Reading Manga Out of Order

Posted January 11, 2018 by Kim in manga, review / 0 Comments

Goblet of Fire was the first Harry Potter novel I got my hands on. Although I had no prior connection to the characters and I was likely too young to even fully comprehend all the events that unfolded, I liked to pretend I understood what I was reading. One of the first shojo mangas I picked up after Shugo Chara was Kitchen Princess volume 5, but I had no idea how the story progressed to that point. Still, I enjoyed reading both of these series completely out of order.

I used to like only collect volumes of manga that had my favorite scenes, because let’s face it, manga is expensive. But when I was younger, I also bought a lot of manga just because it was cheap (but I had no real interest in them).

The following two volumes I’ll be reviewing fall into the later category. For the most part, they were stories that would better suit another reader, but I don’t regret reading them. I got a taste for what they had to offer, and I was pleasantly surprised that they were not necessarily what I was expecting.

School Rumble Volume Two by Jin Kobayashi
Series: School Rumble (#2)
Published: September 17, 2003
Publisher: Kodansha
Source: Purchased

Harima Kenji has never lost a fight, but his love for the clueless Tsukamoto Tenma is proving to be his greatest challenge. After catching his cherished Tenma-chan and an unexpected rival in a lunchtime tryst, Kenji spirals into the deepest pit of high school Hades–plummeting so low that there’s only one thing left to do: draw a manga. When Kenji hits bottom, whom will he find there? Meanwhile, Tenma is determined to learn how to cook–this time preferably without setting the house on fire!

Although I haven’t read the first, School Rumble volume 2 does a fairly good job explaining its character dynamics. Harima Kenji, a high school student sporting a middle age man’s look, met his one sided love when he rescued her in an alley. Tsukamoto Tenma ends up fainting, leading Kenji with no convenient option but to carry her home with him. Though unconscious, Tenma appears to have super strength. One misunderstanding and one impressive self-defense move later, both of them part in awkward positions.

Flash forward to high school, Kenji carries around a lamented photo of Tenma, and it is a little off-putting because she’s at best his friendly classmate. There’s quite a few scenes with aggressive, stalker type behavior from the main character over his crush. After a baseball game, we see that Kenji has decided to accept a letter of challenge. His reasoning for answering a fight he normally wouldn’t bother with is that the other man fell in love with Tenma, and he’s devastated to learn that Tsukamoto Tenma already has a person she’s interested in.

The humor Jin Kobyashi plays with in School Rumble wasn’t always my cup of tea. Am I suppose to find it amusing that Kenji borderline attacks a fellow student after misunderstanding Hanai’s words and remembering that Tenma said something nice about him? Or when Kenji hits rock bottom and refuses to go to school when he sees Tenma sitting with another boy for lunch? These situations are oerhaps not uncommon for slice-of-life comedy manga, but I’ve outgrown the part of me that could misconstrue borderline obsession as romantic (or even funny).

Personally, the one storyline I would be interested in exploring is Eri Sawachika and her father’s relationship. Starting with the classic absentee father and a daughter who doesn’t have the courage to tell him how she feels, it’s got all the makings of a relationship that could have a lot of emotional development. I also really liked the moment that followed with Eri and Kenji after her father leaves and it coincidentally starts raining. It was a brief but sweet moment of great healthy friendship. I also liked seeing our characters’ impromptu hockey game when they were suppose to be cleaning the pool.

At the end of the volume two is a special short story. It crept me out unexpectedly and I have no idea what actually happened. A lot of School Rumble is preposterous, and that quality can make it appealing to readers out there. For me, however, one volume was enough for a good run with these characters.

Hayate the Combat Butler Volume Two by Kenjiro Hata
Series: Hayate the Combat Butler (#2)
Published: June 1st, 2005
Publisher: Viz Media LLC
Source: Purchased

Hardworking Hayate has a plan to pay the yakuza–who are now the legal owners of his vital organs–back: he’ll kidnap someone and ransom them for a mountain of money. But things get tricky when his would-be kidnappee–who as luck would have it is the daughter of a mind-bogglingly wealthy family–mistakes Hayate’s actions for a confession of love, and hires him to be her personal servant. At least his employment future is secure, or so he thinks…

Although Hayate the Combat Butler might have its own merits, I much prefer the experience of reading Black Butler. Regardless, there were some unexpected charms in this volume – namely a talking tiger – that had me curious enough to read a summary for the rest of the series.

Hit or Miss Comedy

For the most part, Hayate the Combat Butler has no problem breaking the fourth wall for comedic effect. It’s a series marketed for its humor, which can be quite delightful when the gags are entertaining.

Our brave hero is Hayate, a walking example of bad luck since the day he was born. With parents who left him nothing but a insurmountable debt to the mafia, he was a hairbreadth away from being taken apart for his organs. The story could have taken a dark turn, but instead Hayate is saved by a thirteen year old heir to a enormous fortune and taken in to work as one of her personal servants.

The problem? She thinks he’s in love with her.

The princess of our mansion setting is cynical and twisted in personality. Nagi treats almost everyone but Hayate with an aloof attitude.

“Granddaughter. Do you want the Sanzenin family inheritance?”
“No. I don’t want it, but I’d welcome the old geezer’s premature death.”

She’s really charming and kind, can’t you tell?

Though her reactions might be amusing in the moment, taking a step back makes some of her words quite alarming. She hasn’t even made it to high school and she’s pouring boiling hot tea on another girl’s head. I’ll acknowledge that she has a number of questionable influences, from a perverted grandfather to her violent childhood friend.

Kenjiro Hata makes a number of allusions to other works, and though I had no context for some of them, the English translation provides solid footnotes. The plot is episodic, which makes the story fairly cohesive without having to start from the beginning. The art is clean, the pacing easy to follow, and Hayate the Combat Butler even scratches the surface of deeper psychological trauma. I’d like to know how Hayate has developed his affinity for fighting (how many times can you evade a sword while zooming out?? apparently it’s infinity). I respect his dedication to self-sufficiency, that his dream is a house, and that he works to pay his debts back quickly. Even though he drew the worst of lots with his gambler parents, there’s a lot to be said about this young boy who still held on to integrity and honor.

Isumi is adorable to watch, and the unfortunate misunderstandings that arise between her servants and Hayate was both frustrating and hilarious. If he would have just shut up and let her speak, Hayate could’ve avoided all the entanglements with the actual yakuza and his sudden inclusion into their unwanted camaraderie.

“You’re all wet. If you don’t dry yourself off…you might catch a cold and die.”

Hayate sneezes a moment later and Isumi thinks he’s a second away from death:

“Oh dear, I was too late…”

I would have liked if the manga avoided sexualizing Nagi, who’s a prepubescent girl. Nagi’s grandfather’s condition for his relatives to fulfill to claim his considerable fortune was uncomfortable to read. I do appreciate Nagi’s spunk and I am endlessly amused that she isn’t afraid to say anything, although I can’t say she’s a character I’d like to meet. (What if she force-feeds me porridge made with soap yikes)

There are definitely inklings that a larger and focused plot can form in the future. The characters, even seemingly being aware that they are a creation of a mangaka moving them across panels, have intelligence and intuition that are not diminished for a timely joke. I won’t rule out the possibility of watching the anime adaption down the line, but I can’t justify all the volumes I’d have to invest in before getting to the heart of this story. If I’m ever in the mood for comedy, I’d rather turn to the first few volumes of Katekyo Hitman Reborn (which started out as a gag manga and then turned into one of the best shonen manga I’ve read) or Yotsuba. I can even revisit Hayate the Combat Butler volume two, and see our talking tiger mascot or sentient robot once again.

Rating Report

School Rumble: 1.5 stars
Hayate the Combat Butler: 2.5 stars

2 star rating

School Rumble: 2 stars
Hayate the Combat Butler: 2.5 stars

2.5 star rating

School Rumble: 1.5 stars
Hayate the Combat Butler: 3 stars

2.5 star rating

School Rumble: 3 stars
Hayate the Combat Butler: 3 stars

3 star rating
Overall 2.5 stars

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