Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro (ちおちゃんの通学路, Chio-chan’s Way to School) is a comedy manga by Kawasaki Tadataka (川崎直孝) with a somewhat unique premise and a lovable, awful protagonist. It’s one of those manga that you simply should be reading already, though I suppose I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t heard of it (at least as of this writing). I’ve actually known about the series for a while, having discovered it on a board I frequent with several others. It’s a series that works well enough that you don’t need to actually be able to read it to enjoy it. The dialogue and narration helps it a ton, but just through images and the motion conveyed through them Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro is incredibly effective. It is that good. Let us go over why.
The core of the manga is explained in the title: Chio-chan’s Way to School is about high school girl Chio-chan’s (Miyamo Chio, the protagonist) days of going to school, at least most often. Since it’s a comedy, it shouldn’t surprise you that regularly she loses her way and badly, or gets caught up in hijinks. The first chapter is perfect in getting this premise across. It doesn’t give you the full grasp of the series (you’ll pretty much have that by chapter 4), but it gives you nearly all of it and should likely get you hooked at once.
During chapter 1, Chio-chan is late to school and the way she plans to use to shorten her travel time has been closed down. Her brilliant plan is to instead take to the rooftops. You see, she’s late because she stayed up all night playing
Assassin’s Creed some assassination game, and since she liked it so much the parkour traversal system in the game is lingering in her head. Thoughts such as these occur to her often. She is, after all, a gamer.
The adventure continues a bit and we get another large aspect of Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro…
And a little bit later, a lack of fear to depict somewhat gross things for humor (this guy starts brushing his teeth…nrgh). You could summarize a lot of this series as “Chio-chan gets into troubling scenarios, many of which are entirely her fault”. A few old “plots” or characters get brought up several times over the course of the series, but the manga is first and foremost episodic.
Going into the wrong-sex bathroom by mistake, getting involved with a thug, attracting unwanted attention at the school gate…
If you were or in fact are an awkward person, you may be able to relate to things Chio-chan goes through. I sure can! I can also relate to a lot of her fantasizing when faced with desperate times.
However! Unlike most awkward sorts Chio can be very bold, regularly foolishly so. Despite being a gamer, she’s rather athletic from being a tennis club member. It kind of makes her a badass, kind of makes her an idiot. She does many things to the extreme, risking bodily, mental, and social harm.
Thankfully(?), she is not alone! Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro has a tiny cast of recurring characters, the most frequently seen being Chio-chan’s best friend, Nonomura Manana.
Manana is an awful person, too.
I mentioned in the introductory paragraph that the protagonist of this series is awful. Indeed she is! Like her best friend, Chio-chan is a backstabber who will not hesitate to throw others under the bus for her own safety. Manana definitely seems worse, though (additionally, she is crude, self-serving, and vengeful). Regardless, they are a terrible pair, terribly made for each other.
The addition of Manana is fast and fantastic. Kawasaki-sensei quickly established that the series wouldn’t be strictly formulaic by adding in some regular faces aside from Chio-chan and mixing it up pretty much immediately. He demonstrated that not every chapter will be about Chio-chan getting lost, even if most chapters are about her way to school. Manana also makes the series really nostalgic; takes me back to chitchatting with my miserable friends as a miserable teen. Furthermore she possesses one of the best of the many incredibly silly faces that you can find in the series.
The art is generally quite great, especially (surprisingly) on an “action” front. Kawasaki-sensei doesn’t mess around when depicting some of the nonsense Chio-chan goes through — he goes all out.
That’s not something you tend to get in comedies, let alone slice of life manga. The angles employed, and the depictions of speed, are genuinely awesome
And speaking of, you don’t tend to get characters like these. Sure, I’d call Chio-chan and Manana cute, but they’re definitely “plain” girls, actually unpopular, and their personalities are pretty bad. I also really love how Chio-chan isn’t just “said” to be a gamer; she definitely plays video games (and I suspect Kawasaki-sensei does, too) — Western ones at that, which tickles my fancy.
But, well, that’s about all that I feel I can say. Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro is full of strong elements that all work together to make it hilarious and fun every single chapter. The timing alone on the jokes and scenes is down PAT. Perfectly funny. I’m quite glad it’s getting translated, even if I “read” the volumes I bought already a while ago eagerly — still got a lot out of them just from looking over the pages. This is good shit, man. Not too often you can find such a series.
Read it! I highly recommend it. It’s superb! You may purchase Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro from Bookwalker (guide), CDJapan, honto (guide), or ebookjapan (if you’re logged in there’s some NSFW content on this page, in thumbnails). Please do! Like I said, you don’t even really need to know Japanese to enjoy it! You’ll be pleased to know this is actively being translated, however, and that the series remains ongoing in Japan. Thank goodness! Little sucks more than finding a good series and then finding out it’s dead.
Also here’s Kawasaki Tadataka’s twitter account: @tadataka_k
Thanks for reading. Next time, I’ll be reviewing a series many call the best ever or at least the best slice of life series ever. Can you guess what it is? Until then, peace!
By the way “MASSUGU GO!” is a reference to Manabi Straight, one of my favorite anime.