It’s always a fantastic feeling when you come across a truly ‘great’ manga. One that captures your imagination and you can’t stop thinking about it. On the flip side, even an awful manga has a redeeming quality in how bad it is – it’s something you can laugh at, vent about or just shake your head. Essentially, however good or bad a manga is, it can be memorable just on your own reaction to it. But then you’ve got the grey area of manga. The series that completely the mark, make you go ‘meh’ and you never think about them again. Today, I wanted to dredge some of my own ‘meh’ manga from the recesses of my memory and share them with you!
Saiteihen no Otoko – Yamaguchi Mikoto
16 year old Murai is a self-proclaimed scumbag, with a fetish for other scumbags. He gets off on the high of not sinking as low as they are. When another bullied classmate tells the bullies he’s gotten a girlfriend, Murai quickly makes up his own imaginary girlfriend so they won’t scorn him. The next day, everyone is keen to see if Murai can produce this ‘girlfriend’. Imagine his (and everyone’s) shock when she actually appears as a transfer student. But this isn’t some cutesy rom-com. There’s something off about Murai’s fated girl. When he uncovers her secret, he must follow her demented orders or be her next victim.
Saiteihen no Otoko had a pretty interesting premise – Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Onanie Master Kurosawa (or maybe that’s being a bit generous). Essentially, the classes’ ‘worst people’ are being replaced by demonically perfected versions of themselves. I’m sure there’s some message about individuality and ‘being yourself’ but it’s lost in the noise of this series. Murai starts off completely unlikeable, it is kinda hard to care about a panty-sniffing narcissist, and he pretty much ends the series that way. There’s not much motivation behind his actions, he’s not a grand hero trying to save society, he’s just…rolling with the punches? Besides Murai, the series has lots of random strings that just become convoluted and tangled. I love the premise of this but the execution was just all over the place. If it had kept itself small, focused on a creeping sense of dread and a dash of Murai’s descent into madness this would have been a great manga. But as it is, it’s just a gore and boob fest that doesn’t lead anywhere.
Ningyo School – Yoshitomi Akihiko
Every place has its own urban legends and a high school is no exemption. At one particular high school, there’s a legend that if you eat the flesh of a mermaid your true love will come true. The manga features various girls, across the years, visiting their school at night and hunting the school’s mermaids. But, be careful, the hunted can quickly become the hunter. How much would you risk to fulfil your one sided love?
I have a feeling that this manga was never really meant to be a series. Just as most manga serialisations happen – it started off as a really popular one shot, and then it had to be expanded to a manga volume – which the author probably never planned for. But then hey that got popular too so let’s make it a series. And then, just when the author found their footing, the publisher went “right, now let’s wrap it up, the series has to end.” That’s the only way I can kind of explain how the pacing of this series is so darn off. Revelations of the mermaid lore, and the interconnecting links between characters across time never landed well. There was never any ‘oh my god!’ moment, and as such this series, while kinda enjoyable was mostly forgettable.
Kyoushitsu Jibaku Club – Aoisei (Author) & Anajiro (Artist)
Seven people gather in their old classroom, but it’s not your typical reunion. Three years ago, one of their classmates was ruthlessly bullied by the class. That student became a suicide bomber, blowing himself up along with most of the class. But perhaps this isn’t as clear cut as it seems, at least that’s what Shindou believes. He suspects that not only was their bullied classmate manipulated into the mass murder, but also that there’s a larger conspiracy behind it. At the same time, across town, another bullied girl holds her classmates hostage with bombs.
I have to admit, for a period of time I was absolutely hooked on this manga. Even re-reading it for this review I got sucked in all over again. Then chapter 6 came round and it nosedived. A once intriguing and tense plot took a back seat as the manga became a crude shock-horror show. It seemed the series pulled out all the stops to horrify readers to an almost ridiculous degree. And then, just as it reaches its ‘intended’ heart-racing climax – a complete tonal shift! The series seemed to realise it needed to anchor all the violence with some message so it spiralled into half-assed preaching. It was like getting whiplash. Or at least it would be, if I had continued to be invested in the story at that point. What started off as a great story, with an important message about bullying, just fell into obscurity because the handling of the subject was borderline immature.
If you read as much manga as I do, you’re bound to come across a few series that just aren’t good, nor are they bad. They’re forgettable. You can’t remember the character’s names, plot details fade away and there’s no lingering feelings of wonder. They’re just something you spent some time on. But I do hope you enjoyed spending your time reading this post! Now, onto the next manga series 🙂