Manga Review: Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches #1 by Miki Yoshikawa
Ryu Yamada is a delinquent. His time at Suzaku High School is marked by poor attendance, bad grades and getting into fights. His surly attitude is reflected by other students giving him a wide berth and teachers giving him hassle. One day, after being reamed out by a teacher, Yamada spots honor student Urara Shiraishi going up some stairs. He stomps up the steps to get ahead of her, to show her–well, just show her. He’s so focused on getting ahead that when he pivots a couple of steps about Shiraishi, he loses his balance, and they fall down the stairs together.
When Yamada wakes up in the infirmary, he is shocked to discover that he is now somehow in Shiraishi’s body. She’s already gone back to class in his body. She seems remarkably calm about this incident, and doesn’t want to miss any more learning time, so suggests they switch back after the end of classes.
Yamada uses the opportunity to see what Shiraishi’s underwear looks like (in fairness, we learn that she also peeped at his goods), but also learns that Shiraishi is sexually harrassed by men and bullied by the other girls. Yamada is at least able to impress the worst bully into cutting it out through complicated circumstances. At the end of the day, the two try falling down the stairs together several times; it doesn’t get them back to their right bodies.
Then Shiraishi mentions that she remembers that just before she blacked out, Yamada’s lips brushed hers. Yes, it’s kissing that makes them switch bodies! This being a comedy, they soon need to switch bodies again and again, and eventually it’s learned that Yamada can switch bodies with anyone he kisses.
This is a shounen manga, and has a fairly high amount of male-oriented fanservice. Yamada himself is remarkably chaste for a “bad boy” (we’ll eventually learn that he didn’t really want that role), but there’s quite a lot of kissing, including same-sex kissing. As you might guess from the title, there turn out to be other people at the school with special abilities, but we don’t really see any of that in this first volume. I know some spoilers because this has also been turned into an anime show.
Yamada’s social outcast status has made him woefully ignorant of much of what’s going on with the people around him. This allows him to be blindsided multiple times by relationships he knows nothing about. If the manga has a deeper theme, it’s learning how to connect to and understand other people–while Yamada’s fighting prowess is useful, most of the problems he faces require more than a punch or kick to solve.
Ms. Yoshikawa’s art is decent, and she works hard to show by facial expressions and body language who’s in which body. There’s a certain amount of contrivance in some of the plot developments, but that’s standard for the comedy genre.
Recommended for those who like high school comedy with a fantasy twist.