Oresama Teacher, Vol. 19

By Izumi Tsubaki. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.

In my review of the last volume, I said that Hayasaka’s past was looking more serious than this manga usually gets, but I didn’t think it was going to get that dark. Boy howdy was I wrong. Not that Oresama Teacher has suddenly turned angsty and depressing, but certainly this volume hinges on the fact that Momochi’s mental manipulation of Hayasaka is being helped along naturally by his own traumas, and that he has in fact had this sort of thing happen before. Luckily, he has the Public Morals club to help him this time, and the volume ends on an upbeat note (albeit one with our heroes at the bottom of a cliff – what is it with Hana to Yume series and cliffs?)

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Tsubaki enjoys playing with reader preconceptions and that’s certainly the case here, as Hayasaka’s supposed family background is the sort of thing we’ve seen in manga and anime before, with the mistress kept in a locked room away from everyone. Only that turns out not to be the case, and in fact is something that Hayasaka has created to cover up the real tragedy that he refuses to accept. The scene with Hayasaka and his father at the funeral is heartrending, something I never really thought I’d say about Oresama Teacher. And in fact, again contrary to our expectations, Hayasaka’s family turn out to be mostly okay – his hatred of his father stems from something that isn’t happening anywhere but in his head, and his dad, while trying to keep Hayasaka’s past hidden, shows genuine concern for him.

There is some humor in this volume, rest assured, though I wonder if the story turned more serious when Tsubaki was starting off Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. Most of it comes from Mafuyu and Yui, who continue to react in a hilarious way whenever called on to be normal or mature. Mafuyu also gets an emotional arc in her desperation to make Hayasaka recover his memories, though I wonder if that will come back to bite her in the end, as it’s hinted that the main reason that Hayasaka hasn’t realized Mafuyu is Natsuo or Super Bun is his own mental blocks, and those may be coming down. Her emotional tears in the last chapter are well earned, though.

We’re still not quite done with this arc, though, as Momochi is still a threat. We see she’s used her ‘hypnosis’ powers in the past, and has forced several students to withdraw from school – even non-delinquents. There are, of course, nasty rumors about her, and I have a feeling that Hayasaka may not be the only one with a tragic past. (And he has a first name now! Though I can see why he wants to keep it a secret – and an endnote might have helped there, Viz.) Oresama Teacher is still worth reading for the comedy, but as it barrels towards a theoretical conclusion soon, it’s also gaining real depth and heart.

Oresama Teacher, Vol. 18

By Izumi Tsubaki. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.

Most of the last several volumes have been seeing each member of the student council try to shut down the Public Morals club, and failing. As to why they’re doing it, well, we’re told that it’s due to Takaomi having a bet with the head of the school, and that his ‘opponent’ is said head’s grandson. But we’ve seen from the very start that this is not really correct. Every time we try to figure out why Hanabusa is doing this, besides “for the lulz”, it’s vanished like smoke. Indeed, as the volumes piled up and each of the Student Council members, by virtue of interacting with Mafuyu and her friends, became better people, you began to get suspicious that this was all a setup and that what Hanabusa is really doing is a form of extreme therapy.

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And indeed, that’s absolutely correct. It’s made explicit by Hanabusa’s comment to Hayasaka, saying that if Mafuyu had arrived a little later on she’d have seen Hayasaka on the Student Council instead of the Public Morals club. We even get scenes of most of the old members showing how much they’ve grown – Kanon is able to interact with her childhood tormenter again, Komari’s nature is starting to be better understood even by people who aren’t Aki, and as for Momochi…

As yes, Momochi. When a villain turns out to be not a villain after all, there needs to be someone stepping in to take their place. Having Momochi turn out to be shady after all is not exactly a surprise, as her mysterious smirking nature has been played up from the moment we met her – she essentially comes off as an evil Michiru Kaioh from Sailor Moon. Seeing her try to manipulate Mafuyu and Hayasaka is not particularly a surprise. Seeing her drug both of them, and apparently attempting to brainwash Hayasaka into forgetting all his happy memories, is a big surprise. I wasn’t really prepared for this manga to take so serious a turn, even with the mystery of Hayasaka’s past sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s disturbing, and makes a great cliffhanger.

This is not to say that the humor has suddenly vanished from the series – it’s just as funny as ever. Most of it is admittedly packed into the first half, which wraps up Mafuyu going back home for the break with a test of courage. Yui is along for the ride, and ropes others into his own special brand of insanity, leading to some wonderful looks of pity and disgust on Mafuyu and Kangawa’s faces. No one does that flat stare of “wtf? Seriously, wtf?” quite like Tsubaki. And there’s also a beach chapter, with the boys showing off their eccentric (or not) swim trunks, and Okegawa being given a forcible reminded that Mafuyu is a girl by having her wear a bikini. And then we have Mafuyu’s attempts to learn to swim, which would make Rumiko Takahashi proud.

So things aren’t going to get all dark and grim, but I do suspect that Hayasaka will soon be taking a forcible leave of absence from the club soon, and that fixing whatever psychological damage he’s sustained may be the next arc. As for Momochi, is *she* just a simple villain? Or, like Hanabusa, is there something else driving her? She seems focused on Hayasaka, dismissing Mafuyu entirely. Sadly, we’ll have to wait a bit for the next volume (it only came out in Japan 5 months ago), but I’m sure it will be worth it.

Oresama Teacher, Vol. 14

By Izumi Tsubaki. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.

One problem with licensing manga in North America is that when you see a series that gets insanely popular, the gut reaction is to go back and find earlier works by the author. And this can often lead to disappointment, as you realize that the series you love was the point where the author really took off, and the work they did before just doesn’t quite measure up. Fruits Basket is an excellent example, as it’s Tokyopop’s biggest hit, but Tsubasa: Those With Wings and Phantom Dream did not have nearly the same sales, because, well, they weren’t as good. But with Oresama Teacher, we’ve already gotten the early series out of the way. The Magic Touch came out here first, and even though it had only one fan (me), it still made it through nine volumes. And now we see the successor, Oresama Teacher, which is, in most ways, a better series overall.

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This isn’t to say the manga is perfect. The fact that you need TWO cast sheets is a big clue that there are simply too many people in this manga, and it requires referring back and forth sometimes to remember who the more minor characters are. Indeed, one of the cadre of ‘bad guys’ laments the fact that she’s bored, and wonders when she’ll be able to have a role in this series. Every time we return to Mafuyu’s old school (including in this volume), things seem to drag a little more. And for readers of Shojo Beat, it might be a little odd seeing a series like this, filled with gang wars, goofy comedy, and a complete lack of romantic hijinks. But to me that’s what makes it better. Let’s face it, if Hakusensha had a shonen magazine, this series would be in it. But it doesn’t, it has Hana to Yume.

And so when we see our heroes going off to rescue Kanon, they do so by kicking as much ass as possible. In fact, part of the thrill of these first two chapters is seeing just how intelligent everyone is in regards to fighting, particularly Mafuyu. She’s good at being a gang leader for many reasons. She’s strong, and has endurance. She plans ahead, or at least tries to. And the guys who make up run of the mill henchmen help her by being idiots. Seeing her use one as a ventriloquist dummy, or making a deal so that they won’t open the door for 30 seconds when she’s running from them… it’s hilarious, but also showcases that she’s not merely the main character because it’s a shoujo manga.

The other thing I loved about Kanon’s rescue arc was that it showed that the whole “boys bully the girl they like” attitude that elementary schoolkids are supposed to have is simply pure bullying, full stop. And that, while you can’t change the past, you can try to move past your actions. Kento’s plan was quite stupid, but it does end up leading him to what he needs to do: he needs to apologize to Kanon for everything he did back then. It’s his realization o this that’s the climax of this arc, and I am relieved that, while accepting his apology, Kanon continues to not give two shits about him.

The other plot point that’s come up over and over again is Mafuyu’s memory loss, and we see a chapter devoted to that in this volume. Since it’s clear she can remember things when prompted (even if she doesn’t want to, as they’re always humiliating to her high school self), it would appear that there’s some major event in her past that caused her to repress everything involving Takaomi – and that he is not ready to tell her what that is. Indeed, it’s not even clear if he knows what that is – he’s been surprised once or twice at her lack of memory. It can be a bit discomfiting seeing that she and Takaomi are still the closest thing to a potential couple in this manga – indeed, we see scenes here of their childhood selves play-acting a rather disturbing family – especially given that Takaomi has to a certain extent raised Mafuyu to be the badass she is today. Still, would not be the first older man/younger woman shoujo manga ending if it does happen.

We seem to be gearing up for a new arc here, as Mafuyu and company are going on a class trip that I suspect will take all of Vol. 15 and more. But I don’t know if I’m all that invested in the major plot points behind Oresama Teacher, even as I go on about them in my review. This is a fun title with badass characters and a tendency towards hilarity. Movement of the plot is simply gravy at this point.