Friday, February 09, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #40: No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!, Vols. 8 & 9 by Nico Tanigawa

It's been two and a half years since I last checked in with Tomoko Kuroki, world-class otaku and eternal contender for Most Awkward Person in The World. The last time I read a couple of manga volumes about her, I found the jokes were getting too "in" and the cultural references too decidedly Japanese for me to enjoy it the way I did the first few. (For more, check out my previous posts on volumes  1 and 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6-7.)

But I'm back for No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!'s eighth and ninth volumes, which were sitting gathering dust on my shelf. (Two more volumes have since emerged, and I'm not sure the series is done even now.)

These two volumes see Tomoko go on a class trip and compete in her school's bi-annual sports festival. The cynic in me takes that as an indication that the series has run longer than creator Nico Tanigawa expected or planned, and so she's now running Tomoko through standard Japanese high school events to see how Tomoko reacts. Even if that's the case, it's not a bad idea -- Tomoko is still so thoroughly living in her own world that she inevitably brings confusion and awkwardness everywhere she goes.

(And the target audience -- both in Japan and slightly less so over on my side of the Pacific -- will be very familiar with the cultural/social references that just whiz past me.)

I guess I'm still in basically the same position I was when I read the last couple of volumes: this is fun and entertaining, but it feels like this series should have been over by now. Tomoko is not going to change or learn, which limits the stories you can tell about her. A character like that is not built to sustain continuing, ongoing stories -- she's a caricature, so you want to show her from her best side, do the best stories right, and get out. I'm thinking two thousand plus pages of stories about Tomoko is probably too many, but I suppose there are people who want four or five thousand -- and capitalism means that if there's enough of them, they get their way.

In any case, don't start here. Starting any manga series at volume eight is a bad idea, but especially so with a one-joke character. Try the first book, see if you like it, and keep going as long as you do. (Not bad advice for anything, I suppose.)

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