By Izumi Tsubaki. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by JN Productions.
Though it’s not an explicit canon pairing, be warned I do talk about the IMPLICIT canon pairing in this review, so ‘ware spoilers.
The final volume of Oresama Teacher, a series that ran for thirteen years, and one of my own favorites, even though it will likely always be overshadowed by the still-running gag comedy Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. It’s a shonen manga that ran in a shoujo magazine, and certainly had shoujo art, but one look at the plot and characters told you this was essentially a “gang” manga at heart, and featured a lot of “new bad guy arrives -> slowly win them over through being nice and/or beating the crap out of them -> now they’re friends! -> new bad guy arrives” in a circle with Mafuyu as its pivot. We’ve had so many ridiculous situations, so many awesome fights, so many cool teenage girls and dorky teenage guys. The journey to get here was wonderful. So, should I still be disappointed if the ending is not one I personally wanted? I mean… if you exist in fandom, yes, it ruins everything. Fortunately, Oresama Teacher only has 29 fanfics on AO3.
First of all, despite the cover art, this is not an OT3 ending, alas, and we do not see Mafuyu getting married. We start off resolving the cliffhanger from last time, and if it feels a bit like it’s undercutting and mocking the drama, well, that’s what this series has always done best. Adfter this we deal with the last remaining open plot hook – what happened to Mafuyu’s memories when she was a kid? The answer, as Takaomi warns her, is not only something she will regret knowing when he tells her, but also something far less dramatic than you’d expect. It is, however, very in character for her. It even ties into the ending, as it turns out even Mafuyu can get into college if she applies herself… in the wrong way. We then get an extended “where is everyone off to after graduation” chapter, and end with a brief epilogue showing our main characters as adults.
So yeah, surprise, once again Japan loves teacher/student and jerk pairings more than the West. I always suspected that we were going with a Takaomi endgame, particularly when Hayasaka’s past only turned out to be the end of Part II rather than the whole series. Mafuyu’s memory loss ties in to her obsession with him – she couldn’t imagine living without him after he had to leave her to go to educational college, so she literally erased her own memories, somehow, to forget him. That is both in character and EXTREMELY frustrating, frankly. As for Takaomi himself, he’s far less effusive, but honestly, he hasn’t stopped her chasing after him her entire life, so why would he stop now? The epilogue shows he’s started a company (it’s unclear what it does, but it’s implied it’s a “we fix your problems” sort of company) and both Hayasaka and Mafuyu are employees there. And again, while the implication is the “they’ll always be friends!” was meant to be the emotional heft, there’s also his implication he’ll propose to her in three more years. Eh.
So yeah, not the pairing I wanted, but I enjoyed everything else about it. In the end I’ve enjoyed every single Izumi Tsubaki series. Sometimes I am alone in this (I will defend The Magic Touch to my dying day), sometimes I am part of a much larger horde (Nozaki-kun 2nd season WHEN?). Oresama Teacher fits squarely in the middle. Its fans love it, but it’s still a bit of a cult. Its huge, huge cast can give readers a headache. And you’d better love dimbulbs, because this series runs on them. I’ll miss it dearly.