Friday, January 13, 2012
I was in the mood for reviewing something fluffy and fun today, and Nobara fit the bill.
To recap: Cheerful blonde Hatsumi and her best friend Sakura are new students at the elegant Otowa Girls' Academy. They are roommates. Sakura loves Hatsumi, who has a crush on the head of her dorm, popular butch upperclasswoman Izumi, who has a popular femme girlfriend named Mayuko, who surprises Izumi with the news of her fiancé.
The set-up for this series always cracks me up. Not just because it's...well, it's just funny...it reminds me of a pearl of wisdom that the upperclasswomen in my dorm house- at a women's college- impress on the new residents each year: "House booty is bad booty. You'll always think you're the exception, but you're not." And for the Head Resident, "First-year house booty is off-limits booty." Eh, Izumi?
Even though the other students fangirl over Izumi and Mayuko, they clearly don't take them seriously as a lesbian couple because they squeal over the news of Mayuko's fiancé and don't notice how pained Izumi is by it. (Of course, Hatsumi does. This plot point implicitly differentiates Hatsumi's and Izumi's feelings- and by extension, Sakura and Mayuko's- from the "not real," man-free-environment-induced lesbianism traditionally ascribed to the characters in girls' school yuri titles.) When Izumi confronts Mayuko about her engagement at the student ball, Mayuko (who isn't the least interested in her fiancé; her family arranged the whole thing) slaps her and runs away. Izumi leaves to be alone in the school garden, and Hatsumi follows her and confesses her feelings for the second time. Mayuko sees them, and...!
Sakura withdraws from Hatsumi because she can't stand seeing her swooning over Izumi, but she protests that she's just creeped out by the idea of two girls as a couple. The other girls start bullying Hatsumi in revenge for her trying to steal their precious Izumi-sama from Mayuko.
Mayuko, of all people, tells off the bullies, and she recruits Sakura to make Izumi hers for good in front of Hatsumi in a...very weird plan that ends with Izumi telling Mayuko off for expecting her to choose her over Hatsumi despite her recent behavior. Mayuko reacts by jumping out of a window, only breaking her ankle because she was on the first floor. Mayuko continues to be all "Give me back mah woman!" so she and Hatsumi have a fight. Hatsumi ends it by slapping Mayuko. (Wouldn't you love to see something like this in Marimite?)
The path to love never does run smooth, to paraphrase the Bard, and despite their attraction to each other, Hatsumi and Izumi realize that they really love Sakura and Mayuko, respectively. Izumi and Mayuko resolve their problems and become the school Prince and Princess again and Sakura achieves what Yaya and Tamao failed to do- be preferred by her best friend over her older, much more popular rival. We catch a glimpse of a new student who seems befuddled by how gay Otowa is. The end of the book also has an amusing series of 4-koma strips about Izumi and Mayuko's childhood together.
Volume 2 of Nobara is, like the first volume, a lively romp through girls' school yuri tropes, with a hearty helping of soapiness and a healthy amount of self-awareness. Izumi and Hatsumi seem most closely modeled on Amane and Hikari from Strawberry Panic! (with influence from a handful of other characters), but unlike Amane and Hikari (especially Amane), neither is dull, thankfully.
Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi simply wants to give its readers a fun time, like the manga equivalent of a puppy that just wants to play, and in that aim it succeeds.
BGM: 『蛍火』by ダウト