That’s what the series is about.
Dr. Hitomi’s Infirmary (ヒトミ先生の保健室, Hitomi-sensei no Hokenshitsu) is a goddamn amazing manga by Shake-O (鮭夫) about a cyclops middle school nurse named Dr. Manaka Hitomi who helps the students under her care through the growing pains of puberty. In this world, puberty is a lot more significant than ours, as this is when the monstrous features of this setting’s humans start coming out in full force. Shrinking, growing, long tongues, invisibility and so on start developing, and many struggle with the changes. Thus, it’s kind of like the series Franken Fran, but if you know about that series I’ll tell you right now it’s much tamer. If you don’t know of it, Franken Fran is a series that I’d give my “extreme manga” rating that I gave Jigokuren if I reviewed it. Dr. Hitomi’s Infirmary is mostly about respecting yourself and coming to terms with who you are, and that’s really nice, but it’s not exactly why I call this manga goddamn amazing. The serious ways these monster-features are treated is interesting and heartfelt, and the manga is often cute or funny (or erotic, in other cases), but what really blows me away with this series is its presentation. Shake-O is… How do I put this? I almost just want to say “amazing” again. He’s creative beyond belief — a manga master? The things he does with the manga format blow my mind.
Usually I explain the premise here, but I did that already and even covering the first few chapters won’t add much to that. To expound on what I said, Dr. Hitomi’s Infirmary is an episodic series following the daily life of “Nurse-Teacher” Hitomi and/or her students. The students have problems (almost always relating to their strange bodies), they come to their cyclops nurse, she’s clumsy and bumbling (largely because she has no depth perception), but she can figure out what’s wrong with them at a glance and pushes them in the right direction…most of the time. Sometimes someone else solves the problem, or Hitomi has a problem she’s facing that’s resolved with assistance. Otherwise we’re treated to slice of life segments from teachers and/or students, or flashbacks to develop characters. Most of the cast stays around after being introduced, or you can spot them in early chapters and look forward to whenever they get a story dedicated to them.
The characters who almost always show up are this…person:
Hitomi’s assistant, Itsuki, who is a plant-person, which probably explains the ambiguity in their sex.
And Hitomi herself. Isn’t she cute?
There isn’t much to say about these two; they’re simple characters. Itsuki is a pervy jokester who teases Hitomi a lot and usually stands around with a vacant smile, waiting for the opportunity to tsukkomi any boke in the vicinity (manzai, check it out). Hitomi is clumsy but very caring and helpful, possessing outright ENORMOUS t…taste for sweets and deserts.
As I said, other characters show up frequently but I don’t want to talk about most of them. It’s fun to read about them on your own, after all. Before I mention the characters I feel I can discuss without issue, look once more to two of the previous images (specifically, of Hitomi and the link to Itsuki being a plant).
With Itsuki’s image, Shake-O explains what’s going on by transforming Itsuki’s shadow into the word “photosynthesis”. With Hitomi’s, the sound effect used is “mekyun!?” — basically “shock”, although you wouldn’t usually put “me” there for “shock”. “Me” (め) is the Japanese word for “eye”, and Shake-O even GAVE the “me” kana an eye that mirrors Hitomi’s swirling eye at the moment. He does this a lot, and it’s a cute little signature sound effect sort of deal for Hitomi to reference her big ol’ eye. This is probably the mildest example of the crazy things he does with his manga.
Let’s see here… First, the double page spread shows a character flying through the sky as her teacher looks on. She’s free from the constraints of school and panels, so while flying with zeal she takes up most of the spread with no borders holding her back. She’s returned to the boundaries of panels as a sound effect for wind pushes into her and messes up her flight.
Next we have a character growing increasingly self-conscious because her long tongue is falling out of her mouth in the middle of class. As she loses focus the panels wobble and shake, as representative of her wavering mental state, until they break up into unsettling eyes — and only eyes, as that’s all she’s thinking of. She thinks people are looking at her in her embarrassing state and it worries her. As her tongue falls out, she’s covered in dripping drool to signify that’s all she thinks people are focusing on: her (in her opinion) gross, saliva-ridden tongue. Furthermore, note how the sole focus of the boy trying to reassure her becomes that boy’s disturbing eye between panels, after which all that’s left is staring.
Next, simple: that girl is with Hitomi and worrying about the eyes of others. Hitomi, whose most distinctive feature is her large, single eye, is up against the background of eyes like in the other page and worried over it. In the next panel, she censors her eye with a black bar (a common censor), breaking the fourth wall in an effort to calm her student.
And another! As this character tumbles down the stairs, the panels separating where and when she is in her descent, the sound effect for rolling (ゴロゴロ, gorogoro) zig-zags down and eventually off the page (to indicate her fall continues). The kana have been stylized to look more square-like, so they look like stairs themselves, yet they’re rounded as well (probably because round things bounce easily). That they’re all a bit crooked, and the dakuten (the little accents that look like ” over コ (ko) that make it into ゴ (go)) look like shaking motion lines, a feeling of jumbling movement is created. Naturally, they follow this girl as her body falls lower and into pieces.
Lastly of these: one that astounds me. Hitomi sets her sights on an advertisement for a delicious-looking sundae. A targeting reticle appears in her pupil and as we zoom in on the ad we see the sound effect “gyuun” (ギュウン), which is like “tightening/focusing” on something — like a camera zoom/focus. The sound effect’s characters sharply point and shoot toward the ad, indicating laser-like precision, and in the final panel they form the look of an iris with the reticle now at their center. In other words, it’s a representation of Hitomi’s eye, dead set on that sundae.
There is so much stuff like this. So goddamn much holy shit. It’s ripe for analysis and is just plain visual splendor to boot. Shake-O utilizes anything, everything, and more that manga can do to illustrate points or get across feelings/humor. It leaves me at a loss for words when I attempt to praise this. Like I said earlier, I would call it masterful. Shake-O apparently loves manga, because he can toy with it in incredible ways. For instance, there’s one chapter of this series that incorporates these techniques of his plus a healthy dose of fourth-wall breaking to break you, the reader, and make you question the truth of realities all in a very simple and easy to understand way, without using fancy terms you’d hear in multiverse theories or physics dialogues. Again, this manga is amazing. It amazed me.
In terms of content, it’s solid. The art’s unique (with very hard contrasts between black and white, and pretty color pages) in a great way, messages portrayed are clear and simple to grasp, the jokes are all funny, the characters are all likable, and the sweet/tender moments are effective. It’s also kind of like Anko-san of the Deep Sea Fish in how a culture has been born from the strange people living in the series’ society, so naturally I think that’s fascinating. On that note like with Anko-san I recognize this can be called a “monstergirl” (and boy) series, a genre I have no particular interest in, but I like it here. In this case it isn’t like “cute faces slapped onto animal bodies”, and it’s not a huge fetish fuel party, so I am fine with it. On another positive note, this is a seinen manga (a manga for adult men) but I could easily see this as a manga middle schoolers could read and find helpful. That said, I get why it’s a seinen manga. Fanservice aside, this is still a pretty mature comic and while I think Shake-O is really good at explaining things nicely, this is probably more appropriate for big boys and girls who can look back on their youth and also relate to the adult teachers. Oh, and by the way, this series has no panty shots! That’s always interesting.
Aside from in-depth analyses of these pages and chapters, there is little more I can do here, and doing such analyses wouldn’t be a good idea since I’m using this review to introduce people to the manga. I said I’d mention other characters, but when I think about certain recurring characters, all of them have surprises associated with them. Like, there’s a teacher who’s Hitomi’s childhood friend and he’s a surprise. He has an interesting relationship with Hitomi and her family, and it’s pretty amusing and in a way sweet, but that’s all I can really say.
On occasion the series goes full yuri, so I like that. Not near enough to call it a yuri series, so take that into account if you do/don’t like yuri. Romance is a factor with people getting boyfriends and girlfriends, which makes sense since this is about kids in the middle of puberty. It’s not all romances, but there’s definitely an awful lot of love stories here. So far, my favorite characters aren’t in any relationships, though. For example…
Fujimi Yomi is my standout favorite of the series, and I get the feeling the author likes her, too, due to her prominence and the fact that she’s the only regular student to be put on a cover so far. She’s a “zombie girl” who can survive and heal any wound, but her body’s in a bunch of pieces that pretty easily detach (and they don’t heal, for some reason). She’s the undead sort of zombie rather than the “eats the flesh of the living” sort, and she’s full of energy and life to contrast the fact that she’s a walking almost-corpse. She’s an incredibly fun and fun-loving character who brightens the scene whenever she appears, and the life lessons/stories associated with her are some of the best in the series. A really great character.
I think that about does it for my review. I haven’t looked into it all deeply here, story-wise and even character-wise, but I hope I still managed to pique your interest. It should be known: as pleasant and entertaining as this series can be, it can also be really weird. Brace yourself for some very bizarre concepts and sights. I guess it comes with the territory of being a series about monstrous humans.
That said, Hitomi is always adorable. I like the way her eye changes color!
Dr. Hitomi’s Infirmary can be imported from Japan via Bookwalker (guide), CDJapan, honto (guide), or ebookjapan. It is also available in English as Nurse Hitomi’s Monster Infirmary. I’m a little 50/50 on that title. On the one hand, title’s really on the nose (and technically, none of the people in the series are “monsters”, they’re humans). On the other hand, it’s an amusing little almost-rhyme that gets the point across. I dunno! And I also dunno how good or bad the official translation is. If it replaces all the sound effects with English equivalents, though — and I doubt it does because that’s a lot of work — I would totally say “fuck no, stay away”. You’re missing a Hell of a lot like that with this series. It’s kind of like how stylistically important the sound effects in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure are, except it’s way more important and cool. Yes, I mean that.
I shall see you next time with a significantly less perverted series! Until then, thanks for reading!