My Darling! Miss Bancho is the latest shoujo comedy from CMX manga. Its Japanese name is Aa Itoshi no Banchousama, and it's serialized in Hakusensha's LaLa anthology-- the same anthology that features titles like Ouran High School Host Club, Vampire Knight, Natsume Yuujinchou, and plenty of other shoujo hits. If I may note, particularly the ones that do fairly well among male readers as well!
But can Miss Bancho hold up to her illustrious (and popular) counterparts?Publisher: CMX MangaRelease Date:
Souka is about to become a high school sophomore. Living with her newly-divorced mother, she decides on her own to transfer to a tech vocational high school, focusing on subjects like chemistry and architecture-- it'll be cheaper than her old private school and she'll have an easier time getting a job after she graduates.
But the school she decides turns out to not only be MOSTLY male-- it's ALL male, because the boys fight so much that all the girls transferred out at the end of the prior year. Souka worries about whether she'll even survive her first day, but she manages to make it through a few days as she learns that her scary classmates are, in fact, really nice guys. In fact, they're all just overgrown, easily-excited children.
At least until the school bancho comes back from a suspension! He immediately starts in on Souka's only semi-aware classmate, Yu, and in an attempt to help him in the fight Souka winds up beating up the bancho...and, by school tradition, becoming bancho herself.
At the beginning, Souka's accidentally becoming bancho and subsequent protectiveness from her classmates (particularly Yu) when another senior makes a move to take over by defeating her was starting to worry me a little bit, but then Souka took a stand against the senior, effectively supressing my concerns that she was going to be more damsel-in-distress than fleshed-out character.
Sports tournament arc: begin!
Granted, she's no anti-heroine; although I can compare the over-the-top comedy style to Ouran High School Host Club or My Heavenly Hockey Club, Souka can't really compare to gender-neutral Haruhi or sleepaholic Hana-chan. Souka is a sweet, mildly oblivious heroine, and we've seen her archetype before.
Actually, we've seen all of the archetypes in this story before, and to some extent we've seen the story before, even if the particular mechanism used to surround Souka by nothing but men is mildly different.
The only thing that sets My Darling! Miss Bancho apart is that its comedy is, in fact, pretty strong-- things get increasingly silly throughout the book, and the mangaka (Mayu Fujikata; this is her first ongoing manga) throws in a lot of asides, fourth-wall breaking, and just plain goofy situations.
(A random note: Fujikata's younger brother attended a tech school like the one depicted here, and she has some interesting notes-- she'll point out when she does things that aren't like the reality of such schools, but she points out things that are, like during a school sports festival, female students only sat back and watched while the boys competed.)
But Miss Bancho shows no signs of going to the same level of character development of Ouran, for sure, and probably not even a similar level to My Heavenly Hockey Club, which (as a reverse harem) does go through each of its male stars. Miss Bancho is more of a one-on-one rom-com between Souka and Yu, and the rest of the characters are there for flavor, comedy, and to screw everything up, but they're not especially well-rounded.
As such: this is the kind of manga where I have to say, if you like this kind of thing, you'll totally dig My Darling! Miss Bancho-- but I don't think it has enough going for it to really break out of its category into that "great manga all around" level.
But it accomplishes what it sets out to do, and I found myself chuckling and laughing out loud while I was reading, so even if it's not a "great manga all around," it's still a pretty good one within its world.
- Mildly inconsistant art (proportions were odd at the beginning)
- Characters may be charming, but they're a little flat. (But we're only one volume in.)
If, Then, But
If you like these, then you might like My Darling! Miss Bancho. But...