Seiho Boys’ High School, Vol. 8

By Kaneyoshi Izumi. Released in Japan as “Men’s Kou” by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Comic (“Betsucomi”). Released in North America by Viz.

I’d put off reviewing this final volume for a while. I’m a romantic sop at heart, and it has to be said that much of what we see here is bittersweet. But then Seiho hasn’t really been about the happy warm fuzzy moments of relationships in any case. This is realistic, and that’s not always pretty.

First off, Nogami and his nurse girlfriend don’t even get a mention. I guess we should assume they live happily ever… nah, I can’t. Presumably at some point Nogami says something colossally stupid and they break up. That leaves our two main couples, who have struggled with a) communication and b) how others see them since the start of this series, and it’s no different here. Miyabi has split up with Kamiki as she feels that she’s not cool enough to be seen beside him as his boyfriend. She also thinks of herself as stupid, which is questionable given how she shows easy flashes of understanding others in here. Kamiki is stubborn and understanding, though, and things eventually work out. Mostly, as it’s noted how fragile their relationship is.

Maki and Erika is another story. Having spent their entire time together talking around each other, it’s unsurprising to see their neither really knows how to read the other and see what the other one is thinking. And due to circumstances, Erika is leaving soon anyway. A lot of things come together here. The fact that they know little about each other; Maki jumping to conclusions; Erika having figured out that Maki is still in love with someone else (but not who it is)… and so they break up. (And the moment where Erika finds out about the other Erika, which I’d been waiting for for about 6 volumes, is actually very understated and quiet.) It’s very bittersweet, and though Maki indicates that he will definitely ask her out if he ever meets her again, it’s melancholy as well.

Still, the boys all move up to being third years, and Maki gets stuck with the RA job (which he’s perfect for, admittedly). All seems well. This means, like the first volume in this series, we have to end with a sleazy shoujo smut story complet4ely unrelated to Seiho itself. Reverse Guilt is about a former ‘princess’ whose grades weren’t good enough for an elite school and so is now shunned. She tries to hide from life, but has trouble with this as the hottest, jerkiest guy in school is in love with her. He used to be a poor, abused child. He isn’t anymore. More communication misunderstandings here, but this time it makes you yearn for the relative niceness of the Seiho cast. Even Nogami wouldn’t be quite as bad as the guy is in this short. There’s also some explicit sexual situations here, for those who note this is still rated OT.

Overall, despite that, the main series was a great pickup for Viz. I know it didn’t sell quite as well as their other licenses of this period, but then it’s not big or flashy. It’s a series about a bunch of goofy guys who remind us of ourselves, and their ephemeral high school years. Definitely a keeper.

Hey, Takano never found out that Maki’s old girlfriend had the same name! Grr…

Seiho Boys’ High School! Volume 7

By Kaneyoshi Izumi. Released in Japan as “Men’s Kou” by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Comic (“Betsucomi”). Released in North America by Viz.

We’ve almost finished with this short and enjoyable shoujo series. As we hit the penultimate volume, the main boys (well, the main straight boys) all have girlfriends of some sort or another. So we’re left with doing plots on side characters we haven’t seen much of till now, and working on seeing how well those relationships with the girls are being maintained. As always, communication is the key.

The first chapter shows us a girl who goes through guys like kleenex, and her platonic best friend who has tried going to Seiho to get away from the drama that is her life. Of course, ‘platonic’ in this case turns out to be as platonic as most other shoujo manga cute friendships. Maki manages to step in and show the two what everyone but them can see (and honestly, the girl gets it too), with that special blend of being a complete jerk for the right reasons that he does so well. Given that it’s all too easy to peg Maki into the ‘sweet’ hole, I like seeing him when he’s a bit of an asshole.

Next we’re back to Kamiki, with what was likely my favorite chapter of the volume. He’s come down with a bad cold, and is starting to lose the image that he projects so hard under a feverish glare of ‘you know what? I just don’t care anymore’. We see some shots of him as a child dealing with his somewhat scatterbrained mother. He acts the strong, always in control boy so he can please her… but then she worries he’s too stoic. Finding a happy medium is tough, especially when you’re busy burying most of your emotions. (Suddenly it’s easier to see why he might have fallen for his stepsister.)

It’s even harder when your girlfriend is acting a bit too clingy, and your best friend is trying to get a bit too involved in your life as always. Kamiki and Maki’s brief fistfight is not as startling as what he says, and despite it being due to a fever, I think Kamiki with the filter off is great at telling those little annoying truths. Maki’s dating a girl with the same name and a similar personality as his dead crush. Why wouldn’t anyone be wary of that? Heck, I’ve mentioned myself I keep waiting for it to blow up in my past reviews. Still, Maki’s rationalization is a good one, and I’m starting to think I may not get the full confession I was hoping for.

There then follows a weak chapter with a student teacher inspiring Maki to be an idiot. The chapter after that, however, tells Miyaki and Erika’s side of the Kamiki chapter, and shows how the two, despite being dissimilar, have become such good friends. It shows both of them not at their best – Miyaji overreacts to everything, and is constantly fretting, which Erika’s ‘I don’t need anyone or anything’ persona sometimes blinds her to when Miyaji needs a hug more than a kick in the pants – but the dynamic is excellent. I like that Miyaji, during their fight, can immediately tell that she hurt Erika, and how it gnaws at her. It makes her less of a giant flake, which she’s had a tendency to be in this series.

There’s another cliffhanger ending, this time playing on Miyaji’s insecurities, but given Vol. 6’s ending didn’t apparently do much I’m not sure if this one will either. Still, it’s another great volume of an underrated shoujo series, and with the next volume being the final one I hope that all our leads find some measure of happiness. Bittersweet endings can be nice, but I like sugary sweet better.

Seiho Boys High School! Volume 6

By Kaneyoshi Izumi. Released in Japan as “Men’s Kou” by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Comic (“Betsucomi”). Released in North America by Viz.

I did enjoy this volume of Seiho, though I am starting to get the feeling that the author had 4 volumes of plot that she has now been asked to make into 8 volumes. As a result, a lot of things that I thought might get resolved seem to be dragging, and we have a piece of what is very obviously goofy filler. But it’s still fun.

The first two chapters deal once more with Nogami and Fukuhara, who had the distinction of being the first couple to get together in the series, and thus have not gotten as much attention lately. I will hand it to the author: while she continues to have the school nurse dating the 16-year-old student, she doesn’t shy away from the obvious issues that this presents, noting that they have to continue to hide their relationship, and that Miss Fukuhara still feels very awkward about having feelings for someone so young. Nogami doesn’t have that issue, but his is just as bad – he continues to shoot off his big mouth without actually thinking things through. He knows he loves her, but can’t explain why, which is fine – that’s part of what love is, as the climax to this 2-chapter arc shows – but he’s also unobservant, not noticing all the little things that his girlfriend has been doing to her appearance, many of them for his sake. Hint to Nogami from one who knows: in general, obliviousness is not cute.

Oh yes, we also get a lot of jokes in these chapters about the guys cross-dressing, and how things that always seem hot and sexy to girls in shoujo manga don’t always work out that way in real life. The un-bishonenness of the guys in drag is brought up over and over again (which is beautifully contrasted with the art, as this *is* a shoujo manga and the cast *are* bishonens, albeit manly ones).

The third chapter is the aforementioned filler, involving a box of porn making its way from room to room in order to avoid the prying eyes of a dorm inspection. Aside from the images of the porn itself, which were quite funny (and dead on), the highlight here is seeing Maki trying to fantasize about Erika, only to have all his fantasies turn into wrestling matches (and no, not in a sexy way either).

Speaking of Erika, she and Maki are once again the focus of the final chapter. Being a Maki chapter, it’s a lot more serious than the others. Of note, the other Erika doesn’t even get a mention in the chapter (she was briefly mentioned in the one before, where he noted he was starting to move on). Instead, we see the classic teenage boy situation of finding out that you are the only virgin in your close circle of friends. Nogami has already mentioned his prior sexual experience, and we already know about Kamiki and his step-sister. So Maki is starting to feel a bit left behind, especially after making out with Erika on her campus and getting caught by the head nun… who gives them condoms. In the end, the issues are the same as most of the Maki/Erika chapters to date: his tendency to put up false fronts, her loss of control which she covers up with anger. They don’t have sex, but they work things out. It looks as if Erika may be bringing a couple more issues, though, as there’s a one-line cliffhanger teaser.

The author notes that she keeps getting asked if this is a shoujo manga, most likely as it doesn’t star a female and doesn’t have much BL. It’s fairly obvious to me that it is, mostly from the art. Speaking of which, I like the way that Izumi draws faces, particularly when they’re amused or snickering – she has a sort of fish-mouth shorthand that makes the characters far less pretty but far funnier. I will note one piece of awkward art towards the end – when Maki is confessing to Erika on a set of stairs, the art makes him look like a hunchback, and made me wonder briefly who the heck he was supposed to be. Please try to keep your proportions!

But overall this is a very underrated series, which has some sweet relationships and, despite the author’s fretting, shows that you can write shoujo starring a bunch of guys at an all-boys’ school.