The return of Hiroyuki to the West is a good one, as his latest title stars characters who aren't smart, with its leading lady a new level of NOT SMART.
Title: Aho-Girl: A Clueless Girl
Genre: Comedy, 4-Panel
Publisher: Kodansha (JP, US)
Serialized in: Weekly Shonen Magazine, moved to Bessatsu Shonen Magazine
Translation: Karen McGillicuddy
Original Release Date: July 18, 2017
Free Preview: https://kodanshacomics.com/series/aho-girl/
Hiroyuki’s Doujin Work told a story about the lives of oddball doujin artists. Media Blasters only released four volumes of that and boy has Hiroyuki been missed since. Only managing to get the anime of his manga The Comic Artist and His Assistants legally brought over, Aho-Girl was serialized in Weekly Shounen Magazine in 2012. After three years, you’d think there’d be no shot for someone who got a niche title brought over to then come back again to the states with another four-panel tale.
But Kodansha Comics decided to become heroes when they announced this title at last year’s NYCC. Welcome back Hiroyuki, it’s been too long.
Aho-Girl: A Clueless Girl is uncomplicated. Basically, it revolves around moronic girl Yoshiko Hanabatake, and we have to discover if she can even develop a brain. Akutsu, her new friend Sayaka, her mom, Yoshie, and others try to get her to learn, except they get swept up at her pace. Ten out of ten times, it’s never for good reasons.
Humor is always subjective, and for Aho-Girl it’s a case of whether you can dig loud characters being unrelentingly dumb. For example, you’ll go through panels where Akutsu is plainly annoyed at Yoshiko’s stupidity, or you’ll meet the Head Monitor at their school, a morally upstanding girl who loses her morals extremely fast — and this doesn’t count the joke of her only being called Head Monitor and not her real name. Another example is every attempt Yoshiko takes to ignore what people actually say. Even kids aren’t immune as she finds a way to twist words to suit whatever’s keeping her mind afloat.
The characters are drawn pretty well and are definitely cute. Telling the story in four panels helps since the jokes can come fast and not take long to set up. There are arcs of course but most don’t overstay their welcome.
But what makes Aho-Girl stand out is how everyone deals with Yoshiko. Naturally Akutsu is totally done dealing with her, but from seeing her teacher bribing her with bananas so she can study to Yoshiko befriending a delinquent that’s not quite dumb but not quite smart either is pretty funny. Volume 1 essentially gives the impression that “Haha, the story is not really about Yoshiko!” Instead, the story will be about how Yoshiko does not change, period — but how everyone else changes thanks to her. Isn’t the protagonist supposed to evolve and grow? Well, as mentioned by Akutsu to Yoshiko’s mom, he’s got three years to change her while in school. So either she’ll change or else he’ll have her commit a crime.
…Let’s hope jail time is not an option. At least I’m looking to find out as I’m definitely interested in more of this manga.