By Tomohito Oda. Originally released in Japan as “Komi-san wa Komyushou Desu” by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by John Werry.
I had honestly expected that Komi, like most manga I review, would get a Vol. 1 review and then go to the Bookshelf Briefs pile. Then those four chapters happened. In the aftermath of those, I got a number of folks reassuring me that this is as bad as it gets and that I won’t have another plot quite like this, which OK. All manga have growing pains, and if I read and supported Teru Teru x Shonen I can move past this. But Christ on a bike. In any case, let’s first discuss all the OTHER chapters in the book, which are cute and advance the premise. Komi tries ramen, Komi goes clothes shopping for the first time, Komi and Tadano share an umbrella in a moment that would be really shippy if I thought the series was going to move in that direction, which I don’t. It continues to build on the strong premise at the start, has some really funny gags, introduces two new “eccentric” characters who are not literal criminals… OK, yeah, let’s talk Ren Yamai.
Here’s me in the review of Vol. 1: Likewise one of the minor characters in this book, Yamai, reads like a worryingly stereotypical psycho lesbian, and I really hope it doesn’t go down that road. Well, I was right to worry. The four chapters named “Ren” focus on Yamai, her obsession over Komi, and her realization that Tadano is in the way. She proceeds to kidnap Tadano and leave him tied in a chair in her bedroom while she goes to school to get closer to Komi. Later, after inviting Komi to her house (?!?!), she hides Tadano in the closet, then after he is found breaks down and confesses “I did it for you!” My teeth ground, my toes curled. The series wants to be funny overall, hence why Yamai actually invites Komi to her home like a numbskull – but she’s literally kidnapped and threatened Tadano – and still does after “apologizing”. It’s absolutely dire.
The really frustrating thing is that these four chapters also contain the BEST part of the book, which is Komi’s reaction to all of this. After discovering Tadano and hearing Yamai’s “explanation” for what happened, Komi’s “I decide who’s my friend” is a punch the air moment. Likewise the chapter afterwards, where Komi feels guilty for being the “cause” of all this, and tries to break off with Tadano only to have her own words turned back at her, is incredibly sweet and caring, and it would ALMOST be worth all the previous garbage if Yamai’s apology wasn’t an excuse to having her join the cast herd. She gets no real punishment for her actions, and seemingly integrates with the rest of Komi’s friends afterwards, with only one or two token “lol obsessed with Komi” jokes for the rest of the book. Honestly, she needed to leave the school and never be seen again.
So yeah, it’s one of THOSE volumes. You can’t even advise readers to just skip it, as the stuff with Komi and Tadano is the best part of the volume. You just have to read it while screaming and cursing. Not a good look for a lighthearted, heartwarming comedy about making friends.