries to be the bad guy, but isn’t, something that is cliched but works well), Tzurezure’s past (which reminded me a lot of Sousuke in Full Metal Panic!), and their attempts to communicate with each other better so that they can be better partners. Which, despite rich gossips and inheritance struggles, is the real enemy of this series, as the two of them just aren’t really good at communication.

(I’m using the color cover for Vol. 4, which annoyingly is not included in the omnibus, as I like it better.)

As noted, the only major addition to the cast here is Aki, Haru’s younger sister, who arrives from overseas and immediately sets out to make her sister’s life hell because, well, she’s decided she wants to play the villain for her sister’s sake. It’s amusing that almost everyone gets this immediately, despite the author’s attempts to drawing Aki with the world’s most ridiculous evil grin. As it turns out, she and Haru are both lonely rich kids at heart, so once everything is resolved they are allowed to rediscover the affection they have for each other… and Aki is allowed to tease Haru shamelessly by flirting with her man, something that works mostly as Tsurezure is so stoic about the whole thing. Akane and Chris also reach an agreement, though I’ll be honest, I like these two better as a “greek chorus” to the rest of the cast than I do as a couple. Akane as the only normal person is also very amusing.

There’s a lot getting in the way of the main pairing, though. Haru is a noblewoman, Tsurezure is a commoner. What’s more, he has a secret past, one which, if it gets out, could pose a lot of danger for them. (I forgot to mention his adopted family, who are both sweetie pies. Honestly, everyone in the series is a sweetie pie.) And Tsurezure is clearly brooding about this, to the point where he tries to run away and live in the woods, a sign that he’s not nearly as mature as he sometimes appears. Naturally Haru follows after him, in helicopter no less, and belts him across the chops for daring to decide everything for both of them. Her solution, oddly, also reads as very immature and ill-thought out… but actually works out for the best for everyone involved. In the end, they make a great couple.

So everyone lives Happily Ever After. (Well, except Aki. Sorry, Aki.) If you want a sweet romantic comedy with great characters who grow over the course of four volumes, I really recommend this. Plus Haru is frequently straight up hilarious. Especially when cooking.

Ojojojo, Vols. 1-2

By coolkyousinnjya. Released in Japan by Takeshobo, serialized in the magazine Manga Life. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Ben Robert Trethewey. Adapted by Clint Bickham.

Well, this was a pleasant surprise. We’ve seen a lot of this author’s works over here recently, including Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, which I dropped after a few volumes as I found it overrated, and Mononoke Sharing, which I didn’t like at all. Here, though, in a 4-koma series that lacks either monster girls or fanservice, I’ve found a series I can get behind. It helps that this handles the ‘4-koma slice of life’ genre very well. There’s always a danger in these sorts of titles that it will end up being plotless and lacking in forward motion, moving through the school year, festivals, etc. and ending up at graduation. Ojojojo, though, seems to actually care about character development, and things do, in fact, happen. Indeed, our leads end up dating by the end of the first book, which surprised me a great deal. That said, it’s not a surprise, as they complement each other perfectly.

…OK, perhaps they don’t complement each other perfectly immediately. As you can see by the cover, where they stand as far apart as they can and still exist, there’s a bit of awkwardness. This is because Haru Jikogumeguri (you can tell she’s rich because the name is *six* syllables) is socially inept and therefore acts like an arrogant rich princess, and Tsurezure Kawayanagi (who seems to be of modest status, despite also having a “rich” last name) is sopcially inept and therefore doesn’t really interact at all, preferring to stare at nature. When she transfers into his class, they bond almost despite themselves, and the joy of this book is watching the two of them grow close and learn how to communicate honestly. They’re helped by Akane Tendou, Haru’s first female friend in class and the relatively “normal” one of the group, Haru’s acid-tongued butler, and Chris, an English transfer student who has a similarly arrogant introduction as Haru did, but gets away with it more (probably as he’s a guy.)

Haru is the sort of arrogant rich girl you can’t help but love, especially once you get her semi-tragic backstory and see her earnest yet awful attempts to change her ways. The first volume is fairly normal 4-koma stuff, as we learn about our heroes via various quick gags and the occasional sweet moment. (The author says he planned to end it with the first book.) In the second half, he starts to deepen things, particularly the relationship between Haru and Akane, which turns out to involve a lot of misplaced guilt on Akane’s end. (The last name is a bit unfortunate – be assured she is not crossing over from Ranma 1/2.) By the end of the 2nd volume our leads have progressed to holding hands (which, given their personalities, is a big jump), and Chris is beginning to get over his own arrogance. There is one more omnibus to go, though, and since we know next to nothing about Tsurezure (who is unrelated to the Children of the same name, speaking of which) I suspect the next book will go into his past in an effort to move things along further.

Add to this next to no fanservice (Akane is jealous of Haru’s large chest at one point, but it’s a normal large chest, not the massive bosoms we see in Dragon Maid and Mononoke Sharing) and you have a title that’s a perfect introduction to casual fans who want to read a nice romantic comedy and don’t mind the “gag comic” format. A nice pleasant surprise.