I am returning to Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu (<< you should read this review before reading the following article) with some thoughts and some explanations.
First: why? The “because” is that the second volume of the series has been fully translated, I’ve read it, and I like the series enough now that I’d give it my high recommendation. Furthermore, I’ve decided to no longer categorize it as yuri. This “aside” post isn’t exactly a review, but an extended rundown of my thoughts on the series, justifying my two decisions and maybe going over the series a little better than I originally did. Also I’d like to talk about how I’ve gotten here — reviewing the mangas — since this is the manga that started me on this project of sorts.
Katsuwo’s (カツヲ) Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu (ひとりぼっちの○○生活, Hitori Bocchi’s OO Life) is the first series I reviewed for this site. Naturally, this makes it something of a cherished series in my eyes. When I originally finished the first volume and read the author’s afterword, I actually immediately started thinking about things. I thought about how my older sister had advised me to start a review site (though on video games), I thought about long posts I’d made on imageboards in defense and analysis of manga I liked, I thought about how I liked to “storytime” with other manga readers by posting series I liked and reading along with them, and I thought about getting off my lazy butt and actually writing. Specifically, I wanted to write about this manga I’d just read. I picked it up from a thread intending to get people interested in manga within one page, sat down on a reader site, read all of what was available (including the webcomic extras), and thought “Huh, that was really good; but it kind of looks like almost nobody’s heard of it”.That’s changed since then, and now I see quite a few people talking about Hitoribocchi without me bringing it up. I even see people getting interested in Katsuwo’s other ongoing series, Mitsuboshi Colors, simply because of the association to Hitoribocchi. Of course this wasn’t the case at the time, so I was sitting there before my computer, the author’s somewhat worrying final comments in my head, remembering the many manga I’ve loved that had just died because nobody recognized them. I wanted to do a little something and praise a series I was getting into at the same time. Then and there, I swept the dust off my WordPress blog here, gathered a few images from the manga that I thought represented it nicely, and got to writing about it.
Overall, I don’t think I’ve done an incredible amount to increase awareness of series and authors, but I’ve evidence I’ve done something, and I think that’s pretty great. I look back at my Hitoribocchi review, however, and think it’s a little unfortunate that compared to my other reviews it’s rather sparse and perhaps doesn’t completely get across why this series is so good. That first post is like an experiment; I wasn’t sure if the manga would continue to entertain me (yonkoma usually don’t), I wasn’t entirely sure what pages to use since the pages usually work best in the context of an entire chapter rather than alone, and I didn’t talk about the characters a whole lot since they were all pretty new to me. However! Now I have a whole other volume’s worth of material to fuel discussion, a heart that’s in love with the series, and a mind wrought with the experience of some three months’ worth of manga reviews. So, the preamble is over — let’s get started!
It’s not loose at all, hypothetical person asking me questions. This site has a category for “highly recommended” series as well as a dedicated list to such series on the front page’s directory. I have written 30 manga reviews so far and of those (Hitoribocchi now included) 22 are series I would highly recommend. That’s quite a great proportion. The simplest explanation is that I review some choice manga. What makes me decide to give a series the distinction of “highly recommended” is based on two things: if I think the manga is really, really excellent (example: The End of Goldfish Kingdom), or I think it’s not super well known even though a large amount of people might like it if they gave it a chance (example: Anko-san of the Deep Sea Fish). Since I don’t review anything I don’t like/find entertaining, I can’t end up with a case where something would be highly recommended because it’s got high popularity potential even though it’s poop. The series can have both qualities I’m looking for, and honestly that’s pretty often the case, but it only needs one or the other for me to declare that distinction. Because of how this works I also have a “favorites” category on the site for series like, say, citrus that I personally like a whole lot but wouldn’t highly recommend, and there are series I would highly recommend but I wouldn’t call them favorites. With that out of the way, Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu is one of those series that has both special things I want, and it’s a favorite. Why?
A lot of what needs to be said has been in the review proper. What I really want to discuss is something I only mentioned kind of in passing at first: the fact that Bocchi makes friends.
When I brought it up in the review, I was bringing it up to separate Bocchi from Watamote‘s protagonist, Tomoko, who is in a similar although more extreme case of awkwardness and social anxiety. Tomoko has a few friends/acquaintances in her series, and vaguely has a goal of gaining popularity, but she mostly screws things up for herself and keeps the series at a steady status quo. Not so with Bocchi! Bocchi makes friends, but I really undersold how goddamn important that is.
Like I’ve said earlier and elsewhere, I don’t tend to like yonkoma, and if I do I don’t like them for very long. I’ve found this has been fairly often the case with pals and other manga readers I’ve chatted with. I’ve gotten the impression that unless a yonkoma is just consistently really damn funny (see: Azumanga Daioh), it’ll lose steam because the jokes get old and the format of “four panel strips” is so restrictive that without the funny jokes there’s nothing else to keep your interest. What Hitoribocchi does to counteract these potential interest-doldrums is that it features progress. Since Bocchi is always trying to move forward, improve herself, and establish more connections, things simply can’t get old.
Bocchi herself and the characters she meets don’t change very much, so I’m betting if this series was just Bocchi, Nako, Aru, and Sotoka palling around with their usual jokes, much as I like Katsuwo’s style of comedy in time things would start to feel stale. Instead, the series is about Bocchi steeling herself to face new people and those new people adding in new jokes to the series. There is an entire class full of new characters Bocchi will be trying to befriend, and the potential is…well, not limitless, but high. Furthermore, the core three friends of Bocchi are still strong sources of comedy who also interact with new characters. Basically, there are a lot of ways to spin the characters we already know, a lot of new scenarios waiting to come up, and many new ways to make us laugh. That it’s all not just good, but “belly laughs” great, means I now think this series is pretty damn amazing.
There’s still gentle cringe humor all around, but now we also have jokes regarding the bizarre philosophies of others, some brick jokes here and there, jokes taking the piss out of standards of the genre, and so on. Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu has turned out to be a real riot, and as the cast grows I can only imagine it’ll get better and better.
Katsuwo is no stranger to yuri, and the first volume of Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu led me to believe this series would be standard Slice of Life in regards to how the girls would interact with one another. That is to say, I thought it was a series where girls were almost lesbians and that was something that would get played around with a lot. It wasn’t played around with a whole lot in the first volume, but the implications that were there were enough to make me qualify it as “subtext yuri”. You can still call it that if you want, or ship the characters if you want, but after reading volume 2 I can safely say Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu ain’t no Lucky Star or K-On!: the scent of lilies is faint with this one. In fact, as indicated by an earlier image, the series almost lampoons the idea of girls’ friendship bordering on romance when Bocchi is introducing Nako, who’s definitely special to her, but she doesn’t come up with anything spectacular when describing her or blush intensely or anything. Nako even retaliates. The two of them and the rest are friends, whatever teasing happening happening rarely and with very low intensity. This is mostly a jokey series about the jokes and the humor. Thus, I don’t think it’s really appropriate to call this manga a “yuri” series.
Sure I do. Something else I’ve found to be pretty noble about Hitoribocchi is that although its characters are simple, quite a few of them don’t really fit into archetypes. Bocchi might always be nervous, but it’s not often you find a shy girl type so nervous it causes regular problems in her daily life, nor one who is really and honestly trying and succeeding at getting better about that. Her feelings of triumph are great, and so are her absurd reactions to things around her. She’s also really, really honest. I wouldn’t call her just “gullible”, but it’s more like she trusts her friends so strongly that she can’t even tell when they’re kidding around. Lastly, she’s helpful! Even though others have to help her through things a lot, on several occasions Bocchi will go above and beyond to entertain or assist someone else, or otherwise understand them better. Seriously, she’s all around great and not just some “shy girl”.
Nako loves to laugh and tease and rather than being a “straight man” character, it’s more like she’s a character who recognizes absurdity and can barely contain her giggles when witnessing it. Aru… Do I have to say more about Aru? Of course Aru’s unique. I love Aru. Sotoka is actually pretty fitting of the “gaijin (foreigner) obsessed with ninjas” archetype, however that’s not a problem and I didn’t say everyone was beyond archetypes. She’s silly and weirdly refreshing, so I enjoy her presence very much.
Katsuwo is fast becoming one of my favorite artists. I didn’t remember it, but I actually learned about this mangaka first when Mitsuboshi Colors hit the scene two years ago. I saw it, along with others, and many agreed “holy shit, this might be the best SoL series ever”. This isn’t a review of Mitsuboshi Colors, and I couldn’t even review it right now if I wanted to, but that series is really damn good so far and was an early demonstration that Katsuwo is something else. I would call him/her innocently funny with their manga. They’re not using sophisticated jokes here or anything — it’s pretty basic stuff, but it’s very funny. I’ll be keeping an eye on this person, looking forward to more.
Thank you for reading this addendum that turned out to be longer than the actual review. At the end, here, I’ll link the volumes of Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu again and also direct you to Mitsuboshi Colors (三ツ星カラーズ, lit. Three Star Colors) and Kin no Tamago (金のタマゴ, lit. Golden Eggs), a new manga by Katsuwo that recently received its first tankoubon release. Plus, I’ll link Katsuwo’s twitter. Why not? Anyways, there’s no “next time” here. At the time of this writing, I am still doing research for my next three reviews. So, uh…later.
Oh yeah: the author’s volume 2 afterword is quite amusing in hindsight.
honto guide: [link]