Manga Review: Kenka Bancho Otome #1 by Chie Shimada
Hinako is looking forward to high school. She grew up in an orphanage, constantly harassed by bullies until she learned to fight back, only to get a reputation as a violent tomboy. Ever since, the rumors about her fighting skills have kept her from having any friends. But now she’s going into an elegant girls-only academy, where Hinako will finally be able to be feminine and have friendships with other girls.
Wrong! On her way to the entrance ceremony, she’s accosted by a boy who looks almost exactly like her, and dragooned into wearing his uniform and going to Shishiku, a boys’ school for rampaging delinquents! The school is essentially a fighting tournament to discover the toughest young hoods to rule the school, and Hinako’s new identity of Hikaru turns out to be a huge target painted on her back. Fight time!
This manga (the title translates roughly as “Violent Delinquent Maiden”) is based on an otome-genre “visual novel.” For those unfamiliar with the terms, a visual novel is a computer/video game that’s like a Find Your Own Adventure book–most of the gameplay consists of making choices and following different paths through the story. The otome genre involves a young woman placed in an unusual situation and given the choice of several attractive young men to romance.
It turns out that Hikaru is Hinako’s long-lost twin brother, the son of a Yakuza (Japanese mobsters) boss. In order to inherit leadership of the clan, he must attend Shishiku. The problem is that he’s a total wimp with no fighting skills. Hikaru’s also self-centered enough not to just ditch the wealth and prestige that comes with the position. So when he found out Hinako was alive, he came up with the switch idea. (In exchange, he attends the all-girl school disguised as Hinako, which he apparently enjoys.)
At Shishiku, Hinako promptly starts busting faces and making friends. Turns out some of these delinquents are amazingly good looking, especially the mysterious Rintaro Kira, who turns out to have a surprise connection to Hinako’s past.
Hinako starts having feelings for some of the boys, but romance is going to be a bit difficult while she’s pretending to be Hikaru.
The storyline has some similarities to So Cute It Hurts!! which I reviewed a while back, but isn’t as engaging. The brother in that one was a bit of a jerk but also had good qualities he showed often, and the plot was balanced. In this story, Hikaru shows no redeeming qualities as of yet, and functions more as a plot device.
The character art is okay, but backgrounds are almost non-existent.
Content notes: bullying, frequent but non-gory violence.
Mostly for fans of the visual novel, but should also appeal to fans of girls disguised as boys and kicking butt.