Over the years, I’ve been slowly moving away from reading manga about high school romance. Mostly because I’m turning 30 this year and I find that I don’t really relate to the stories as much as I used to. However, there are those rare manga series that still entertain me. This new manga, released earlier this month, is one of them. I Belong to the Baddest Girl in School, is a comedy of misunderstandings that pits the tough-as-nails yet soft-hearted bad-girl of her school against the ever-bullied, caring gofer. The comedy elements are what really make this manga shine, and I’m not sure I would have liked it otherwise. The cases of misunderstandings aren’t written to prolong the series, like you would see in other highschool romances, but more as a gag to form the backbone. I really do think fans of high-school rom-coms will love this one.
I Belong to Baddest Girl in School follows the life of Unoki, a high school boy who has always been bullied and pushed around at school. One day he finds himself taken in as the gofer to the baddest girl in his school, Toramaru, and begins to get more and more involved in her life. It’s a rom-com full of comedic misunderstandings, where Toramaru believes Unoki is her boyfriend, and Unoki, who is only familiar with being pushed around, only believes he is her gofer and member of her rebel band. The first volume contains 11 short chapters, each split into contained short stories. The mangaka is Ui Kashima, and it is currently being published in English by One Peace Books (who sent me a copy to review).
In terms of art, I think the manga has a fairly strong yet standard art style. Nothing really stood out to me as very unique, and that’s perfectly fine. I don’t really expect rom-com manga to be artistically unique, because the focus is on the comedy and the dialogue. The art helps make sure the gags land, but it doesn’t need to be super special. Too unique and I think it would just become distracting. Kashima does a great job using their art to bring the comedy to the forefront. The emotions, facial expressions, and body language are all spot on. When combined with some over-exaggeration, it makes the stories a lot more entertaining.
My one gripe is that the pages can look a bit crowded sometimes with all the speech bubbles and effects. I didn’t necessarily have a hard time following along, but I think visually it might be nicer if the panels were a bit more spaced out. Kashima does utilize some larger panels in between these more crowded pages, and they do serve their purpose of calling attention to strong emotions with the characters. I wouldn’t say the panel design is a big problem as this is ultimately a fast-paced rom-com, but it could be a small improvement.
Character-wise, I really enjoy the two mains, Toramaru and Unoki. I think they’re presented as fairly well-rounded characters in their own right. Toramaru isn’t just your tough, cold-hearted, gang-running, bad girl. She honestly reminds me a lot of Taiga from Toradora! She’s short (and self-conscious about her height), protective of the people she likes, and not great at expressing herself. This ultimately leads to Unoki thinking he is just her errand-boy instead of her boyfriend when she gets up the nerve to ask him out. But behind her tough façade is someone who truly cares what Unoki thinks of her. I’m not sure if she really enjoys fighting, or if it’s the only way she really knows how to express herself. It certainly seems like it’s the only way she knows how to express her anger and frustration. I’m interested in seeing how Unoki helps her grow over time in the story.
Unoki is a guy that has been bullied a lot, and you can tell, not just by him saying he has, but by his actions and thought processes. He truly believes that he is Toramaru’s gopher through the majority of the first volume. I think most of that comes from a very low self-opinion and self-confidence. He takes some sort of messed-up pride in his ability to cater to others, but in a way High School is a messed-up place and can create messed-up people. Unoki just happens to be one of those victims. But the great thing about his relationship with Toramaru is that she sees a kind of strength and kindness in him that maybe she has been needing in her life. In that way, I think Toramaru nurtures Unoki’s self-confidence a bit, in her own backwards way, but it seems to work. And I think it may become one of the strong points of this series, seeing how Unoki grows while he’s with her.
While their relationship is built on misunderstandings, I don’t find it as annoying as some other series that take these events more seriously. I think the series, and Kashima, know these plot devices can get a little dumb sometimes, so they never really feel overdone. Each misunderstanding that plays out gives us some great gags and action, but it also lets us see more of the characters’ personalities and inner thoughts in the moment. We get to know them a bit better as they try to figure out just where they stand with one another and what exactly is happening in the moment.
Overall, I think the story is very cute, and I would whole-heartedly recommend it to high school rom-com fans. I’m looking forward to reading the second volume and seeing where these characters and their relationship goes. So far, I think this is one of the few high school romances I’ll be reading as I go into my 30s. If you’ve had a chance to read it, let me know what you thought in the comments below!
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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